Ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup starting on July 20, Disney have teamed up with England Football to release a short animation on their European Champion women’s national team to highlight the pathway for young girls who seek to pursue a career in the game.
Titled Ella: A Modern Day Fairytale, the film is a reworking of Disney’s Cindarella story, narrated by former England great, Alex Scott, now a television presenter, and featuring current Lionesses’ stars Lucy Bronze, Leah Williamson and Lauren James as animated ‘Godmothers’.
The story of Ella – a primary school girl, who overcomes barriers at school from her friends as she follows her passion to play the game – is aimed at shining a light on the Disney Inspired Shooting Stars program for girls aged between 5 and 11 where they can develop skills such as fundamental movement, listening and speaking skills through “the magic of Disney storytelling.”
Since it was launched in 2019, the over 70,000 girls have taken part in the Shooting Stars program, which is live in over 3,600 schools across the United Kingdom. Recently, a new e-learning training platform has launched, meaning that all 16,000 English primary schools now have access to the assets provided by Disney and England Football.
The program is divided into two strands. For younger girls, aged 5-8 (known as Key Stage 1), there is ‘Active Play Through Storytelling’, which targets their imaginations while developing their fundamental literacy and physical skills. With the support of the National Literacy Trust, the sessions also provide the girls an opportunity to achieve national curriculum learning objectives for Key Stage 1 English and PE.
For girls aged 8-11 (Key Stage 2), Disney storytelling is utilized to progress their journey to an all-girls after-school clubs where they learn basic football skills through engaging in imaginative play. The release of the Disney feature comes on the back of a number of England players, led by Williamson in releasing books specifically aimed at empowering young women in a nation where research by Women in Sport estimates that more than a million teenage girls disengage with sport following primary school.
The choice of a black character to play Ella seems apt in a country where the women’s national team won the UEFA Women’s Euro last summer with an all-white starting eleven which does not reflect the diversity of either the England men’s national team or the country they represent. James, a new face in the squad since last summer and one of the few black players who could break into the team, is selected as a ‘Lioness Godmother’, as is captain Williamson, who will not play any part in the World Cup due to injury.
The animation will be made into printed books which will be distributed for free to primary schools up and down the country from September. The ambition is to get Ella’s tale of positivity and triumph into the hands of as many children as possible and to encourage more schools to bring the Disney Inspired Shooting Stars program to their playground.
“Disney is so proud of the Shooting Stars program” said Nicole Morse, Vice President of Brand and Franchise Marketing at Disney EMEA. “To see our characters having a real impact and being a force for good to help young girls begin a love of football, as well as get active and develop the confidence that Shooting Stars gives, is wonderful. The program has been a great success, and this brilliant new take on a Disney classic in inspiring Ella: A Modern Day Fairytale will help spread the word of Shooting Stars meaning even more girls will benefit from it.”
Louise Gear, the Head of Development at the Football Association (FA) added “as a mum, I’m really excited that we’re able to work with our partner Disney on bringing to life a much-loved classic film in Ella: A Modern Day Fairytale. Football is a game for all and Disney Inspired Shooting Stars aims to provide opportunities for girls in schools up and down the country to play the game they love from an early age.”
“Ella: A Modern Day Fairytale highlights the barriers that many girls face when trying to play football, and ahead of a huge summer for women’s and girls’ football, we hope this not only inspires more girls to have the courage to play, but changes perceptions in the playground.”