Dora the Explorer

07 May 2006|Felipe Korzenny

By Vivian Fong, Graduate Student of Hispanic Marketing Communication, Florida State University

Dora la Exploradora, or Dora the Explorer is an animated television series for preschool-age children that is broadcasted on Nickelodeon in the United States. It is based on a 7-year old Hispanic or Latina character and her friends. A pilot episode for this series first aired in 1999, and Dora the Explorer became a regular series in 2000. The series airs not only on Nick, but also on CBS on Saturday mornings and on Noggin, the Nickelodeon-owned channel for preschoolers. The show, which was created by Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh, and Eric Weiner also is broadcast in selected Latin American markets.

Ever since its creation, Dora the Explorer has been an acclaimed TV show that teaches children (Hispanic and non-Hispanic) basic Spanish words and phrases along with math and music skills and physical coordination. Children also learn with Dora, along with a monkey character named Boots, how to observe situations and solve problems.

Reaching 2.3 million Hispanic households in America, the Dora cartoons give Latino children cultural cues to which they can relate, including an episode that featured a quinceaƱera, the big 15th birthday celebration for female Hispanics, or Latinas. The program stars Dora, a Hispanic little girl as an adventurer, they teach Spanish vocabulary in every show. Another feature of the show is that viewers are asked participate actively – not only by answering questions, but by getting off the couch and moving their bodies. Valerie Walsh, one of the show’s creators, stated that “parents tell us they know when Dora is on because they’ll see and hear their kids playing along with the show: counting, speaking Spanish, jumping, rowing, clapping, etc.”

The Dora character is, of course, bilingual, and she demonstrates that speaking Spanish is not only a valuable tool, but also a source of pride. Educators believe that introducing a second language to a child before the age of 6 or 7 is an important factor in his/her ability to achieve fluency. Dora is often the first encounter with a foreign language for the non-Hispanic preschoolers who watch it. The show might teach them a little Spanish and make them curious and interested in learning more, or simply make them aware of and comfortable with foreign languages. For the Spanish-speaking preschool viewers, seeing Dora use Spanish might encourage them to take pride in being bilingual.

Dora the Explorer has been such a success that in 2005 a new show called Go, Diego, Go! was launched. Like Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go! Features Dora’s cousin, Diego Marquez, and it also relies on play-along viewing and interaction while introducing kids to Spanish words, encouraging movement, incorporating songs, and teaching kids to overcome challenges. Diego also models important attributes for young children, such as a love of learning, a respect for the environment, and a desire to help others.

For Nickelodeon, whose audience is predominantly non-Hispanic, shows like “Dora” and “Diego” are a way to boost the channel’s Hispanic audience share. Hispanic viewers made up 18% of “Dora’s” audience in July 2005, according to Nickelodeon, compared with 16% for its overall audience.

Dora the Explorer is currently the top-rated show on American commercial Television for its demographic, is universally hailed by critics for its educational content, and has had a big impact on merchandising and retailing environment. For example, The CMOM (Children’s Museum of Manhattan) and The Rowell Foster Children’s Positive Plan are featuring through 2005 and 2006 an exhibit of Dora the Explorer to benefit programs for families in need. Also, Cheerios has offered in the past a free Dora the Explorer the Game CDROMs in specially marked package as a promotion tool.

For Nickelodeon, marketing Dora to Hispanic viewers vs. fans of other backgrounds is not an either/or proposition. The network used Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade-in which Dora was the first-ever Hispanic character balloon – to reach all segments within the parade’s 2.5 million live spectators in 2005.

Dora the Explorer has been extremely successful commercially, generating over $3 billion in retail sales of associated products since 2000, including $1 billion in 2004 alone. By April 2006, 5,008 items were listed on EBay under “Dora the Explorer”. From Dora’s Talking House Furniture, to Dora Adventure Fashion Dolls, Dora the Explorer merchandise – 75 percent of which is bilingual- has had an impact on consumer behavior. As children become more aware of products featuring this important character in their lives through their exposure to the TV show and the use of the Internet, Dora the Explorer toys and merchandise has managed to be in the top ten in sales in their categories.

Chozick, A. (2005) “‘Go, Diego, Go!’ Blazes a New Trail; Unique Marketing Helps
Nickelodeon Push Cartoon Aimed at Hispanic Viewers” Wall Street Journal, New York: September 8, 2005, pp.B6

Meyers, T. (2006) “Culture Mosaic” Advertising Age, 77 (11) pp.S1

Children’s Museum of Manhattan (2006) CMOM’s Annual Family Benefit the Magic of
Sharing. Retrieved April 17th, 2006, from

Viacom International Inc. (2004) Dora the Explorer. Retrieved April 17th,
2006, from dora/index.jhtml

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