DVD Review "Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess"

Created by: Craig Gerber
Voices of: Ariel Winter, Wayne Brady, Sara Ramirez, Travis Willingham, Jess Harnell, Tim Gunn
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: March 5, 2013
Run Time: 48 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess” is a full-length movie that also served as a pilot to the television series. The show introduces us to the latest (and cutest) Disney princess, Sofia. This series lives on Disney Junior, which is a 24-hour channel made for preschoolers (and my 9-month old’s favorite channel). Watching this film (and series) with my daughter, Bella, really makes my day a little brighter.  She just lights up from the moment the theme song starts and is kicking her little legs for the beautiful colors and wonderful music. I also have had the privilege to chat with the creator Craig Gerber, read here, and I just love his passion behind this project. The good news is that “Sofia The First” was already renewed by Disney Junior for a second season, which would bring the episode total to 45 already. But I am sure that this is only the beginning of this wonderful franchise.

The story is set in a new storybook world called Enchancia.  Like I said the film introduces Sofia, an everyday day whose life suddenly transforms when her mother marries the king and she becomes a princess, Sofia the First. Assisting her in the transition is the help of three headmistresses of Royal Prep Academy – Fauna, Flora, and Merryweather, you might know them as the fairies from the Disney’s classic “Sleeping Beauty”, also the royal steward, Baileywick and some cute woodland creatures led by a sharp-talking rabbit, Clover.  The film also gets a special appearance from Disney Princess Cinderella to share her wisdom with new fellow Princess Sofia. With the help of her new friends, Sofia tries to get used to this new life of royalty, while holding onto her own hopes and dreams.

Ariel Winter gives life to Sofia and really could not be a better voice for her. Wayne Brady is also very fun as Clover the rabbit. Overall though, this film is so magical and has that Disney charm. I have watched it numerous times now and it never gets boring.  It not only entertains kids (and their big kids) but also educates and teaching some very important values. The songs in the film are also very classic Disney and yet very hip. “Rise and Shine” is a really sweet song and a new princess instant classic. Since Cinderella makes an appearance, it is only right that she should have a song as well with Sofia.  That song is “True Sisters” and it is also very fitting for a princess. So speaking of music, this DVD also includes a Royal Sing-Along version of the film, as an added bonus. This DVD also comes with a free “Princess in Training Activity Kit” with stickers and tiaras.  I would recommend this very highly for any Disney fan young or old.

Ashley Eckstein talks about “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, “Sofia the First” and Her Universe

Ashley Eckstein is known best for voicing Ahsoka Tano in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. She is also voicing the role of Mia the Bluebird in Disney Junior’s “Sofia the First”. Ashley also is behind Her Universe, which features sci-fi clothing lines for “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” and most recently “Doctor Who”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ashley about her voice over work, as well as what she has planned for Her Universe.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about working on Disney Junior’s “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess”?
Ashley Eckstein: It is really going to be a great show. I wish I had a show like this when I was a little girl. They are really going to hit it big with this one. I have smaller supporting role as Mia the Bluebird. But just to be a part of a show with Disney’s new princess is great. You know me, I am such a Disney nut and I have to pinch myself. I think girls are just going to love it…and the guys. It is just classic Disney and I think that factor transcends gender too.

MG: Can we expect Mia the Bluebird in the series next spring?
AE: Oh absolutely! We have already recorded the first season. It is really exciting. For me it is just classic Disney. Plus Mia the Bluebird gets to sing. So to be able to sing in a Disney project…oh my gosh…check it off the bucket list [laughs].

