Refreshingly contemporary, “Sofia the First’s” lead character has no wicked stepparents or stepsiblings—although she had to deal with a jealous new stepsister at first.
And, unlike other Disney princesses, Sofia is really a young girl who suddenly becomes part of a royal family after her mom marries a kind king.
“The modern twist was the blended family,” said writer and executive producer Craig Gerber during a phone interview. “When Disney Junior came to me, they wanted a show about a young princess.”
The character’s modern family was inspired by Gerber’s own familial history. “[My] parents divorced when I was young,” he said. “They both remarried so I grew up with stepparents and stepsiblings. I thought it would be really interesting to tell a Disney fairy tale about a young girl who becomes a princess and winds up with a stepfamily—and how they would all get along.”
Sofia first appeared in the well-received TV-movie “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess.” There was a brief guest appearance by classic Disney character Cinderella.
Other previously seen characters like various animals and magical beings from Disney’s old films, who also appeared in the movie, will be in the “Sofia the First” series.
“It’s actually one of the most exciting things about the show for me—we created this world where practically any of the Disney characters could show up,” Gerber enthused.
Princess Sofia’s rags-to-riches tale introduces the lead character to a variety of relatable situations that will define her unique qualities. “One of the fun things about Sofia coming from a village and not a castle is that she’s more inclined to ask why there are certain rules,” Gerber said. “Sofia’s a very independent thinker, raised by her mom to be independent. She will remain ultimately true to herself, even as she encounters situations where she may feel she has to change how she acts or who she is.”
Although Sofia was a “school-age princess” and role model, she was not just for girls, he said. “I think everyone has been pleasantly surprised that a lot of boys in the United States have tuned in to watch the show. It’s very popular with girls, but there are also a lot of boys watching [because] we set out to tell stories that both boys and girls would enjoy.”
Gerber is confident that the new series will also be well-received in Asia and will stand out in the competitive cable cartoon arena.
“We try to tell an emotionally engaging story that is both entertaining and has a positive message for young viewers. As a parent with children, I have watched a lot of television aimed for a young audience and I always appreciate a show that has [that]. Telling these stories with a fantasy setting makes it a very unique experience!” he said.
(“Sofia the First” premieres tomorrow, 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., on Disney Channel and will air in September on Disney Junior.)