If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the first season of Elena of Avalor, it’s that the team working on this show really knows how to deliver on holiday episodes. Navidad was no exception, and in many ways actually topped “A Day to Remember.” Creator Craig Gerber took the writer’s helm this time around and made it count in all the right ways. It should be noted that I am not a huge fan of the holidays. The commercialism and constant bickering over which holiday everyone should celebrate always manages to get me down. For this reason, this episode touched a very special chord in my heart by taking all those holiday woes and bringing the gentle and beautiful reminder that the holidays, no matter which you celebrate or how you celebrate, are about light, love and togetherness.
Navidad deals with the whole city wanting Elena to come to their parties to celebrate in the tradition of their families. Wow Elena, must be hard to be so popular! Faced with the impossible decision of picking a favorite for the special day, Elena and Isabel concoct a plan to celebrate all together with a big party in the park! This sounds like a good idea until everyone’s traditions end up ruining each other. The goats eat the flowers and the fireworks annoy everyone. Why can’t anything just be easy. This is all made worse by Dona Paloma, a greedy shopkeeper who is out to make every penny she can get from this coming together of celebrations. Played by Constance Marie, Dona is a character who hits home as a villain for me as someone who has worked in retail for many years. She really exemplifies the idea that the holidays can be seen as only being about money. Elena must get to the bottom of this problem and find a way to appease everyone before it’s too late.
As always, there were a lot of little details that stood out in the episode. I loved that Isabel’s friend was in a wheelchair. But more than that, I loved that it wasn’t a thing that needed to be discussed. So often, especially in children’s shows, there’s this need to explain someone who is different. Take a show that is mostly Caucasian based. The introduction of a Hispanic character might warrant an explanation of where they came from. The appearance of a young girl in a wheelchair might feel like it needs some explanation, but the fact that it doesn’t get one goes to show the diversity of this show Those that might be different in another story are simply more colors of a beautiful spectrum of reality in this one. Also, I love that she and Isabel geek out to designing things together. Fantastic!
I also have to make quick note of Elena’s fancy new dress, because WOW. I know she’s just an animated character but she was looking fierce in her yellow duds. I also just like when characters in a show change up their look. Let’s be real, they can’t wear the same thing ALL the time. Where is the fun in that?
One big standout in this episode is that we got not one, not two, BUT THREE songs, all of which were great. The first song featured each different celebration and imagery, which the creators meant to appear as different holiday cards. It has this really fun style to it and helps make it more interesting than your average song. It’s also great to see all these different ways of celebrating because it reinforces the idea of diversity that this show is so good at representing. I think that it’s interesting to note that despite all of them celebrating differently still boils down to celebrating as a family and making it a special day. For all our difference, we’re really quite similar, and this song is a great first step at the episode’s ultimate goal of reminding us of that fact.
Our second song is sung by Gaby Moreno, who you might recognize as the voice of the theme song we hear each week as the show starts. But things really kick into gear with “Let Love Light the Way.” Clocking in at the most individual vocalists in a single Disney song EVER, this song and its scene were truly heartwarming. It’s about this idea that many of us talk about and even want, but sometimes have a hard time remembering. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are or how you celebrate the holidays or what your background is. We all, ultimately, want to share the love we have for each other and the warmth that brings us. Most importantly, the fact that all it takes is music and a little light is a great way to show that, in fact, the holidays really aren’t about materialism. Take away the fancy floats and the pretty adornments, and you’re left with the only thing that really matters: Each other. I’ll be honest, I sniffled my way through this scene.
Though I’m typically not a huge fan of Christmas episodes, Navidad did me in. It was charming, heartfelt and beautiful. It also once again proved the underlying point of this show. We are all different. And that’s okay. It’s better than okay! That’s what makes us all so special and it’s what makes us so important to each other. We have so much to learn from one another. And if we can just stop being so worried about getting tradition right and look to the future, we can truly be the light in each other’s darkness. Great animation, beautiful songs and a message that every child AND parent could do with learning, made this not just one of the best Elena episodes, but also one of the best family holiday episodes ever to grace the Disney Channel.
I want to end this article with a thank you. To Craig, Elliot, Silvia and everyone else who works on this show that I’ve come into contact with over the past few months, thank you. Thank you for seeing a need for something different and bringing it to life. Getting to know Elena and this amazing show has been one of the highlights of my year. I constantly talk about how Elena of Avalor is a show that exemplifies female empowerment, creative thinking and an openness to learn from others. In a year where we’ve seen people treat each other terribly for their beliefs, religions and genders, Elena stands among many shining beacons out there that are proving that love really can light the way. Thank you for all the hard work you all put into the show and know that even when it gets stressful or the deadlines get tight, your hard work does not go unnoticed! Happy Holidays and Feliz Navidad to you. And thank you for making the world a better place to live in.