The new (and improved?) Dora the Explorer

Ian Mendes does a double-take when he stumbles across the cartoon heroine's sophisticated new look.
Dora-and-Friends

Photo via Nick Jr.

Last weekend, my cousin and his wife visited us with their son who is almost two years old.

When the little guy wanted to watch a TV show, I had to fire up Treehouse On-Demand which is a life-saving tool for parents who have toddlers. Fortunately for us, our kids have grown out of their Treehouse years, which means Max & Ruby are now tiny specs in our rear view mirror.

But as I was browsing the titles of shows, I stumbled across Dora and Friends and had to do a double-take because Dora had a completely altered look. She was grown up and looked totally different than the version our kids grew up with a few years ago. For starters, I could actually see her ears. The old Dora had a boxy-style haircut that covered up her ears and I always wondered if that was why “The Map” had to repeat everything three times to her. Maybe she just couldn’t hear him?

But this new Dora has ears—complete with earrings—and a hairstyle that is less Kim Jong-un and more Sofia Vergara. This tween version of Dora has also become self-conscious about her clothing and has finally realized that a plain purple t-shirt probably doesn’t match with orange shorts and yellow socks. So her outfits look more like something you would find at Gap Kids.

She’s even ditched her old monkey pal Boots and replaced him with real human friends. I’m not sure if they officially killed Boots off the show, but I like to think he died a painful death by being forced to watch a Dora marathon at some point. The new Dora has a cast of real-life friends named Emma, Kate, Naiya, Alana, and Pablo—who just looks like a way funkier version of Diego.

This new show is actually called Dora and Friends: Into the City where the young Spanish girl has moved from a hut in a remote village to a more urban setting. I can imagine the Dora executives sitting around a big table and saying, “Our focus groups are telling us they want more real-life interactions and less dealings with talking iguanas.”

Still, when I read the episode description for the new version of the show, it still seemed like hot garbage to me:

Episode 9—Dora and Kate have to save the Little Piggy in Puppet Land in time for their puppet show.

Episode 10—When the zoo clock breaks down, Dora, Emma and Pablo and four musical zoo clock animals journey to Clock Land to find a magic key to wind their broken clock.

Based on these descriptions, I’m not sure they’ve exactly nailed down the “real-life-in-the-city” theme to this show yet. I’m waiting for them to come up with an episode description like this: Dora rebels against her parents after they change the Wi-Fi code in their house as a punishment for her getting a C- on a geography test.

And speaking of geography, in another sign of the times, Dora no longer has her trusty paper copy of her friend “The Map” in her backpack. Instead, he’s actually an app on her smartphone. Sadly, he doesn’t sing, “I’m the App, I’m the App, I’m App, I’m the… App!!” They missed a golden opportunity there.

The beauty of cartoon characters is that they don’t have to ever age, so creators can keep them the same forever. But the Dora creators figured they would try something different here and update Dora’s look and appeal. I’m all for it—provided they continue to follow this through in the years to come.

I mean who wouldn’t want to see a 22-year-old Dora—now with a linguistics degree—struggling to find a job?

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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