Dora the Explorer is a kiddie cartoon juggernaut that's ruled the (pre)school for almost 15 years. The series has long passed the 200-episode mark and made the HD switch in 2012, making it one of the longest-running franchises that still remains wildly popular with younger audiences and barely tolerated by most of their parents. It's a loud, colorful, mildly educational, completely implausible, attention-grabbing, and downright obnoxious series, but my daughter still likes it and I'm a pretty patient dad. The series' history on DVD has been patchy at best: no attempt has been made to group the series in chronological order, let alone season-by-season boxed sets, and this is understandable. There's no through-line or evolution during this series, aside from the fact that it's slicker and more polished now. So the existence of endless themed collections isn't surprising...it's just confusing to keep track of, that's all.
Dora's Mermaid Adventures Collection continues the trend, but it's really just a simple repackaging job. Included in this two-disc set are Dora's Rescue in Mermaid Kingdom and Dora Saves The Mermaids, two DVDs originally released in 2012 that, aside from the self-titled main features, also include the bonus episodes "Benny the Castaway", "Dora's Moonlight Adventure", "Fish Out of Water", and "Treasure Island". Not surprisingly, these are all underwater adventures or, at the very least, take place on or near the ocean. Both self-titled episodes will appeal to those with an interest in mermaids and magic: "Dora's Rescue in Mermaid Kingdom" follows our explorer as she reunites a little mermaid (wink, wink) with her mother, while "Dora Saves The Mermaids" is a double-length episode about a magic crown, a kingdom in turmoil, and a garbage-dumping octopus. They're as predictable, lightly educational, and vaguely interactive as you'd expect...so for everyone but those completely new to the series, you should know exactly what you're getting: colors, more colors, and about three dozen Spanish vocabulary words.
Sadly, "DVDs originally released in 2012" does not necessarily mean that these six episodes are in pristine condition on well-authored discs. Aside from the simple fact that everything could have easily fit on one dual-layered DVD, the video quality is truly a mixed bag. It's understandable in some cases: half of these episodes originally aired well before Dora's switch to HD, and the newer ones are the unfortunate victim of pan-and-scan, which is almost inconceivable at this point. All things considered, Dora's Mermaid Adventures Collection is just a sneaky way to get rid of extra DVDs that probably shouldn't have been released in the first place. Evite este como de la peste!
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Not surprisingly, the video quality of episodes that originally aired up to 12 years apart are going to vary a little...but that's an unavoidable problem. The three earlier episodes on this collection ("Dora Saves The Mermaids", "Fish Out of Water", and "Treasure Island") are either from 2000 or 2007, when the series was produced in 480i; it's a long-winded way of saying they don't look very good. Colors bleed, image detail runs on the soft side, and slight digital imperfections (aliasing, edge enhancement, etc.) can be spotted along the way. Inexplicably, the three newest episodes on this collection ("Dora's Rescue in Mermaid Kingdom", "Benny the Castaway", and ""Dora's Moonlight Adventure") are all from 2012 after Dora switched to 1080i widescreen...and they're presented in 1.33:1 pan-and-scan, as shown in these screen captures. Why Paramount chose to release a cropped DVD in recent years is absolutely mind-boggling, as these newer episodes can all be streamed in full HD at Amazon and elsewhere. Don't get me wrong: they look just fine otherwise (and kids won't mind), but this is pretty much a deal-breaker in my book.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed 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 sounds relatively good under the circumstances. Voices and music are usually 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. I'm honestly not sure if these newer episodes were originally produced in 5.1 surround for broadcast on Nickelodeon, but what we get is generally more than enough to get the show's extremely loud point across. Optional English Closed Captions are included during these six episodes.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the menu interface is basic, colorful and easy to navigate. Several chapter breaks and a static promo ad are also present. Each DVD is housed in its eco-friendly keepcase and both are tucked inside an outer slipcover, giving this paltry six-episode collection a pretty large footprint. So yeah, it's really eco-friendly there, huh?
Extras are limited to a pair of Music Videos
on the Dora Saves the Mermaids
disc, which are also presented in 1.33:1 but do not include any captions or subtitles. I wasn't really expecting much here, and that's exactly what this is.
Dora's Mermaid Adventures Collection seems like a safe bet on the surface: it simply bundles two similarly-themed existing DVDs into one handy package. These six episodes are as lightweight and predictable as you'd expect from the series...so if you're got a little one that's even halfway interested in Dora or the subject matter, this should be right up their alley. The problem is that three of the six episodes ("Dora's Rescue in Mermaid Kingdom", "Benny the Castaway", and "Dora's Moonlight Adventure") are cropped to 1.33:1 despite being produced in 16x9 widescreen, and that's pretty much unacceptable in this day and age. If you don't own either disc or an HDTV, go for it (all four of you). If you only own one of these discs, just buy the other one separately. But if I were you, I'd rather rent or buy these titles via Amazon Instant Video (the newer one's even in HD!) and save the shelf space. Skip It.
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.