MG: This season in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” has been great, what has been your favorite arc?
AE: It would have to be what we are watching right now, the Youngling arc. It is funny, I keep using the word classic but it is very classic “Star Wars”. It teaches, probably the most frequently asked question that I get from fans, which is “Where does Ahsoka get her light saber from and how?” This arc addresses that question, which I think is a big question for any kid. Every Jedi has their own unique light saber. So that lends to the question, where did they get it and how? And why is it unique? This arc also just teaches such valuable lessons and morals. I think “Star Wars” is for all ages and that’s what is so nice about it. Especially where we are in “The Clone Wars” getting so closer to “Episode III”, the stories tends to get darker and darker. But we also have a very young audience and the Youngling arc is not for just kids, it is for all ages. There is something for that young Padawan – that Youngling – that just has these questions about the force and the basics about “Star Wars”. You get some really nice answers in this arc. I also like to see Ahsoka more as a teacher and a mentor. I think that is an interesting role for her.

MG: Since you are involved with both LucasFilm and Disney, what is your take on the recent news?
AE: I wrote a blog recently on starwars.com and anyone can see that I am over the moon because I am such a Disney nut. For me, I do not think that there is a better company to have bought out LucasFilm than Disney. I have worked with them for the last four years during Star Wars Weekends. I have seen firsthand the level of commitment and detail as well as perfection and expertise that Disney puts into the “Star Wars” brand. I know they are planning to continue that. So I am really excited.

MG: Since you launched Her Universe with your “Star Wars” line, since then you have expanded to “Star Trek” and now “Doctor Who”, tell us about that?
AE: It has definitely been an exciting year to be able to add now “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who”. I have been a fan of both franchises. “Star Trek” is so iconic and I grew up watching episodes my whole life, “Doctor Who” has been a new obsession for me that I have started since the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, has been on the air. Now I am going back watching the previous Doctors because I am just obsessed with it. It is really excited. I feel like we have a lot of the classics – again with the word classics – of the sci-fi genre with “Star Wars”, “Star Trek”, “Doctor Who” and even “Battlestar Galactica”.

MG: Speaking of “Doctor Who”, did you get to meet David Tennant during his work on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”?
AE: You know, I am so bummed. We did not. He recorded from London. He plays such a cool character in the show. He is just such a great actor and I wish I could have had the chance to work with him.

MG: Tell us about Her Universe’s expansion into Hot Topic and Think Geek?
AE: Hot Topic has been another AMAZING partner. I think a thing that is really important for fans to know about Hot Topic is that they really care about their fans. They are big on social media and constantly listening to what their fans want. They base their merchandise off the fans needs and requests. I promise not all the companies are like that. I would use the word ‘legit’ with Hot Topic. They are legit. They really care about their fans. The same thing goes for Think Geek. They are on the ground level with their fans, talking with them and figuring out what the fans what. I think that is very important for any brand.

MG: Have you ever considered doing a Disney line with Her Universe? Would love to see your take on “Alice in Wonderland”?
AE: Oh man, that would just be a dream come true [laughs]. I can’t say we are doing that right now but any opportunity I would get to design for Disney literally would be – check it off the bucket list! It would be a dream come true. We got to work with Disney with selling Her Universe during Star Wars Weekends. But if I ever got to do anything with the Disney character…oh…my…gosh!

Craig Gerber talks about creating Disney Junior’s “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess”

