The last couple of episodes of Elena of Avalor have been pretty awesome. A Day to Remember was one of the most heartwarming episodes of children’s television I’ve seen in a while, and Royal Retreat tackled sexism in a very family friendly way. But Scepter of Light does something entirely different. I think the term “Game Changer” is a good description for this episode. For weeks I’ve been clamoring on this blog, always hoping for the main story to start progressing. Ever since episode 1 when Elena’s staff began to glow in her hand, despite the fact that it had never done that before, I’ve wanted to see more of her ‘powers’ come to the forefront. Scepter of Light did just that and more by introducing a whole new aspect of Elena, a great villain and a whole bunch of new mysteries to unravel. Let’s GLOW some light on this episode, shall we?
A solar eclipse takes the stage as Elena accidentally sets fire to her pillows when she uses the word Blaze while holding her scepter. It turns out that her scepter comes from an ancient race of people. The same ancient race that she and her friends were investigating a few episodes yet. There’s a really cool underlying mythos to this show and I want to know all of it! Anyway, my favorite character Zuzo shows up to give us the rundown on this ancient scepter in a scene that actually made me laugh out loud. “Okay, I’ll go dig up some information. Wait here.” One second later. “Okay I’m back.” Essentially this scepter has some pretty cool powers if you can channel the essence of a word like Blaze or Glow into it. For the record, this caused my partner and I to scream “GLOW!” at each other for the rest of our lives.
It turns out that Elena can trigger this magic because of her connection to the spirit world which she got from being trapped in the amulet for far too long. Talk about side effects! However, no great superpower comes without a weakness. To use the scepter requires physical energy and the more she puts into the staff, the more it wears her out. This adds a really interesting depth to this magical power. I think to make it so that she can just use it whenever is a little too easy. But in this way, she’s going to have to not only learn new spells, but also learn how to control it so that she doesn’t have to take a two day nap after fighting a villain. And oh my gosh do we need to talk about this villian!
Orizaba is one of the most fabulous villains I’ve seen in a while. She really embodies the flamboyant, over the top nature of Disney villains like Izma or Ursula and I say that as a good thing. From the moment she appears from the spirit world, it’s as though she is doing a little dance and no one can stop her. Seriously, her hips NEVER STOP! I actually was sad to see her defeated because she is just so excellent as a character. Voiced by the lovely Eden Espinosa, Orizaba is here to bring eternal night. A moth fairy, she’s been hiding in wait in the spirit world, just waiting for a solar eclipse. This provides a nice backdrop for Elena to learn about her new powers but also provides the best guest appearance of a character this season. With a wonderful song and animation that rivals Zuzo as my favorite, Orizaba is a character I wouldn’t mind returning. Or she could just get a spin off. A video game? ANYTHING!
I wouldn’t be able to talk about Elena of Avalor without gushing over the technical aspects of the show. Sure, the story is top-notch and the characters are absolutely delightful to watch every week, but what keeps me coming back is that the animators consistently manage to top themselves every episode. I swear the textures and movements look smoother and more up to par with Disney animated films every single week. The facial expressions of Zuzo, Orizaba and a Fuego the horse, who takes after the likes Maximus from Tangled, are all excellent and bring these characters to life in fantastic ways. I say this every episode that Mateo is in, but I love seeing him use his magic as it is very different from how we typically think of wizards.
Something that struck me in this episode was the closing moment between Mateo and Elena. I strongly appreciate that we get to watch this boy and girl build a FRIENDSHIP. You see how I capitalized that? That’s because boys and girls can be FRIENDS and don’t always have to always have stories of romance or falling in love. They can also have these wonderful FRIENDSHIPS that deserve just as much growth and learning. Yet, modern media seems to put these in the backseat while love stories get all the attention. I love watching these two grow as friends because they still get to have the heart warming moments that are usually reserved for the love story of the show. Seeing Elena remind Mateo of their friendship in such a kind way was heartwarming without having to have a deeper, unrequited meaning.
It may seem odd that of all the shows out there from Disney, Elena is the only one I regularly cover, but for good reason. I often think that Elena of Avalor somehow understands this hidden secret that other animated shows haven’t discovered. Female characters can be strong and bold. They can be confident and powerful. Friendships can be the center of a story, even those between opposite genders. Learning to lead is much more interesting a tale than how one got into the position of leadership. This show continues to impress me every week and I can tell that the creators are constantly stretching, taking a small cable kid’s show budget and doing everything in their power to make it feel like a Grade A animated film. This week changed the game with Elena’s mystical powers and I am very excited to see what happens to her in a couple of weeks in the made-for-TV movie, The Secret of Avalor, which we will of course talk about in great length here. Until then, I’ll keep ringing my internet bell and telling you to watch this fantastic show.
Check out the trailer for Secret of Avalor below!