'Dora the Explorer’ Creator on the Show's 10th Anniversary: “Dora was originally Caucasian”

Nickelodeon

As Dora the Explorer turns 10 years old this weekend, Latina.com spoke to the show’s creator and executive producer, Valerie Walsh Valdes, about Dora’s Cumpleaños, the show’s enduring appeal, and how Dora made history as TV’s first animated Latina in a leading role.
 
How does it feel to see Dora the Explorer celebrate 10 years on Nickelodeon?
We never expected Dora to become a phenomenon, so it feels amazing! This week is a little surreal because Dora is on billboards in Times Square, and it seems like everywhere you look, there’s something related to Dora. 10 years is a very long time in TV years—it’s sort of like dog years. So to have lasted this long is really a testament to how much the character has been embraced; not just by kids, but also by their parents, who see Dora as a great role model.
 
Why do kids love Dora so much?
Because she’s their true friend, and because without a kid at home helping Dora, she wouldn’t be able to do what she does. It makes preschoolers feel very powerful—like they are needed on the trips Dora takes. They feel like they’re going on these amazing adventures-- over strawberry mountains and across chocolate lakes—and that makes them feel empowered. And not just in this country—it’s all around the world. Dora is seen in 151 territories.
 
Were you aware when you were developing the show that Dora would become the first animated Latina character in a leading role on television?
No. In fact, Dora was Caucasian originally. She was white, and had Auburn, reddish hair and green eyes. One of the executives at Nickelodeon, Brown Johnson, came to us because she had just come from a conference about how few positive images of Latinos there were on TV, and they were asking producers and networks to address that. So she came to us, and said, 'Do you think you could make this girl Latina?' None of us were from that background, so we hired a Latino writer and many cultural consultants to help us navigate that. The consultant said, 'You know, you really should try to make her look more representative of Latinos, because even though we have redheads with green eyes in Latin America, it’s more the exception rather than the rule.'

Is the fact that she show is bilingual a big part of why it’s so successful?

Part of Dora’s legacy is that she has helped to make being bilingual cool. Kids want to learn more Spanish because of the show.
 
Nickelodeon is honoring Dora’s 10-year anniversary with an hour-long primetime TV movie this weekend called, Dora’s Big Birthday Adventure (August 15). Can you tell us about that episode?
It’s the first time we’ve ever had Dora waiting to get home—because throughout these 10 years, her mission is often helping other little friends that she meets in her world. This episode is a bit of homage to The Wizard of Oz, and it’s really important that Dora gets home because there’s no place like home.
 
We imagine the show is going to continue, right?
It is. Dora is perpetually seven years old. [Laugh]. We’re just premiering a sixth season and we’re still as excited about it today as we were when we first started making it.

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