Craig Gerber is the co-executive producer/writer of Disney Junior’s “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess”. Disney will introduce its first little girl princess with the debut of “Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess,” an enchanting, music-filled animated Disney Junior television movie for the whole family, Sunday November 18 on Disney Channel and Thursday and November 22 on Disney Junior, the 24-hour channel. The primetime television movie special stars Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”) as the voice of Sofia, Sara Ramirez (“Grey’s Anatomy”) as her mother, Queen Miranda; Wayne Brady (“Let’s Make A Deal”) as Clover, a wise-talking Rabbit; and Tim Gunn (“Project Runway”) as Baileywick, the family’s Royal Steward. A television series of “Sofia the First”  will debut in early 2013 on Disney Junior, as well. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Craig about how this show was created and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess” was born?
Craig Gerber: A few years ago, I was approached by Nancy Kanter at Disney Junior because they were looking to create a TV show centered around a princess for 2-7 year old children. She asked me flat out if I had any ideas, so I said I would think about it. So I got in my car and was stuck in traffic, I guess that is where you do your best thinking in Los Angeles. I started thinking about my own childhood. I grew up in a blended family. My parents divorced. My dad remarried. I have a half-brother. It occurred to me that it would be great to create a fairy tale story that the modern family can relate to. For there, I thought it would also be wonderful to have a princess character that children could closely identify with. I just had my first child at the time and I was watching him experiencing new things and how to get along in the world. I saw him emulating fantasy characters. Fantasy has always been a great way to tell stories and to impart lessons. I thought wouldn’t it be great for kids to be able to use those fantasy stories to provide life lessons to them as they grow up. With all that in mind, I thought “What if, there was an ordinary girl that lived in an enchanted village and her mother fell in love and married the king overnight, which made this young little girl a princess overnight.” She has to learn how to be royal and get to know her step-family. The idea of this blended royal family in an enchanted world is the heart of the show.

MG: What is a princess movie without great songs…tell us about that aspect?
CG: It is funny because I never intended it to be a musical. I got to a part in the script for the TV movie, when Sofia gets the power to talk with animals due to this emulate and they have a chance to give her their piece of mind. Her rabbit friend Clover wants to tell her why woodland creatures have been helping princesses all these years. I thought wouldn’t it be great if they just broke out into song. Like this was the first time that anyone has ever thought about that [laughs]. So I wrote lyrics to the song that would become “A Little Bit of Food”. We find out these furry woodland creatures are helping out princesses since that is where all the great food is. For there the response from the network was so great that they asked me to write three or four more songs. So it became a musical just like that! And I got to tell you…it is one of the best parts.

MG: How was it incorporating classic characters like Flora, Fauna and Merryweather from “Sleeping Beauty” and Cinderella?
CG: It is daunting. It is wonderful. That has been the fun of the show is embracing the Disney legacy and the Disney fairy tale storyboard world. And taking the decades of films and characters and creating our own unique kingdom while still incorporating those characters and elements into our show. To be able to put Flora, Fauna and Merryweather in the show and make them the head mistresses of Royal Prep, the school where Sofia and all the princesses all over the world go, is just great fun. They are great characters and children know them from “Sleeping Beauty”. It is just a blast to be able to have them show up and be a part of our world. When you bring in a classic Disney princess like Cinderella, who makes a cameo appearance to give some princess advise to Sofia, which is really…just an honor.

MG: Tell us about the amazing voice cast including Ariel Winter, Wayne Brady and Tim Gunn?
CG: The voice cast is not only supremely talented but they are genuinely excited to be working on this show. It is partially because they love the characters, the world and the legacy of Disney storytelling. Ariel Winter is a wonderful young actress from “Modern Family” and she breathes life into Sofia. She captured the character immediately. Wayne Brady is hilarious. He has brought a lot of humor both written and unwritten [laughs] to the character of Clover the Rabbit. Tim Gunn, who I believe has had limited if any voice over experience, has really embodied the character of Baileywick, the kings right-hand man. We also have Sara Ramirez from “Grey’s Anatomy”, who is a talent actress and singer. Overall, we just have such a wonderful cast who have come in and brought so much creativity and enthusiasm to the show. It has really elevated everything we done.

MG: This TV movie is set as the pilot to the upcoming animated series, when/what can we expect?
CG: The TV movie follows Sofia’s first two days in the castle, her debut ball and also getting along we her new step-sister Amber. Then in the series, which will launch early next year, will follow her continued adventures being a princess in this royal world. The show at its essence is about Sofia learning that being truly royal is about how you behave and the person you are inside. A lot of the episodes show Sofia learning these lessons or showing others how to learn these as well, especially her step-sister Amber. There are also a bunch of fun adventures that Sofia goes on and a lot of new fun characters we meet. So there are a lot of great things in store for her.

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