Judge Bryan Pope has to ask: Where are Dora's parents while she's swinging across crocodile-infested pits?
"Come on! Vamanos! Everybody let's go!"
When seven-year-old Dora sprang onto the pop-culture landscape five years ago, she and her band of merry explorers were immediately embraced by pre-school kids. Parents, meanwhile, were just thankful to have another guilt-free, educational viewing option for their children. And guilt-free it is, as Dora and her compadres spend their time singing, dancing, and teaching kids how to solve logic problems. I can't think of a more constructive way to spend one's time while planted in front of the television.
Facts of the Case
Dora's Ultimate Adventures contains three discs, each with four episodes from the popular Nick Jr. television program.
Dora's Map Adventures
• "Lost Map": When a giant vulture confuses Dora's friend Map for a stick and carries him away, Dora, Backpack, and Boots must travel to Tallest Mountain to rescue him.
• "Super Map": With the help of cape-wearing Map, Dora and her friends race down Tallest Mountain to Dora's house to check out a big surprise that is waiting for them.
• "Three Little Piggies": When three little prize pigs run away from the barnyard, Dora and her friends try to find them before Swiper the Fox steals the pigs' blue ribbons.
• "Lost & Found": Dora and the gang help a baby bluebird find its way home.
City of Lost Toys
• "The Lost City": When toys mysteriously begin to disappear, Dora and her pals travel to the Lost City to find them.
• "Lost Squeaky": Boots loses his favorite bath toy, Squeaky, and enlists Dora's help in tracking it down.
• "Berry Hunt": Swiper runs amok when Dora and Boots travel to Blueberry Hill.
• "Sticky Tape": Benny the Bull is flying over Crocodile Lake in a hot air balloon when the balloon springs a leak. It's up to Dora and pals to get some sticky tape to Benny before he becomes a croc snack.
Rhymes and Riddles
• "Dora Had a Little Lamb": When Mary's little lamb gets lost, Dora and her friends jump into a book of nursery rhymes to find him.
• "Call Me Mr. Riddles": Boots changes his name to Mr. Riddles and journeys to Tallest Mountain to win the big Riddle Contest.
• "Backpack": Find out how Dora met one of her best friends, Backpack, and see how Backpack helps Dora return books to the library before it closes.
• "Big River": When Boots loses one of his beloved red boots in a big river, it's up to Dora and crew to retrieve it.
Watching Dora's Ultimate Adventures, it's easy to see how Dora the Explorer almost instantly earned a spot alongside Big Bird and Blue's Clues in the hearts of children worldwide. Resourceful and indomitable, this seven-year-old Pitfall Harry navigates croc-infested rivers, scales misty mountains, chases after runaway hot air balloons, unearths legendary lost cities, and repeatedly outwits the thieving Swiper. I don't know whether to praise her tenacity or report her parents to Child Protective Services, but let's give credit where credit is due: Dora has spent the last five years making learning fun for kids by teaching them basic problem-solving skills.
When Dora the Explorer first came to my attention several years ago, I assumed the show was designed to introduce children to geography. I was wrong, obviously. But the variety and quantity of skills touched on throughout this set is impressive nonetheless. Children learn how to recognize colors and color patterns, match identical objects, count, sing and engage in actual physical activity. And because of Dora's Latin ethnicity, a little Spanish vocabulary is thrown in as well. Indeed, there's a lot going on in Dora's world to keep youngsters busy and intellectually stimulated.
The creative forces behind Dora understand the psychology of kids, which probably explains why each episode follows virtually the same blueprint: setup, obstacle one, obstacle two, obstacle three, resolution. Lather, rinse, repeat. Kids benefit from the repetition, but adults will find the show a bit cumbersome after a couple of episodes. Fine. That's why you have Desperate Housewives and the Food Channel. But for toddlers and the pre-K set who like structure,Dora is the bee's knees. That is, according to my four-year-old son, Ben, and our next-door neighbor, Jessi. They enjoyed a screening of Dora's Map Adventures and nailed Dora's questions one after another. And when Dora instructed kids to act like baby bluebirds, Ben and Jessi obliged with uncharacteristic gusto (without Dora's encouragement, convincing the hipster Ben to flap his arms like a chicken would have taken an act of God).
Dora is a spirited tyke, and her world—as colorful as a piñata, but blandly animated—is not without its charms. Some of the Latin-tinged touches are especially refreshing in an age of xenophobic kids' entertainment (face it: mainstream children's shows with a Hispanic flavor have been virtually nonexistent since Villa Alegre left PBS in the '70s). Each time Dora and her trusty pals Backpack (a talking backpack), Map (a talking map) and Boots (a talking.monkey?) successfully complete a leg of their journey, an insect mariachi band scurries from behind a rock or shrub to musically herald the event. Then there's Swiper the Fox making like a masked Frito Bandito. Each time his swiping efforts are thwarted, he responds with a frustrated "Ah, man!" Mejor suerte para la próxima, hombre.
Well, I thought Swiper and the rest of the show was cute, and your kiddos will too. Most importantly—and here's the bottom line—they'll learn a thing or two.
All episodes in the set are presented in their original full-screen format with Dolby 2.0 stereo sound, and your kids will be perfectly happy with it. It looks and sounds exactly like the Dora we've come to know and love on Nickelodeon. Extras are few, but City of Lost Toys and Rhymes and Riddles each feature a short starring that other Nick Jr. mainstay, Oobie. How does one describe Oobie? Think hand puppet minus any fabric concealing the hand, but with a set of eyeballs perched on the knuckles. Yes, it's every bit as bizarre as I just made it out to be, but it is harmless fun for kids. Also included are bilingual flash cards, a quick and dull riddle game starring Dora, and a brief parents' guide to Dora's learning philosophy.
Colorful, tuneful and highly interactive, it's impossible not to recommend this set of Dora the Explorer adventures to parents who have young kids. More than four-and-a-half hours' worth of educational entertainment for around $30 is hard to beat.
Swiper is sentenced to 120 days of community service for petty theft. But as for our brown-eyed girl? ¡Dora no es culpable!
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