Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Dora the Explorer

As of 2000, Blue's Clues was still the most popular preschool program on television. During its 4 years, it had the most ratings compared to the majority of the preschool programs of the time such as Teletubbies and Sesame Street. Even in 2002, Sesame Street took notes from Blue's Clues and changed their format from a magazine format to a narrative format. Around the late 90's, preschool shows were beginning to improve their quality of programming having both kids and adults enjoy it. Shows such as Blue's Clues, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Zooboomafoo were highly praised.

In our last review, The Brothers Garcia was the very first show that featured a Hispanic cast in an English channel. It had led to many other shows since then such as The George Lopez Show and The Ortegas. So on August 14, 2000, one preschool show that starred a Hispanic and taught kids about the Spanish language aired on Nick Jr. That show was Dora the Explorer. 

The show starts in a computer where a Hispanic eight-year-old named Dora Marquez would greet the viewers. Then her best friend Boots, a monkey with red boots, would greet them as well. Then they would have a problem or a place they need to go to meet up with their friends. Then she would tell the viewers that she needs her map to find out where they need to go. In order for the map to appear, they say "Map". The map would come out and sing a song.

Then afterwards Dora and Boots walk from place to place solving problems, doing puzzles, counting numbers, finding shapes, and meeting up with their friends along the way. Friends such as Isa the Iguana, Tico the Squirrel, Benny the Bull, the Big Red Chicken, and Azul would have a problem and Dora and Boots would help them out. Similar to Steve from Blue's Clues, Dora asks the audience for help to do these tasks so they can continue on their journey. 

From time to time, a sneaky fox named Swiper would try to swipe Dora's stuff. The only way to stop Swiper from swiping things is to say "Swiper, no swiping" three times. Then Swiper would snap his finger saying "Aw, man." Then he would run away. 

Then they would reach their destination, do their fun tasks, and sing and dance.

Then Dora and Boots would talk about their favorite part of their adventure and would conclude with them saying goodbye. 

The show was created by Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh Valdes, and Eric Weiner, the creator of the Nickelodeon variety show Weinerville. Originally they wanted Dora to be a blonde girl from European descent inspired by one of the creator's niece, but decided to go for a Latina girl. When the show aired, it became an instant success! Millions of kids tuned helping Dora along the way in her journey and learning numbers, shapes, and the Spanish language. In a time in which the Hispanics were gaining a huge amount of popularity in the media such as The Brothers Garcia, Antonio Banderas, Selma Hayak, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, and Marc Anthony, Dora the Explorer came out at the right place at the right time. 

The show had made millions of dollars due to their toys, books, VHS/DVD releases, stage shows, computer games, and accessories. At the time, it was the 2nd most popular preschool program on Nick Jr. and still to this day one of the most highly rated kids' shows of all time. 

Overall, I find the show to be a tad bit overrated. Now don't get me wrong, I understand why this show is popular and why it's still going on today, but I feel that it's a bit redundant and monotonous. The show follows the exact same formula in every episode. Dora and Boots greets the viewers, a problem occurs, they check the map to find out how to get there, they journey to the location, they meet up with someone who has a problem, they solved the problem, Swiper shows up, they continue on their journey, they find another problem along the way, they solve that problem, they finally reach their location, they accomplish their goal, they sing and dance to celebrate, and they close it off by saying what their favorite part of their journey was. Sure they tried to mix it up a little bit by including Dora's cousin Diego, an animal lover, and they introduce the goal of catching stars and putting it in the star catcher, but that's not enough to change the same mundane formula.

However, I do appreciate that they included teaching kids to speak Spanish. I'm a Hispanic myself and I'm proud of my culture. So seeing a preschool show representing a culture is always a plus for me. It does an even better job of representing the culture than Gullah Gullah Island. At least they teach you words and they actually have songs and celebrations emphasizing the culture. There's not enough of it, in my opinion, but at least it's there. Overall, despite my criticisms, I'd say check it out. It's a really nice show that knows what it wants to be, but expect to be a bit tired of it after a while. 

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


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