Most people can reel off the 10 Disney princesses but not the nine Supreme Court justices. (Mulan, everyone always forgets Mulan, and Breyer – for those able to name the justices.)
Sure, one group has infinitely more power, but the group in the sparkly outfits always wins. And that group is about to get larger with the arrival of Sofia.
She’s introduced in “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess,” a one-hour movie premiering Sunday on Disney Channel. Early next year, the TV show launches.
“Sofia is a young girl faced with difficult situations and becomes a princess overnight,” says Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”), who voices her. “She has to learn manners and how to grow up overnight and learn how to make sibling relationships and social relationships.”
Incidentally, Ariel, 14, was indeed named for the red-haired Disney mermaid princess.
“It is so much fun” playing Sofia, Ariel says. “As a little girl you always dream of being a princess.”
Contrary to recent published reports, Sofia is not Latina. Sara Ramirez (“Grey’s Anatomy”) voices Sofia’s mom, Miranda, but Disney executives have gone out of their way to correct stories that Sofia is Latina.
Sofia lives with her mom, the village cobbler, in Enchancia. Her mom is summoned to the palace to shoe King Roland II. It’s love at first sight. There’s no mention of the king or Miranda being widowed, but mother and daughter leave their modest home for the spectacular castle.
Sofia is, however, the perfect embodiment of a Disney princess: sweetness and light and absolutely adorable. Above all, she is loving and kind, so kind that woodland creatures and even mean girls succumb to her natural charms.
The woodland creatures, including a rabbit voiced by Wayne Brady, are signature Disney. Sofia is guided in her transition to royalty by three vintage Disney fairies, Fauna, Flora and Merryweather from “Sleeping Beauty.” They oversee her progress at school.
Once she’s ensconced in the palace, all that glitters overwhelms Sofia. Plus she now must deal with her stepsiblings, the nice James and the nasty Amber.
The prince and princesses commute to school, a Hogwarts-looking spread, via a coach pulled by winged horses. Beat that, yellow school buses!
At school, Sofia struggles to learn proper techniques for waving, curtseying and dancing, all of which are nowhere as easy as they may look to the commoner.
At the castle, Sofia has an ally in Baileywick, whose voice will be familiar to anyone who has watched “Project Runway.” Tim Gunn is delightful as the royal steward, whose job is “to make sure everything is where it should be.”
There’s a fun moment for parents when the castle servants are bustling about, preparing for the ball to welcome Sofia, and Baileywick says, “Make it work!”
And there’s a villain in Cedric (Jess Harnell, “Doc McStuffins”). But this being Disney aimed at its youngest audience, parents need not fear he’s too evil. Of course, Cedric gets his comeuppance. Another most beloved Disney princess, Cinderella (Jennifer Hale), drops by to help Sofia, and the two sing.