How did you come up with the idea for Dora the Explorer?
Chris: We wanted to create a show that teaches little kids problem-solving skills. Preschoolers are our least powerful citizens. They can't reach the light switch; they have trouble pouring the milk on their cereal. They're faced with obstacles throughout their day and it can get pretty discouraging. Problem-solving strategies like stopping to think, asking for help, and using what you know are modeled in every Dora show.
What makes Dora the Explorer different from other children's programs?
Val: One of the things I love most about the show, and something that makes it unique, is that viewers are asked to be active participants, not only by answering questions, but by getting off the couch and moving their bodies. 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.
Chris: Probably the most obvious is the fact that we teach Spanish vocabulary in every show and that Dora is a Latina. Another unique aspect of the show is that it stars a little girl as an adventurer. The way we incorporate our curriculum into the show is different.
Can you talk about the interactivity of the show?
Chris: It's probably the most important aspect of the show and the thing that kids enjoy most. Parents can always tell when their kids are watching Dora by hearing the kids talking back to the screen. We are also extremely proud of how successful we have been in getting kids off the sofa, up, and moving.
How do you make sure the shows are appropriate for the audience?
Eric: I used to write for preschool shows (such as Gullah Gullah Island) before I had preschoolers of my own. Now I have a 6-year-old son, a 4-year-old daughter, and 4-month-old son, and along with being an incredible experience, being a parent has been helpful as I try to write stories that are appropriate for our audience. It's like having my very own focus group. I tell my kids the stories we're working on as bedtime stories to see how they react (though I've discovered that Dora stories, being interactive, work better on car trips than when I want my kids to calm down and get sleepy). I try out story ideas on them to see if they're hooked by the premise. In fact, I've asked my eldest son for help in my writing so many times that now he often says, "Not right now, I'm on a break."
At the same time, every Dora episode is tested (and re-tested) by our Research Department with large numbers of preschoolers and we learn an incredible amount every time. And sometimes I discover that a story my kids assured me would be thrilling or hysterically funny only works when Daddy is telling it to his own children.
How long does it take to make an episode?
Chris: It takes about a year from an initial story idea to final music and sound effects.
How is Dora a role model?
Val: Dora is a problem solver who doesn't give up when faced with obstacles. She's a caring friend always ready to stop and help someone in need; and she's an adventurer whose curiosity and spirit lead her to explore the world. Dora's a role model not only for children, but for adults, too!
How can parents build on what their children learn from the show?
Chris: I found that Dora's planning of her trip has been helpful for me in structuring some of my kids' weekend plans. Plus, I think that we all can learn to stop and think a little more.
Why is Spanish used in the show?
Val: 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. For many of our preschool viewers, Dora is their first encounter with a foreign language. As such, 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 our Spanish-speaking preschool viewers, seeing Dora use Spanish might encourage them to take pride in being bilingual.