Case Number 06912

DORA THE EXPLORER: BIG SISTER DORA

Paramount // 2000 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Lacey Worrell (Retired) // June 1st, 2005

The Charge

Who's new in Dora's family?

Opening Statement

Dora the Explorer, a computer-animated show which has aired for years as a staple of Nick Jr.'s programming and is beloved by parents and kids alike, features a spunky protagonist who travels with her trusty primate companion, Boots, as well as a helpful backpack and map, around the countryside on her way to various locations. She often encounters the wily fox, Swiper, who attempts to stop her. It is up to Dora to figure out ways around him, usually by shouting, "Swiper, no swiping!" Dora switches easily between English and Spanish, and often speaks directly to the viewers at home by encouraging them to help her find items to place in her backpack or tell her their favorite events of the day.

As just about every parent of a child under five already knows, this is quality children's programming at its very best.

Facts of the Case

The two episodes that are included on this DVD are:

* Big Sister Dora
Dora's mother is pregnant, which means Dora is about to become a big sister. Dora's Papi calls her on a cell phone to let her know that the big moment has arrived, so it is up to Dora and Boots to use the map to navigate through the Spooky Forest to Dora's home. On the way, they guess whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. The episode ends with a big surprise for Dora.

* Dora Saves the Game
While watching TV at a family gathering, Dora learns she has the opportunity to play in a soccer game at the behest of her cousin, Daisy. Daisy's team needs an extra player, and Dora must find her way through the jungle to the stadium where the game is being played.

There are also two included bonus episodes:

* Job Day
Dora discusses various occupations, such as astronomy, sports, and music, with Boots. When Mami, who is an archaeologist on an important dig, calls to ask for Dora's help, Dora uses various methods of transportation to get there, and even has the opportunity to help cousin Diego care for a baby jaguar.

* A Letter for Swiper
Dora and Boots help out the mail carrier by delivering four special letters. They are surprised to see that even Swiper is expecting a letter.

The Evidence

Dora has evolved from a character on a refreshingly basic TV show to a merchandising phenomenon. There's even a traveling live version of the show. She is seemingly everywhere: on party invitations, on bed sheets, even on bottles of bubble bath. The good news for parents is that Dora is a thoroughly likable character who is sure to be enjoyed by boys and girls alike, in various age ranges. Toddlers will be drawn in by the bright colors and highly animated voice acting; older children (up to age seven or so) will have fun guessing how Dora will overcome the various obstacles she faces in getting to her destination. There is just the right amount of repetitiveness to keep children satisfied, such as the simple songs sung by the map and the backpack, as well as Dora's signature song, "Vaminos," which means "let's go" in Spanish. At the same time, new characters, such as Dora's cousins Diego and Daisy, occasionally pop up as a means of keeping things fresh.

Dora never feels preachy in its portrayal of a diverse character like Dora. There is no big deal made of her Hispanic heritage, which is the way it should be. She is just like every other little girl, but she happens to be incredibly resourceful as well as bilingual, and viewers of all ages love her for it. Her tomboyish nature and selection of simple shorts and a T-shirt for clothing ensure that boys won't be turned off as they would, for instance, by the über-feminine Disney princesses.

This series also deserves credit for having Dora's mother make appearances. From the earliest fairy tales to the present day, mothers are usually a rare presence in children's stories. Because let's face it -- the main function of a mother is to rush in and spoil the fun with warnings of danger and impending doom if their children behave too adventurously. Plus, there are baths to be taken, dinners to be eaten, and all other kinds of mundane, everyday activities that mothers have to enforce. Both of Dora's parents are very loving, but allow her to have her adventures within reason. So like the other elements of the show, they strike just the right balance. There is never any question that Dora is the one who is driving the storylines and leading the way.

I usually cast a jaundiced eye at any program that claims to educate children, as "educational" programming frequently varies wildly in terms of value and quality. I also think that sometimes entertainment for entertainment's sake is perfectly fine; every single moment of a child's existence does not need to be a "lesson." Dora the Explorer, however, has my son speaking the very simple Spanish vocabulary words used on the various shows, with no prodding from me. Dora does quite a bit of that herself, encouraging the children in the audience to say the words with her. It does indeed teach, but in the best way possible, as kids are having too much fun with the show to realize they're actually learning something in the process.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The special features enable viewers to watch the shameless promos for other Nick Jr. DVDs again (as if having to wade through them before the program starts is just not enough). There is a brief "music video" that features young children dancing and moving around in a park setting, as well as a game where viewers can help Dora find various baby care items around three different rooms in her house. For kids under six or so, parents will need to assist with the game, as the instructions are rather complicated and little ones will need help navigating the screen with the remote control.

Perhaps the most curious special feature is the "Nicktrition Tips for Parents," which consists of two on-screen pages of advice on how to keep kids healthy by insisting on family meal times instead of allowing kids to eat in front of the television. Taking advice like this from a television channel, which obviously has a vested interest in keeping your kiddies glued to the TV, is akin to allowing an infant formula company teach you how to breastfeed. It's a conflict of interest at the very least, and this is not exactly groundbreaking new information: it's common sense stuff you know anyway. Don't allow this to mar your overall impression of this DVD, however, because the actual episodes are very good.

Closing Statement

Enjoy your kids' younger years as they inevitably embrace cute shows like Dora the Explorer, because before you know it they will be clamoring for Nickelodeon's truly appalling programming for older children, like The Fairly Oddparents, Rugrats, and SpongeBob Squarepants. Big Sister Dora is a worthy investment of your kids' time and your money.

The Verdict

Judgment in favor of Big Sister Dora on the grounds that it gracefully walks the line between education and entertainment and will inevitably be loved by not only boys and girls, but by parents as well.

Review content copyright © 2005 Lacey Worrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 100
Audio: 85
Extras: 65
Acting: 85
Story: 90
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Big Sister Search Game
* Nicktrition Tips for Parents
* Baby Nick Jr. Music Video
* Bonus Episodes

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0235917/combined