Judge Packard's stern admonition: "Don't mess with Christmas!"
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 Big Birthday Adventure (published August 16th, 2010), Dora The Explorer: Dora's Butterfly Ball (published March 23rd, 2013), 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.
Four exciting adventures with Dora!
Bilingual adventurer Dora and her simian pal, Boots, are back in Dora the Explorer: Dora's Christmas, a compilation of four episodes (two episodes plus two "bonus" episodes) from Dora the Explorer, Nick Jr.'s hit educational series for young children.
Not familiar with this Dora character? Here's the deal: in each episode, Dora (an eternally-optimistic seven-year-old Latina with a thirst for adventure) and her best friend, Boots (a cheery monkey wearing red boots, natch) are faced with a challenge. They'll meet all sorts of obstacles that challenge their noggins in three distinct geographical areas and possibly on the paths between as well. The show is highly interactive: Viewers will be asked questions (Dora will pause a few seconds for a response) and asked to shout answers and other commands ("Swiper no swiping! Swiper no swiping! Swiper NO SWIPING!") throughout an entire episode. Kids are tricked into physical exercise as well when Dora asks children to help her do things like pull a rope or pedal a bicycle. Youngsters also will be introduced to a bit of Spanish vocabulary along the way.
Dora has a variety of friends in her world, including Tico (a cute, toothy, purple squirrel), Isa (a green iguana), and Benny (a blue bull). Map is, well, a map, and he lays out the three areas that Dora and Boots must visit in their travels. Backpack is…er, you know. She's always handy with an item or two that will help Dora when she's in a jam. The not-so-friendly character is Swiper, an orange fox that shows up at least once during Dora's journey in an attempt to thwart her problem-solving efforts.
In some ways, Dora the Explorer borrows from Blue's Clues, but with the high level of interactivity, physical activity, and an introduction to some basic Spanish vocabulary, this show takes things to a new level.
The two regular episodes on this disc are as follows:
• "A Present for Santa"
This is the marquee episode, and it's very well done. The theme is
sweet—Dora and Boots go out of their way (okay, considering it's the North
Pole, it's very out of their way) to give rather than receive. The
episode is filled with tons of snow, twinkling Christmas lights, gifts, elves,
and, of course, an appearance by the big man himself. Dora, Boots, and Santa end
things with a peppy rendition of "Feliz Navidad," insuring that this
episode does not skimp on the holiday cheer. Parents will enjoy the educational
aspects (identifying gifts by color and picture, identifying and counting cold
weather clothing in Backpack, and shape recognition). Even Swiper's heart grows
three sizes when he learns of Dora's mission. This is one of the best
Christmas-themed episodes of any children's series I've seen.
• "¡Rápido Tico!"
What's so "Christmas" about this episode? That's a good question,
and I have a good answer: nothing. Oh, there's a snowy mountain, which can place
the episode at some point in the Christmas season, but that's quite a stretch.
The standard educational moments are here—shape, color, and pattern
recognition are all part of this episode—and the use of safety equipment
like seatbelts and life jackets (of which Dora and Boots proclaim "So we
can be safe!" at each usage) occurs four times.
The two bonus episodes are as follows:
• "Quack! Quack!"
The main draw (no pun intended) here is the artistic approach to the
episode. A normal episode of Dora the Explorer features nice traditional
animation and loads of color. Here, everything has an appropriate
colored-by-crayon look, and it lends an incredible air of freshness to the
series. Some items must be colored in, giving viewers an opportunity to learn
Spanish words for basic colors. Animal sounds and color recognition are some of
the educational moments featured. It's a fun episode, and with so many repeats
of this series airing on cable, it'd be great to see more episodes take a
different artistic approach like this in an effort to shake things up a bit.
• "School Pet"
An episode with an edge! Okay, parents probably won't agree, but my
four-year-old son always gapes at the beasties ready to sink their business ends
into Dora and Boots. If they aren't freaked out, kids will practice counting
skills, color, and animal sound recognition.
Technically, I have no problems with this release. Your kid won't care that it's a full frame, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo offering, but it accurately reflects the source material. The picture and sound are both crisp, clear, and suitable for this kind of programming.
My main issue with this title is the same one I have with Max and Ruby's Christmas, another recent Paramount DVD release of a Nick Jr. series. There's just not enough Christmas here, and that's really what the DVD case is advertising. Parents like me who've seen these episodes a bajillion times may know better, but I consider it misleading when only one of the four episodes on the DVD has anything to do with Christmas. Granted, the Christmas episode is very well done, but the other three episodes serve as filler and nothing more. Any of the two "bonus" episodes could have replaced "¡Rápido Tico!" as the regular episode accompanying "A Present for Santa." As a parent on a budget (and aren't we all?), I would have appreciated Paramount taking a different approach by releasing a single DVD consisting of Christmas-themed episodes from various Nick Jr. series. In reality, we're asked to drop around twelves bones and change for essentially one Christmas episode and a few filler episodes.
"But Dave," you might proclaim, "there are special features on this disc as well!" How could I forget? Let's take a look at those features and determine just how special they really are. First up is "Santa's Super Scavenger Hunt." Three static screens (no animation, no sound—just the hum of your spinning DVD drive) ask you to find various objects. I'd suggest playing some music in the background and giving your child a marker with which to circle the objects on the television screen so as to make this feature a little more "special."
Next up is the "Nick Jr. Baby Video Sneak Peek." I'll go ahead and lump the "Previews" in here as well, because they're essentially the same thing. I don't have an issue with studios peddling their upcoming wares on a DVD, but please—can we stop considering these special features?
Last but not least, a full screen format and the Dolby Digital stereo offerings are listed as special features. Are we still not past the point where studios believe consumers can't see how ridiculous this is?
As to whether or not I can recommend this one for purchase, it's a toss-up. "A Present for Santa" is a great Christmas episode, and the coloring book world of "Quack! Quack!" is a visual treat. The other episodes aren't bad, they're just average. You may consider the three-disc set Dora the Explorer: Dora's Ultimate Adventures as a better value despite its higher price tag. I won't find this release guilty, but I won't let it off the hook, either. Let's consider Dora the Explorer: Dora's Christmas dismissed in the spirit of Christmas, even if the holiday makes up a measly 25% of the disc. After Max and Ruby's Christmas and now this, the folks at Paramount are issued a stern warning.
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