Creativity and innovation drive the development process that has produced top-rated series for children at Disney Channel, including Elena of Avalor, which debuted in July 2016 and quickly became television’s No. 1 series for Girls age 2–11 in the U.S. Created and executive produced by Emmy® Award-winner Craig Gerber (Sofia the First), Elena of Avalor follows the story of Elena, a brave and adventurous teenager who saves her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must now learn to rule as crown princess until she is old enough to be queen. The series was recently lauded by the National Hispanic Media Coalition as Outstanding Animated Series at this year’s annual Impact Awards. Head Writer and Co-Executive Producer Silvia Olivas leads the writing team that draws on multiple Latino and Hispanic cultures to develop characters and stories that delight and inspire kids.
Olivas recently shared insights from her experience at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) conference in Phoenix. NCLR and its affiliates across the U.S. have served the Hispanic community since 1968 through research, policy analysis, advocacy and civic engagement. The organization also announced a name change at the conference and is now known as UnidosUS. Disney was a co-sponsor of the conference and supports organizations that work to strengthen the Hispanic community year-round.
In a session titled, “Empowering Latina Voices in Hollywood,” Olivas and Emmy Award-winning journalist Gaby Natale discussed the development of Elena of Avalor as well as the importance of diverse stories and how characters can encourage kids to dream big.
Olivas described Elena as a princess who can take action and learn from her mistakes, qualities that can inspire kids who watch the series and help them develop leadership abilities.
“When there’s a problem in the kingdom, she rolls up her sleeves,” Olivas said.
Elena of Avalor features Latino talent voicing inspired Latino characters such as wizards and royalty, Olivas said.
Starring as the voice of Elena is Aimee Carrero; Jenna Ortega is Princess Isabel; Chris Parnell, Yvette Nicole Brown and Carlos Alazraqui voice the jaquins Migs, Luna and Skylar, respectively; Emiliano Díez is Francisco; Julia Vera is Luisa; Christian Lanz is Chancellor Esteban; Jillian Rose Reed is Naomi; Joseph Haro is Mateo; Jorge Diaz is Gabe; Keith Ferguson is Zuzo; and Joe Nunez is Armando. The recurring guest voice cast includes Constance Marie, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rich Sommer, Justina Machado and Jaime Camil.
After the panel, Olivas said she was inspired by attendees. “I will never forget the personal stories they shared with me and their encouragement to keep writing and representing them well. My heart is full!”
Olivas is an alumnus of the Disney | ABC Writing Program, a paid program that consistently staffs 100 percent of its writers.
The second season of Elena of Avalor is slated to premiere this fall on Disney Channel and Disney Junior.
At another conference session, Dominic Lobbia, senior director of technology at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, joined a panel discussion on diversity in STEAM education and careers. Along with experts from the Frost Science Museum, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Code.org and Code Next at Google, he discussed the ways Disney is using storytelling to help kids learn to code and see how education applies to careers.
Examples include Pixar in a Box, a collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy, and Disney’s Hour of Code, a collaboration with Code.org that features free tutorials with characters from Frozen, Star Wars and Moana.