Dora The Explorer grows up

The producer is here to attend the premiere of Dora The Explorer Live! Dora’s Pirate Adventure (above), a two-act interactive song and dance show, which opens at Resorts World Sentosa today.
The producer is here to attend the premiere of Dora The Explorer Live! Dora’s Pirate Adventure (above), a two-act interactive song and dance show, which opens at Resorts World Sentosa today.
Mr Chris Gifford, co-creator of the Dora franchise. -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Mr Chris Gifford, co-creator of the Dora franchise. -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Pre-teen version of preschool hit series to show in Asia next year

Do not be surprised to see a slightly older and more mature-looking Dora Marquez on Nickelodeon this August.

A pre-teen version of Dora from the hit preschool series Dora The Explorer is set to appear in the spin-off Dora And Friends: Into The City, on the American cable television network later this year in the United States.

Viewers here can catch Dora And Friends when it premieres on Nickelodeon Asia next year, says Mr Chris Gifford, 55, the co-creator and executive producer of the Dora franchise.

While the popular children's animated series Dora The Explorer has the seven- year-old Latina heroine embarking on adventures and quests with her best friend Boots the Monkey, the new series places her as a 10-year-old living in the city, alongside her new human peers Alana, Emma, Naiya, Kate and Pablo.

"We wanted to try putting Dora in a city environment with friends her own age, as opposed to just animals," says Mr Gifford.

He is confident viewers will take to a more grown-up Dora. The upcoming series will showcase the tween using the latest gadgets with her friends.

The producer is here to attend the premiere of Dora The Explorer Live! Dora's Pirate Adventure, a two-act interactive song and dance show, which opens at Resorts World Sentosa today.

In the show, Dora and her animal friends such as Boots, Isa the Iguana and Tico the Squirrel embark on a journey to Treasure Island in pursuit of Pirate Piggies who have stolen her treasure chest.

This is the second stage adaptation of Dora The Explorer, the first being Dora The Explorer Live! Search For The City Of Lost Toys. The musical, which came here in 2012, has sold more than two million tickets in the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.

Dora, who speaks English and Spanish, has been embraced in more than 150 countries and territories since the original TV series premiered in 2002. It is now distributed in over 20 countries in Asia.

Now in its eighth season, it has received 15 Daytime Emmy nominations and many industry awards.

Known for its interactive and educational format, every episode of Dora The Explorer features Dora inviting her young viewers to help her solve problems and overcome obstacles she faces along her journey.

While the English-Spanish version of Dora The Explorer is shown in the United States and Singapore, it has been translated into more than 30 other languages worldwide.

Mr Gifford says the most important thing about Dora is her bilingualism. Not only does he aim to inspire children to develop an interest in learning a second language, but he also hopes to promote greater empathy and understanding of other nationalities too.

"Dora's Latina roots are a big part of her identity and so much about Dora is about building bridges betwen different cultures," he says.

Mr Gifford has been at Nickelodeon for 25 years. He entered the entertainment industry in 1980 as an actor on award-winning children's show The Great Space Coaster, before joining Nickelodeon in 1989 as a unit manager. He is also the creator and executive producer of the companion hit series Go, Diego, Go!, about Dora's cousin Diego.

He reveals that the character of Dora could well have turned out to be a rabbit instead.

"It all started out with a simple idea about a little bunny going on an adventure with his mummy and overcoming preschool obstacles along the way," says the producer, who is married with two children and lives in New Jersey. This premise, coupled with inspiration from The Wizard of Oz's famed female adventurer Dorothy Gale, eventually gave rise to Dora The Explorer.

While his main medium is television, he says the live productions of Dora are unique in that he can see instantly the young audiences' reactions.

He adds: "It's always great seeing how much the kids love Dora and how happy they are to have helped her in her quests at the end of the show."

paigelim@sph.com.sg