Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dora gives Boots the Boot

Nickelodeon's popular Dora the Explorer franchise is getting a reboot this summer with the debut of a new television series titled DORA & FRIENDS: INTO THE CITY!  Coming in August, Dora & Friends has a more grown up version of the character moving from the jungle to the city.  This new tween Dora is ditching her trusted backpack for a smartphone with a map app and abandoning her monkey pal Boots for a new group of kid friends from school.  Dora and Friends will air during the Nickelodeon preschool block of programming on the cable channel's week day schedule.

Nickelodeon promises new city, new friends, new adventures in its synopsis of this new series:

Together, all for one! Get ready for big adventures with Dora and Friends: Into the City! Dora's moved to a beautiful pan-Latino metropolis by the sea called Playa Verde, entered a diverse new school, and is busies than ever.

She's also found a new group of friends - Alana, Emma, Naiya, Kate, and Pablo - with a shared passion for learning and exploring who join her on new pop/rock-infused adventures in the city.   But this is no ordinary city.  Down side streets, in the park, even under the school there are portals to magical worlds filled with surprises, obstacles and villains waiting to test our friends with curricular challenges and exciting emotional stakes!

Armed with an ancient magical charm bracelet, a trusted Mapp App, and the strength that comes from working with bright, funny and loving friends, Dora invites preschoolers to join her in saving the day, solving problems, speaking Spanish, and giving back to the community.

This show at first glance seems like a nice effort to refresh a popular brand that has become somewhat dated and tired after a 14 year run.  Now I admit not having seen the show yet and it may be that I'm just being a grumpy old troll but this new series does irk me a little bit.  Children grow up fast enough as it is, do we really need to be infusing tween elements into stories aimed at preschoolers.  This series looks like a nice step-up to keep Dora's fans tuned in through kindergarten and elementary school (7 - 11 years old) but should it really be marketed to a 3-7 year old preschool audience.  In that vein maybe the next brand revamp could have Elmo reach out to preschoolers in a Sesame Street spin-off from a Monster High School.  

Preschool now is what kindergarten was when I was a child.  Kindergarten used to be a half day adventure that included a snack, playground time and a nap while learning your numbers and letters.  Now children come out of full day session knowing reading and math skills.  It just seems to me that this new Dora show continues a societal trend that pushes kids to act older and more mature at younger and younger ages.

Dora the Explorer has been a big part of my children's preschool years.  Our house has been littered with DVDs, toys, and books featuring Dora's adventures with her friends Boots the Monkey, Tico the Squirrel, Isa the Iguana, Benny the Bull, and Swiper the Fox.  Learning basic skills with a map and a backpack reinforced the elementary nature of learning.  Now Boots, along with his animal buddies and the map and backpack, are getting the boot.  They are being replaced with fashionable children with smart phones living in the city. Along with the valuable messages this franchise provides to children (value learning, imagination, multi-culturism) it appears it will also be throwing in themes involving fashion, shopping and make-overs that you have to ask are they really appropriate for an audience of 3-7 year old children?

Dora isn't the first cartoon character aimed at young children to get a modern tween make-over.  Recently, Strawberry Shortcake did the same thing with characters who have a focus on being popular, being fashion conscious and always chatting on a cell phone....what some parents have called a "berry disturbing make-over."  While as parents we may not be able to control what media and toy companies produce, we do have the power to control what we allow our children to watch and play with.  To be fair, I will probably screen Dora & Friends for my kids to get a better appraisal of the show and my initial reaction to it, but as of right now I'm leaning toward having the TV turned off to this program for my 5 year old twins until they are a little bit older.  Sorry Dora, but it looks like you are going to join SpongeBob Squarepants on the blocked list. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi GeekDad!

    This is Heather from Nickelodeon. I wanted to drop a note to address some of the concerns you expressed about our upcoming new series, Dora and Friends. I’d like to send you two episodes of the show so you can see it for yourself. Dora and Friends is an educational preschool show for 2-5 year olds with each episode tested by preschoolers themselves. In every episode, Dora and her friends participate in a community service project whether it’s volunteering at Doggie Adoption Day, delivering toys to the children’s hospital or cleaning up the city park, going on exciting adventures along the way. The series is not about fashion, shopping or makeovers, but about modeling positive interpersonal skills to kids and the importance of giving back to your community. It also includes in the curriculum Spanish language and Latino culture just like in Dora the Explorer. Dora continues to be an inspirational role-model and friend to kids just as she has been for the past 14 years.

    I will shoot you an e-mail so you have my contact info and it would be great if you could give me your mailing address so I can send the episodes. I look forward to your thoughts.