Dora the Explorer: Explore the Earth!:
This collection of four 22-minute episodes of Dora the Explorer features Earth-centric themes. Why? Because it has been released right around Earth Day, the one day a year we collectively acknowledge that we've irreparably destroyed our environment. But we don't want our kids to acknowledge that fact, we want them to march into the future with the hope that they won't be fighting off giant cockroaches for the last of the Earth's water supply. That said, Dora is like catnip for the preschool crowd, so if you slap this DVD into your energy consuming player (most of our electricity still comes from burning fossil fuels) you'll at least give your little ones the power to question you, "Daddy, why are there no more polar bears?"
Dora programs are the ne plus ultra of children's call-and-response programming. In each episode, Dora must solve a simple three-part problem, and at every step of the way she questions the viewers for help. Cute characters like her monkey buddy Boots chip in, as well as Backpack and Map, two friends integral to problem solving. Dora asks, "who do we ask for help when we're lost?" then stares at the camera for eight seconds while your kid(s) scream, "Map! Map!" It's a hell of a lot more fun than it sounds, and your child will likely jump up and down in a frenzy all the while. Is she learning? Who knows? Probably Swiper knows. He's the fox who runs around attempting to steal stuff, but his plans are easily thwarted by screaming, "Swiper, no swiping!" over and over until he gives up with an exasperated, "Oh, man!"
Though these episodes are by no means pedantic on the subject of conservation, they delight in numerous super-cute animals, and environmental themes:
Mixed-Up Seasons finds Dora attempting to right certain wrongs, such as; Why is that snowman sweating on a sunny beach? And what is that jack-o-lantern doing in a field of spring flowers?
To The South Pole is the charming tale of a lost penguin, or Pinguino. (Did I forget to mention that Dora also wants to teach your child some Spanish?) Dora and her cousin Diego will help your tots lead the way to Antarctica. The penguin is very cute.
Save Diego imperils Dora's cousin, leaving him hanging by a rope over a cactus, with a tiny baby parrot in his hand. Hearing Diego speak animal languages as he goes about helping various creatures is more-than-worth the price of the DVD. (Not really, but he does a hilarious Goat Voice.)
Beaches represents a quest for Dora and Boots to make it across a tricky, crab-infested beach to find Boots' floatie. Boots really needs a swim, kids. Can you help?
I'm not sure what benefit Dora has on young minds, but the damn program works like a six-pack of Red Bull on their little motors, and its simplistic animations (you can't really call them stories) are so full of mindless happiness and cute animals that even adults will be lulled into chanting "Map! Map!" with their progeny.
All these episodes and the minimal extras come in a TV-standard 1.33:1 full frame ratio, and none of them look much better than they do on TV, either. Colors are bright and saturated, details are sharp, (seeing as how they are animated pieces of scalable vector graphics) and few compression artifacts are noticeable except for some aliasing and some halos, mostly around Dora's hair.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio lacks any form of notable defects. Dialog is loud and clear, music doesn't compete with dialog, and everything is dialed-in to ensure you'll know when to scream, "Map! Map!"
Extras are light on this 99-minute, single disc DVD, delivered in an eco-keepcase (the one with the recycle symbol cut out of the plastic). Closed Captioning and two short songs from Moose and Zee (characters from a different Nickelodeon show) are the sole extras. The songs are "Explore the Seashore" and "In My Neighborhood". Both songs end suddenly, as if they were chopped out of a full-length episode or two.
Dora probably helps with rote memorization. The DVD box claims kids will learn about different seasons and environments, animals from around the world, and Spanish Language. Whatever the case, if your kids get some screen-time on any regular basis, a DVD like this will keep them away from commercials, and will rev them up like tops. It's a lot of fun with a slight environmental message that will hopefully stand your brood in good stead when the giant cockroaches arrive, so it's Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com