Dora the Explorer: It's Haircut Day!:
So we all know the drill by now. Even if you are a 17-year-old first-time parent from Savissivik, Greenland, Dora the Explorer has been ground into your genetic code. (Yet watch how I pretend the need to get people up to speed in one sentence, now.) Yep, the English/Spanish bi-lingual cartoon character that teaches bits of Spanish language and simple concepts to impressionable tots through intense repetition is the very definition of a known quantity. And here she is with four 22-minute episodes that somehow manage to shoehorn themselves into the irresistible concept of 'haircut day.'
How do these episodes manage that feat? By not doing anything! Yes, "Dora's Hair--Raising Adventure" (the first episode presented) features some serious haircutting. Boots, the Grumpy Old Troll and a giantess with birds living in her afro could all stand a trim, a job the local peloquero (barber) is happy to tackle. A healthy dose of laughs and psychedelic weirdness make this a story that's fun for kids and captured parents alike.
However, the next three episodes engage in some serious off-roading. "Happy Birthday, Super Babies" finds Dora, Boots and the Super Babies working hard to save their birthday cakes from a nefarious bear with a sweet tooth. "Baby Winky Goes Home" sees the return of the aliens from Planet Purple - oh no, aliens! Don't leave without your baby! Lastly, "Dora's Pegaso Adventure" gets all astrological/astronomical on your heads, as Dora and boots ride a Pegasus constellation through the skies, helping other star formations return home to the moon before the sun rises. (Dora may help kids learn a little Spanish, but the sciences are not her strong point.)
As you can plainly see, it's not really Haircut Day with only 25% haircutting to be found, but what can you say? Neither kids nor parents are likely to clamor for Full Season Collections of Dora the Explorer, so Nickelodeon will continue to regularly pump out these DVDs for those so bereft as to have neither Tivo nor Cable TV. At that, they're not a bad way to occupy the kid(s) for a 22-minute episode when you need a break and it's rainy outside.
Dora's mission provides a limited view of multiculturalism, while continuing the push for now-played-out, trendy Hispano-centricism. She gets a little Espanol across while becoming even more pedantic in these episodes - harping in particular on healthy eating this time out. (Maybe it should have been called Healthy Eating Day instead?) But as wave after wave of misinformed anti-immigration sentiment crashes on our shores, Dora probably does other forms of subliminal good. However one wonders why other forms of culturally aware media entertainment for kids haven't become quite as huge. One really wonders why a realistic pro-black message seems to have begun and ended with Fat Albert, but that's another discussion entirely.
Go out and buy or rent It's Haircut Day! for your kids, it's no better nor any worse than any other Dora DVD (except, I guess, that this one is extras-free).
Haircut Day! comes in a TV-standard 1.33:1 full frame ratio, looking similar in quality to their original TV broadcasts. 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 very occasional aliasing.
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!"
No extras are presented, save for Closed Captioning and a few Previews of other cartoons.
Dora probably helps with rote memorization. The DVD box claims kids will experience a number of "firsts", including that ever important first haircut, while learning a little of the 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 message more concerned with healthy eating than haircuts, that will hopefully stand your brood in good stead when the giant cockroaches arrive, but without any extras, it gets only a strong Rent It rating.
- 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