If you were a kid – or the parent of one – in the early ’00s, you almost certainly remember “Dora the Explorer. Nickelodeon’s animated children’s series first premiered in 1999, and ran until 2013, and Dora has remained incredibly popular among young viewers. Over the course of eight seasons, the infinitely curious young explorer led fans on far-flung adventures, and expand their horizons with the help of her monkey pal Boots.
Dora makes the leap to the big screen in her very own live-action adventure, DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, opening on August 9. As you may have gathered from the trailers and images, however, the film doesn’t spotlight the cutesy cartoon Dora you grew up with. This Dora is a bit older, and a lot more cool.
For those somehow unfamiliar with “Dora the Explorer,” here are a few helpful things to know: In the animated series, Dora is a seven-year-old girl who loves exploring and going on adventures. She has a purple backpack and her best friend is a monkey, named Boots. (He’s so named because of his red footwear.) On the show, the backpack can talk, but Boots can’t — it’s kind of weird, but also a lot of fun.
In each episode, Dora embarks upon a different quest, often encountering puzzles and obstacles. These usually have something to do with numbers, the Spanish language (Dora speaks in both Spanish and English), or a riddle of some kind. In order to solve these puzzles, Dora breaks the fourth wall and asks for help from her viewers. The heroine often crosses paths with a pesky fox named Swiper, who tries to steal helpful items. To prevent this, Dora – with the participation of the viewers at home – has to say “Swiper, no swiping!” three times. Each episode concludes with Dora achieving her goal or reaching her destination with the audience’s help.
All that means that making a “Dora the Explorer” movie requires more than just writing a story about a bold and cute youngster. There are some unique challenges involved — how can the Dora movie retain elements like moments where she speaks to the audience, while turning the kid-friendly series into a live-action movie that is entertaining for people of all ages?
The original series is specifically for very young viewers, but the movie version of Dora has grown up to match her original audience. DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD stars Isabela Moner (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT) as the adventurous young woman, who has grown up traveling the globe with her explorer parents. But Dora is faced with her most difficult adventure yet when she’s sent to a regular American high school, where her approach to life makes her feel different from everyone else. She’s actually pretty awesome thanks to all her skills, but it takes everyone a short while to realize it.
After her parents are kidnapped, Dora uses her very particular set of skills — along with her purple backpack and her best monkey pal Boots — to lead her high school peers into the jungle on a dangerous rescue mission. With a cast that also includes Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez, Michael Pena, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo and Benicio Del Toro, DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD is stacked with talent. It also looks incredibly fun and funny, thanks to a script by Nicholas Stoller (NEIGHBORS) and Matthew Robinson (MONSTER TRUCKS) and direction by James Bobin (2011’s THE MUPPETS).
The live-action Dora movie isn’t just the character’s biggest adventure yet; it also might be her most surprising one. DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD has a quirky sense of self-aware humor, which seems appropriate given the franchise’s kid-friendly, interactive background. For instance, when Dora breaks the fourth wall to speak to the audience, her parents are (appropriately) confused – who is this girl talking to? Does she have… issues?
There might be a lot more of that humor as Swiper and possibly even Boots get to speak in the movie. (Boots was always silent in the cartoon, but since he’s “played” by Danny Trejo in the movie, we’re ready for anything.) A DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD tie-in novel even suggests that the animal characters — and the heroine herself — might face some existential angst, in addition to the dangers of the main adventure. Think “DEADPOOL with Dora,” just with a lot less cursing. That makes this new Dora very much a modern high-schooler, and the ways she tackles all these challenges with a wry grin makes her even cooler than we could have hoped for.