Paramount // 2009 // 52 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee // December 9th, 2009
"Those on this list, the naughty girls and boys, will get no presents for Christmas or get any toys. Now I've got a story of one on this list. It's a nice Christmas story and shouldn't be missed." -- Santa Claus
A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens in 1843, is perhaps the best-known holiday tale in the English-speaking world. I don't have any empirical evidence to support that statement; but who isn't familiar with Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation from a bitter, old miser to a kinder, more generous man? Well, in case you have a kid between the ages of three and seven who hasn't heard either the classic tale or one of its countless modern retellings, Nickelodeon has repurposed the story for one of their star properties.
Dora the Explorer is a cheery Latina girl with a colorful assortment of animal friends. She sings, dances and asks viewers to help her solve problems encountered on her adventures. Previous Dora DVD releases collected three or four half-hour episodes packaged by themes such as holidays, but Dora the Explorer: Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure is a single new story (running just under an hour) tailored for Christmas.
At his North Pole toy factory, Santa Claus is checking his naughty and nice lists. The elves gather around to hear his story -- told in rhyme reminiscent of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas -- about how a naughty character learned the true spirit of Christmas. Swiper the Fox assumes the Scrooge role after his attempted theft of Dora's tree ornament, the Christmas Star, lands him in Santa's bad book. Dora offers to help Swiper discover the true meaning of Christmas, so Santa challenges him to learn four lessons. First, Dora and Swiper visit a troll who gives them time travel capes. By flapping their capes, the pair visits Swiper's past, present and future aiming to cure the fox's kleptomania.
Kids and parents familiar with Dora the Explorer will recognize a lot of reliable tricks in this show. Kids are exposed to basic problem solving and a taste of Spanish vocabulary in a colorful and calm cartoon world. The principle of repetition dominates and that applies to the songs, the types of puzzles and also the animation method that is used. There are moments when viewers are prompted to respond to what is happening on screen. For example, they might be asked to call out the name of a character or scan the background for an object that fits the puzzle.
One thing for parents to note about this show is that it's targeted to young viewers who have watched some Dora episodes already. If your kids don't know the names of the characters, there will be an awkward silence when the action pauses for an answer they don't know. That's not to say they won't be able to follow the action, but their interaction with the show may be limited at times. Other puzzles, like finding the wind-up car, are pretty easy since the image they're asked to find appears on screen mere seconds after the instruction is given.
The picture is bright, colorful and not especially complicated which makes it a fairly gentle show visually. However, anyone outside the target age group will quickly become restless with the limited animation and repetitive movements. The flapping of the time travel capes and Dora's twist when she dances look cheap before long. The characters also break into songs that are slightly irritating due to their high energy and instantly forgettable. The stereo soundtrack is fine for this material but I was aware of the audio mostly during those silent pauses.
The disc includes a handful of meager extras. There are two music videos, "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," that feature Dora and friends singing while all sorts of animated happenings occur. There is also a featurette (2:30) about the Young People's Chorus of New York City recording the holiday-flavored main theme song.
Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure is an average reworking of the classic tale for a hit property. If your kids like Dora, they'll probably enjoy this extended adventure, provided they can sit still for an hour. Everyone else in the room will have to endure it and be thankful that it isn't more gimmicky. That said, considering the specific Christmas theme of the story, parents might get low mileage from this disc before the kids find a new distraction.
The court grants this disc a stay of execution for the duration of the
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Videos