Dora the Explorer is Getting a Makeover: What’s a Parent to do?

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It’s an overused phrase, but rather fitting in regards to the latest announcement by the creators of “Dora the Explorer,” who insist it’s time to give the famous cartoon character a makeover.

Fueled by the popularity of older rivals such as Disney’s phenomenonally successful “Hannah Montana” and racier entries into the toy market like Bratz dolls, executives at Nickelodeon (the children’s TV network that airs the adorable Spanish speaking nina) are reportedly in talks to re-design some Dora-themed toys and merchandise to make the character more feminine.

According to new reports, Nickelodeon executives are considering a number of options, including creating a band of “Explorer Girls” aimed at appealing to older children. In addition, an older Dora may soon be coming to a big screen near you in an action-packed full-length movie (sources say it wouldn’t be released any earlier than 2010).

While no decisions have been made on any of the future projects, insiders say Dora’s creators are keen on holding on to the lively animated character’s preschool fans as they mature.

“Dora is as popular as she’s ever been, and now has a second generation of viewers that we would love to serve,” the company said.

“Dora the Explorer” has been on the air for eight years and is the top-rated TV program for preschool children in the United States. What’s more, the show has been translated into 24 languages and syndicated to 125 markets around the world.

So why are Nickelodeon’s bigwigs messing with a good thing?

As a parent of a loyal Dora fan I can tell you one of the reasons I allow my 4-year-old daughter to watch the wide-eyed, backpack-wearing girl whose voice drives me batty (it’s the volume not the tone) is precisely because I don’t want her playing with Bratz dolls or watching “Hannah Montana.”

I can see the wheels turning in the minds of the marketing “geniuses” at Nickelodeon: Older Dora equals more viewers. Somehow I don’t see the logic. So the “new and improved” Dora is going to dump her monkey friend Boots and hook up with these proposed “Explorer Girls” and do what? Have sleepovers to discuss boys, make up and the latest fashion trends?

Dora creators say they want to give the bilingual cutie a new, feminine look. So they lose the shorts, give her a skirt and grow out her hair. Is that really going to motivate an 8-year-old to watch a show she loved when she was three or four?

I say leave well enough alone. Dora is making Nickelodeon a fortune just the way she is. Changing the target market and giving Dora human friends, who are more interested in what they will be wearing to help rescue Tico from Swiper or wondering whether climbing muddy mountain will ruin their hair or (gasp!) compromise the look of their freshly polished nails, will only encourage parents like me to look elsewhere for quality entertainment for their preschoolers.

What do you think about the plans to give Dora a makeover?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.