Like most parents, I can't expect to enjoy everything my kid watches. Clifford is almost always a welcome diversion and I can tolerate the bulk of Bubble Guppies, but Dora the Explorer is rarely my idea of time well spent. The few DVD collections or stray episodes I've seen---whether in person or as background noise---have only reinforced my belief that, more often than not, Dora is a grating, repetitive and pandering series that exists in its own oddly-successful vacuum of bilingual merchandise. So imagine my surprise when I ended up enjoying the bulk of Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure, a 2009 made-for-TV special recycled on DVD this year as part of Nickelodeon's "Holiday Packaging" line. Either I'm just a sucker for Christmas-themed entertainment...or the writers actually tried something new for once.
As the title implies, Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure borrows most of its structure from Charles Dickens' classic...so while the spirit of this 52-minute episode isn't anywhere close to original, it's still flexible enough to mesh well with Dora's colorful cast of characters. The story follows el zorro Swiper as he struggles with kleptomania; in fact, his most recent round of pilfering has landed him on Santa's naughty list. Dora and company want to help Swiper give up his wicked habit, so they travel into the past and future to make him realize the error of his ways. Featuring a number of series staples (including a lively collection of songs and a linear, landmark-based format), Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure feels familiar but it isn't nearly as repetitive as traditional 20-minute episodes. Perhaps it's the expanded length, different time periods or just my affection for ol' Swiper, but I'd watch Dora with my daughter more often if every episode tried a little harder like this one did. Alastair Sim it ain't, but single-digit fans should enjoy themselves.
Nickelodeon's 2013 "Holiday Packaging" line serves up various catalog DVDs in bulkier packaging, which also includes franchise-specific goodies like coloring books, posters and the like. This makes for easy gift-giving as the holiday approaches....though, to the best of my knowledge, Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure is only one of two that actually celebrates the season. It's a decent release overall, but anyone who already has the 2009 DVD can skip this one.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Fairly decent, though not without a few minor problems. This episode is presented in what appears to be its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, though it's odd that any 2009 made-for-TV movie wouldn't have been produced in widescreen. Image detail runs a little on the soft side, while mild interlacing and motion blur could also be spotted on occasion. Colors are relatively bold and bright, although the warmer colors were prone to bleeding. Still, it's a perfectly watchable presentation overall, at least enough so that most single-digit Dora fans won't find anything to complain about.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and similarly sounds good under the circumstances. Voices and music are relatively crisp and clear without fighting for attention, while a modest amount of channel separation gives many of the song-driven moments a little bit of punch. Optional Closed Captions have been included during the main feature only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the menu interface is basic enough...though for some reason, "episode selection" is included for a title that only features one episode. Four chapter breaks and a sea of related ads and warning screens are also provided. This single-disc release is housed in a silly eco-friendly keepcase; similar to other Nickelodeon "Holiday Packaging" releases, also included are a few eco-unfriendly Printed Goodies
: a poster, sticker sheet, coloring book and packet of crayons. The keepcase and other goodies are tucked inside a festive box that's similar in size and shape to an old NES game.
Aside from the printed goodies, the only technical extras are two Holiday Music Videos
featuring Dora and a very short Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
about the cartoon's production. Unfortunately, no optional subtitles or Closed Captions are provided. It's nice to see some
effort in this department, but the total running time is still less than an hour.
I was ready to hate on Dora's Christmas Carol Adventure long before it began, convinced that it'd be as formulaic and repetitive as most of the usual episodes...but it's actually a pretty cute and entertaining short movie, albeit one that falls into a few familiar Dora trappings along the way. Featuring a lively collection of songs and a variety of new characters and settings, it's no Christmas classic but any Dora fan will probably have a pretty good time. Nickelodeon's "Holiday Packaging" release pairs a recycled 2009 DVD with printed goodies in a slightly oversized box, so it's obviously not aimed at those who own the original version. Recommended for everyone else as an easy stocking stuffer.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.