Judge Jim Thomas doesn't have a magic backpack, but his computer bag can be counted on to provide sinus medication as needed. That's magic in its own way, I guess...
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 (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), and Dora The Explorer: Super Babies (published November 2nd, 2005) are also available.
License to Kill? This undercover agent isn't even licensed to drive…
Dora the Explorer first hit the Nickelodeon airwaves in 2000, and is still going strong today. I have a 7-year-old daughter, along with two sons, 4 and 2 years old. For my now seven year-old, Dora's grown somewhat bit passé—she watched a little, but she moved on to Kim Possible several years ago. The two boys, though, are just discovering Dora, so this disc's arrival was fortuitous indeed.
Dora's a young Hispanic girl, who has all sorts of adventures with her animal friends. Each episode (for the whole series, not just this disc) has a standard format. Dora gets a "mission" (for instance, protecting friend Isa's birthday cupcakes) that involves three basic obstacles. As Dora and her best friend Boots (a monkey who loves…well, you know) approach each obstacle, the audience "helps" Dora by pointing out what tool, path, or trick will allow them to proceed; as each obstacle is overcome, a little mariachi band (a grasshopper, a frog, and a slug—I said "little," didn't I?) pops up and plays a quick fanfare. At some point in the festivities, that pesky fox Swiper shows up and attempts to pilfer something—usually something needed to complete the mission. When the mission is finally complete, the gang does a celebratory song and dance. Dora has several other friends who periodically turn up, several of whom only speak Spanish, giving Dora the opportunity to give us one or two Spanish words each episode.
Dora's appeal rests in a couple of things: First, Our Hero is in fact, a heroine. That might not be a big deal these days, but it was more cutting edge last century, honest, Buffy not withstanding. (A spinoff series, Go Diego Go!, has ensured proper representation of the disenfranchised male population.) Secondly, the bright colors and simple stories are right in the wheelhouse of the target pre-K audience, making it easy for them to follow the story and spot the clues and goals. Third, the audience participation component focuses on counting, visual identification, and spatial skills; kids are quickly drawn into the process of discovery as they search for various items on the screen (The regular format is important for this interaction, as the kids always know when they're likely to be asked to do something). Finally, the Spanish language skills appeal to the growing Hispanic demographic, as well as any family interested in learning different languages. An added bonus (from a marketing perspective) is that the format translates extremely well to book format, as I can attest, having spent just about every night of my daughter's third year reading from her Dora books.
This collection is named for the first two episodes, "Super Spies" and "Super Spies 2: The Swiping Machine," in which Señor Toucan gives Dora and her friend Boots spy gadgets to assist their mission. Of course, given that Dora has had, from the very beginning of the series, a magical backpack that can produce whatever she needs, an avian Q seems a tad redundant (If the series stays around until Dora hits puberty, that backpack will be indispensible for the inevitable "Safe Sex with Dora" special). But whereas she usually gets stuff like rope and tape, this time she gets some cool stuff like jet boots, a Swiper Detector, and a surveillance camera. In the second spy episode, she has a Bond-worthy villain to foil, as Swiper has managed to get hold of a "Swiping Machine" that lets him move—and thus swipe—at superhuman speeds. But Swiper is, as usual, foiled again (he's basically Wile E. Coyote without all the grievous bodily damage). This disc also has two additional episodes, "Rojo, the Fire Truck," and "Pinto, the Pony Express." As the name suggests, while these are technically Dora stories, the real focus is on the guest characters, though Dora and Boots are (literally) along for the ride. All the stories are fun, and my two boys were glued to the screen for the duration.
The audio is pretty good. The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks (English, Spanish, and French) are clear and have good imaging. Unfortunately, the same care wasn't given to the video transfer. Dora's next mission should be to find the video tech who went nuts with the edge enhancement; the borders between the animated characters and the static background practically buzz at times. There's also a little color bleeding, resulting in black lines becoming muddy. Neither are enough to draw a little one's notice, but if an unlucky parent has to watch repeatedly…
Extras are negligible; basically, just a couple of brief segments going over how to say common family names in Spanish.
If you've got kids under the age of 5, it's hard to go wrong with Dora in general. This DVD is a worthy addition to Dora's long list of accomplishments. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
• Bonus Featurette: "Say It Two Ways With Dora"
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