In case the title of the new cartoon program which premiered today didn’t tip you off, Nella is not just a princess, she’s a princess knight. That means she rides a pink-maned unicorn but brandishes a sword and armor.
“There are a lot of princesses out there and we had to think about what would make a Nickelodeon princess unique. What became crystal clear to us in the development process is that Nella didn’t have to be a princess or a knight ― she could be both,” Nina Hahn, Senior Vice President of International Production and Development at Nickelodeon, told The Huffington Post.
The character, Nickelodeon's first-ever princess, is also biracial, with a white mother and a black father, which Hahn says is “representative of what the world looks like to kids today.”
The decision was informed by research that indicated that most children under 12 will be nonwhite by 2020 and that already 17 percent are biracial, the network told The New York Times.
The character is a mash-up of traditional “boy” and “girl” elements. Yes, Nella wears a ball gown, but she adds a sword, shield and boots when she transforms into the princess knight. Yes, the show has the sparkly look and feel of a traditionally saccharine show aimed at “girly” girls, but the female hero is a brave adventurer, who backflips and fences her way through the setting. An episode even features her singing “Fight Song,” which was last best associated with former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The teaser trailer for the show plays to those differences, showing the hero in a ball gown and tiara while the voice-over begins: “In a far off kingdom, there is a princess named Nella, with a beautiful gown and sparkling tiara. She is a picture perfect princess.”
“But that’s only part of my story,” Nella responds.
The network hopes the show can appeal to all kids ― boys, girls, princess-lovers of both genders, and so on.
”We have a strong girl lead, but the big ideas for the show ― to be courageous, have empathy for others and trust your inner voice ― are universal,” says Hahn.
Also, via People:
Meet Nickelodeon’s Surprisingly Badass New Princess: ‘This Is Representative of What Our Country Actually Does Look Like’
Nick Jr. is gearing up to introduce their newest powerhouse princess, Nella — a tiny, but courageous royal who occasionally turns into a knight to save the day (or night!).
Unlike many princesses before her, Nella the Princess Knight appears to be of blended ethnicity. She’s also a pint-sized spitfire (no damsel in distress here). And, according to Nickelodeon Group President Cyma Zarghami, she stands for everything our world needs.
“This is hopefully representative of what our country actually does look like,” Zarghami tells PEOPLE. “I think that we are telling authentic stories about real kids and real families — even though they’re animated and fantasy-based. We’re really trying to reflect what kids see every day … real kids who look like you and me.”
She also notes, “Girl empowerment is really a part of Nickelodeon’s DNA, so a girl who transforms into a knight to save the day sounds exactly in line with what we believe is our mission.”
Nella, voiced by 12-year-old actress Akira Golz, is an adventurous 8-year-old who is not afraid to speak her mind and embrace her distinct qualities.
“She’s totally unconventional,” Golz tells PEOPLE. “She has the real qualities of a princess, like grace and compassion, but also the courage and determination of a knight.”
Besides her ability to kick butt, Nella embraces her physical differences as well.
“One of the things we’re talking a lot about is how adults would characterize it and how kids would characterize it,” Zarghami explains on how Nickelodeon would define Nella’s race or ethnicity. “The answer to the kid front is, here’s somebody that looks like somebody I might know. I’m growing up in a world that is full of different kinds of families and people of different race, religion and ethnicity. So it looks very authentic to these kids. To us, it looks like we’re doing something cutting-edge and different and innovative. To the audience it’s like, ‘That’s what they’re supposed to look like.’ ”
Golz also says she’s learned a lot about herself since starting the show.
“I’ve learned that I have some things that I can work on, too,” explains Golz. “Nella’s a great person, she’s always super sweet and has a lot of confidence. I feel like ever since I started Nella, I feel like I’ve been a little bit more outgoing and little bit more confident in myself just from seeing all the things she’s done.”
She adds, “I hope Nella teaches young girls to have confidence, be inclusive and have compassion for others.”
Nella the Princess Knight premieres Monday at 10 a.m. ET on Nickelodeon.
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