Behind The ScenesSportsCenter

SportsCenter’s Toni Collins provides guest voice on Disney’s Elena of Avalor, airing Sunday

Regular viewers of daytime editions of SportsCenter are familiar with Toni Collins, who provides news updates and conducts interviews with guests during programs airing between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

But Collins loaned her talents to another part of the Walt Disney Company recently and viewers will be able to hear her as a guest voice on the Sunday, Oct. 16, Día de los Muertos-themed episode of the hit animated series Elena of Avalor. The program airs at 7 p.m. ET on Disney Channel and Disney Junior.

Set in the enchanted fairytale land of Avalor, the series tells the story of Elena, a brave and adventurous teenager who has saved her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must now learn to rule as the crown princess until she is old enough to be queen. Elena’s journey will lead her to understand that her new role requires thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, the traits of all truly great leaders. The stories incorporate influences from diverse Latin and Hispanic cultures through architecture, traditions, food and customs.

Collins, who spent part of her childhood in Mexico and is bilingual, was at Disney studios in Burbank, Calif., to shoot a feature on the show for ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes’ One Nacion special, which aired Oct. 12.

During the shoot, the show’s creator, Craig Gerber, showed Collins an artist who was drawing a female character for the show.

And then she got a shock.

That was so cool because I was already in heaven being at the Disney Television Animation studios. Going there was like going back to my childhood.
– Toni Collins on having the opportunity to contribute to Disney’s Elena Of Avalor

“He asked me if I’d like to voice it, and totally surprised me,” said Collins.

“That was so cool because I was already in heaven being at the Disney Television Animation studios,” she said. “Going there was like going back to my childhood. And then to be able to be part of the series that has the first Latino Disney princess was the coolest thing in the world. I loved it. I thought he was joking.”

Collins’ unnamed character only makes a brief appearance but she had to record her dialogue differently than most voice actors do.

“Somebody had already voiced the character so what I had to do is they would show me the line and I’d have to read the lips to make them fit,” she said. “I was super nervous. The creator and the co-creator were there watching me. It was an interesting process.”

The episode is set on Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), a holiday Collins is very familiar with.

“I’m Mexican-American and it’s big for us,” she said. “It’s a way to honor the members of our family who have passed away.”

Besides the surprise, Collins was honored.

“To have even a little part in the series was awesome,” she said.

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