Paramount // 2000 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // December 24th, 2008
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Premiering on Nickelodeon in 2000, Dora the Explorer presents its preschool audience with age-appropriate problem solving challenges, a mix of English and Spanish dialogue designed to foster bilingualism, and a host of colorful characters. In each episode, Dora and her friends -- cousin Diego, her trusty Backpack, Boots the Monkey, Benny the Bull, Map, Isa the Iguana, and others -- set off on a quest that requires all of their ingenuity (plus a little help from their audience). Standing in their way is a variety of obstacles, including Dora's nemesis, Swiper the Fox.
Dora the Explorer: Dora Celebrates Three Kings Day! is a holiday release of sorts: The first episode on the disc references the Feast of the Epiphany, though nothing about the story is particularly evocative of Christmas. The remaining episodes have nothing to do with the yuletide or any other holiday (unless I missed a memo about the Backpack Costume Parade being instituted as a national holiday).
The disc contains a total of four 23-minute episodes from the series:
* "Dora Saves Three Kings Day"
Dora, Diego, and Boots are on their way to a Three Kings Day party when Swiper the Fox steals the elephant, horse, and camel they're riding. The trio sets off on an adventure to find their animals, meeting new friends along the way.
* "Isa's Unicorn Flowers"
Isa the Iguana's magical flowers summon a unicorn. Dora and Isa must get the unicorn to a rainbow so he can take the flowers home to his mommy. A dragon's cave, a troll bridge, and Swiper the Fox stand in their way.
* "Benny's Big Race"
When Benny the Bull's go-cart breaks during his first big race, Dora and Boots must help him put it back together. They use Map to help Benny find the finish line, navigating cones and a desert along the way.
* "The Backpack Parade"
Backpack has a case of the sneezes just as she's supposed to sing at the big Backpack Costume Parade. Once the sneezes are taken care of, Map, Dora, and Boots must help Backpack get to the parade by navigating through Hiccup Ridge and Snoring Forest.
Though I have a preschooler of my own, this DVD was my first foray into the Dora the Explorer phenomenon. Color me disappointed. I'll take Disney's copycat show Little Einsteins over Dora any day of the week -- its production values are higher and its episodes are (mostly) less annoying. I expect a show for toddlers to be repetitive, but Dora the Explorer is painfully so. All of the episodes (at least the ones on this disc) are so structurally and substantively identical they make Little Einsteins look like a cornucopia of variety (it's not). Chants and chirpy questions designed to aid toddlers' memories and keep them engaged may cause adults to run screaming from the room before the cadences get stuck on constant repeat in their brains. Dora the Explorer is plain grating.
The five-and-under crowd the world over renders my criticisms moot. Tykes' near universal love for the show proves that Dora's creators know their target audience. And that's all that really matters. The show may grate on me, but it's difficult to muster enthusiasm for complaining given its success in teaching kids basic problem-solving skills and a little bit of Spanish.
Considering the show's massive success, Dora the Explorer: Dora Celebrates Three Kings Day! is a disappointing DVD. The transfer is clean and colorful, but that's about all this release has going for it. Audio is a boring stereo mix that gets the job done with a minimum of fuss (Nickelodeon couldn't spring for a stereo surround mix?). There are no supplements unless you include a blurb on the back of the case pointing you to Nickjr.com for Dora-related games and printouts a supplement. But despite the lackluster, barebones DVD, Dora's young fans are sure to enjoy the episodes on Dora the Explorer: Dora Celebrates Three Kings Day!.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated