A 22-year-old Harvard student realized that Disney didn’t have a Korean princess, so she decided to create her own.

What’s happening: Julia Riew, a third-generation Korean American from St. Louis, Missouri, spent more than a year writing and composing a full-length musical as part of her senior thesis project at Harvard University.

  • Riew’s work features a Korean princess named “Shimcheong,” who is based on a character from a Korean folk tale, “The Blind Man’s Daughter.” The project is not complete but Riew made clips of her singing original songs in the form of an animated character and teased them on TikTok, where they went viral with millions of views in recent weeks.
  • “It’s been my dream for a very, very long time to write for Disney and to be a musical theater writer,” Riew told Today.

Of note: In addition to the fan support on social media, several Hollywood producers have contacted Riew and expressed interest in taking on her project. She is working with an agent to identify the right partner, according to the Boston Globe.

  • “I was telling someone about two weeks ago that one of my dreams is to be walking down the street and hearing a child sing a song that I wrote, and I sort of feel like I’m almost living out that dream right now,” she said in an article by Yahoo. “I’m being able to see that maybe these kids will have a character that I always wished that I had as a kid to look up to, to sing their songs and to really, truly feel represented by that character.”
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The project also has given Riew a sense of belonging and connection to her family heritage.

  • “I think for the first time, I’m feeling the strongest sense of belonging that I’ve ever felt before in a community,” Riew told the Boston Globe. “I’ve always longed to be closer to my Korean heritage, and I think every single day I’m learning more about what it means to be a Korean person.”

Riew is studying theater, dance, media and music at Harvard. She will graduate in May and plans to move to New York City to become a musical theater writer.

Disney’s latest animated musical, “Encanto,” features a Colombian girl and her family.