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[Interview] Chris Gifford: Co-Creator of ‘Dora the Explorer’

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Chris Gifford

Dora the Explorer centres around Dora’s adventures around the world with her best friend, a monkey named Boots. With singing, dancing, and interactive play, Dora engages children to use their imagination and helps them learn.

Chris Gifford is the co-creator and executive producer of the phenomenal show, which has been translated into 30 languages. We sat down with Chris before his trip to Singapore for Dora’s live show at Resorts World Sentosa.

What was the inspiration behind Dora?

The inspiration came from my kids, who were both preschoolers at the time. Now, my daughter, Katie, is 21 and my son, Henry, is 18. When they were preschoolers, I saw how difficult it was for them to do things for themselves so I thought I could create a show that would help them cope with problem solving and that was the initial hope of what the outcome of the show would be.

Out of curiousity, why is Dora Latina?

In the US, at the time, Latinos were very under represented in the media and if they were to be represented, the majority of the time, they would be represented in a negative way. So we had the show plot ready with a little girl named Nini and they asked me how I felt about making her Latina and I figured I didn’t know much about the culture, the language and so on. Then we brought in consultants and educators to help us transform her and then it became a huge part of the show.

Could you briefly walk us through the process of creating an episode?

For every episode, it starts out with a premise of what Dora really wants to do. We then elaborate the premise, turn it into several outlines and then transform it into a storybook for kids to enjoy and interact with. We then test the story on groups of 30 kids and have the story read out for them, study their reactions and make changes based on their reactions. Once it’s as good as it gets, it’s turned to a script, story board, anamatic – once again get feedback from kids and then an episode is created.

Dora the Explorer 3

What distinguishes Dora from other cartoon characters today?

When we first started developing Dora, we knew we wanted to bring about these problem-solving challenges. When the show got picked up, we knew it needed to have a robust curriculum. We didn’t know what that curriculum might be until we brought in a number of consultants and advisers. The curriculum we hit on, which at first, everyone was reluctant to embrace – it was flexible thinking. So in every episode there are seven different opportunities for the kids to engage in problem-solving curriculum challenge. They really help form the story where Dora the Explorer comes across as active rather than passive as a result of each episode being interactive.

What would you say is your favourite episode?

Honestly it has been The Pirate Adventure episodes – it’s always the episode you’re working on and I know that’s kind of cliché. I think it’s the most challenging thing I’ve done for Dora and Friends – these new episodes. This is also the first time we’re doing a live musical consisting of 16 songs – some in Spanish, some in English.

DTE

Are there any future plans of making an older version of Dora?

Yes. We’ve had a few episodes of older versions of Dora, which was pretty successful. This is why we’ve decided to start the series Dora and Friends. We feel like kids like to see Dora around other kids as well and she has peers who could challenge her. But, we like to keep Dora in Dora the Explorer as the one kid surrounded by animals who look up to her.

What are your thoughts on limiting screen time for kids?

I think it’s a good idea; that’s what I did. When they’re younger, it’s easier. I gave my kids certain hours in which they could watch TV but more importantly, I monitored what they watched just to make sure that they were engaged in an active way. This is also why Dora is so interactive.

 

To find out more on Dora the Explorer, visit Nickelodeon Junior’s website.

Image Credit: Viacom International