Judge Dan Mancini is the map!
Our reviews of Dora The Explorer: Animal Adventures (published June 7th, 2006), Dora The Explorer: Big Sister Dora (published June 1st, 2005), Dora The Explorer: Dora Celebrates Three Kings Day! (published December 24th, 2008), Dora The Explorer: Dora's Butterfly Ball (published March 23rd, 2013), Dora The Explorer: Dora's Christmas (published December 6th, 2004), Dora The Explorer: Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure (published December 9th, 2009), Dora The Explorer: Dora's First Trip (published April 11th, 2006), Dora The Explorer: Dora's Slumber Party (published September 11th, 2010), Dora The Explorer: It's A Party (published August 4th, 2005), Dora The Explorer: It's Haircut Day (published May 8th, 2011), Dora The Explorer: Save The Day (published February 3rd, 2006), Dora The Explorer: Super Babies (published November 2nd, 2005), and Dora The Explorer: Undercover Dora (published February 8th, 2008) are also available.
Backpack, backpack. Yeah!
Dora the Explorer premiered on Nickelodeon in 2000 (yes, it's been around for a decade now). It's essentially a rip-off of Blue's Clues, aping that show's focus on mildly interactive entertainment and age-appropriate puzzle solving for the preschool set. Dora's particular raison d'etre is teaching tykes Spanish almost by osmosis, slipping contextualized Spanish words into each of Dora's adventures. In each episode of the series, Dora and her friends—Backpack, Boots the Monkey, Benny the Bull, and Isa the Iguana—solve a problem by navigating to three places outlined by the talking and singing (and deeply annoying) Map. At each location, Dora and her pals sing a brief song and solve a problem involving colors or shapes or other rudimentary concepts that preschoolers can grasp. The closest the show comes to conflict is with the inevitable arrival of Swiper the Fox during each episode's climax. Swiper tries to steal whatever prize Dora has been seeking. Luckily, the masked canidae can be defeated if viewers say, "No swiping, Swiper!"
Dora the Explorer: Dora's Big Birthday Adventure contains three birthday-themed episodes of the show:
• "Dora's Big Birthday Adventure"
• "Dora Helps the Birthday Wizzle"
• "Wizzle Wishes"
Geared as it is towards very young viewers, Dora the Explorer is repetitive—really, really, really repetitive. This three-episode set goes above-and-beyond in terms of predictability, though, considering "Dora Helps the Birthday Wizzle" and "Wizzle Wishes" are essentially identical, not only in terms of structure but also in terms of story. The only notable difference between two episodes is that one has unicorns and dinosaurs, while the other features a squirrel getting bonked on the head with acorns. "Dora's Big Birthday Adventure" is a ham-fisted homage to The Wizard of Oz. Though twice the length of a normal episode, it's structurally identical to every other episode but padded with longer, more elaborate musical numbers. As episodes of Dora the Explorer go, it's a pretty solid piece of work. Look, I could go on and on about how Map's high-pitched voice makes me want jab a pencil in my own neck, or how large enough quantities of Backpack's grating song might make me seriously consider a heroin addiction for sweet relief, but my ramblings are pretty much pointless: If you have young children who love Dora the Explorer, they'll love Dora's Big Birthday Adventure. It is what it is: 95 solid minutes of preschool entertainment. If, like me, you've diligently steered your kids away from Dora as a means of protecting your own sanity, this collection of episodes will do nothing to convince you that the show was conceived by anyone other than Satan himself in a dastardly scheme to punish all adult humans foolish enough to procreate.
The DVD presentation is full frame, in keeping with the show's broadcast presentation. The transfer is softer than what I'm used to seeing from television animation, but that's probably a problem with the episodes, not the DVD—the image looks exactly like what you see when you tune into the show on Nickelodeon. The stereo audio presentation is, again, no better or worse than the broadcast editions of the series.
The only onboard special feature is "Dora's Birthday Adventure Game," in which players use the arrow buttons on their DVD player's remote control to fine everyone Dora met in Wizzle World, including the Wishing Wizzle. The disc's keepcase is housed in a cardboard slipcover that includes a fold-out pop-up of Dora and Boots celebrating Dora's birthday with her family. Also included inside the keepcase is a sheet of birthday-themed stickers.
Dora's Big Birthday Adventure offers up over an hour and a half of typical Dora the Explorer adventuring. Make of that statement what you will.
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