Women's History Month has kicked off and as Americans celebrate the accomplishments of women and continue to advocate for gender equality and parity, cable TV networks are also doing their part to uplift women, especially young girls, through shows and unique programming. Disney is one of the networks that is leading the charge in this quest to produce high-quality shows centered around strong female characters who deviate from some of the more traditional movie princesses of the past. Not only do they look different from previous years, but their goals and aspirations are ever-evolving – giving young and impressionable audiences positive role models to look up to.
At the TV Critics Association Winter Press Tour last month, Disney presented two new shows and an original Disney+ movie that are continuing this necessary trend, and that promise to flip the script on outdated gender stereotypes:
"Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur"
Based on Marvel's hit comic books series, "Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" is an animated series starring an African American girl superhero, Lunella. She's 13 years old, and together with her 10-ton T-Rex dinosaur, she protects New York City's Lower East Side from danger. But her real superpower is her brain. In fact, Executive Producer Steve Loter described her as "one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe." And behind the scenes, the writer's room for this show is mostly women.
Diamond White, who is the voice of Lunella, emphasized the importance of having an African American girl as the lead superhero: "I think that with this character there is a strong sense of being Black. You can see that with her family, and Black women are strong women who go head-on into any, you know, thing that could possibly be wrong, especially for their family ... she's like, 'Hey, man. I've watched my grandma and my mom grow up and be strong and watched them build a family, like of course I'm going to bring my dinosaur and save the city. Like, what?'"
"Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" comes out this summer on Disney Channel.
"Alice's Wonderland Bakery"
The new fantastical animated series "Alice's Wonderland Bakery" premiered last month on Disney Junior and follows Alice, the great-granddaughter of the original Alice from the 1951 classic "Alice in Wonderland." The series takes pieces from those beloved characters and modernizes them for today's audience, while introducing new characters from diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Notably, in this reboot, Alice's superpower lies in her baking prowess. She takes audiences along on culinary adventures to discover family heritages of her friends. And as the voice of Alice, Libby Rue, said of her character, "When she's baking, she gets to cheer up her friends when they're having a bad day, and she gets to bake for all of Wonderland. And that makes her happy and it makes people around her happy. And I think that's such a great story for little kids because it tells you that when somebody's having an off day, there's always a way to cheer them up."
The upcoming Disney+ original movie, "Sneakerella," takes the Cinderella fairytale and gender flips the characters. There is 'El,' a New York City boy with dreams of being a shoe designer, who lives with mean stepbrothers at home, and who is down on his luck. Then there is Kira King, a Manhattan socialite and daughter of a sneaker tycoon, and who is trying to realize her own talent and potential. While there have been many iterations of the Cinderella story, this one focuses on the evergreen theme of resilience, and how everyone is united by this aspiration to make one's life, and one's community, better. And while the girl in the movie is not "Cinderella" this time, her new role speaks to today's generation in a whole new way.
"It's a coming-of-age story for Kira. She's finding her voice. She's taking control of her destiny, and she's also falling in love. And for me, being able to see that imagery of a young girl dominating an industry that has usually tried to kind of lead women out of the narrative ... Like in our everyday life, we see women like Beyoncé and Serena Williams and Yara Shahidi and Vashi who are dominating this industry and creating their own lanes and breaking out of these boxes that society has placed them in when it comes to the sneaker industry," said Lexi Underwood, who plays Kira. "But seeing Kira and all of those women that I just talked about, seeing them break out of the box that society has tried to place them in, it really inspired me to tap more into my passions, my creativity, and I hope that inspires young girls, young kids everywhere but specifically young girls that they know not to let anyone define your story and that anything is possible and you can do anything that you set your heart and mind to."
"Sneakerella" will be released later this year on Disney+.