Dora Turns Ten
VWV: That was the idea of having a problem-solving show right from the beginning. Little kids have obstacles that they encounter all day long like turning on a light switch or pouring cereal in a bowl. So we felt that having a character that says, don't give up, you can ask for help and that there is no obstacle that you can't overcome was a core to the character.
VWV: I'm pretty sure that on Ni Hao they have an emotional curriculum where they are dealing with feelings. So that's very different from ours. It's not that Dora is completely unaffected, but it's that she figures a way out of it. So even if she turns the corner and there is a giant mud puddle that she can't get through, she reacts by trying to figure out how to get around it without throwing a temper tantrum or melting down.
Boots [the monkey] is sort of a sit-in for the viewer. He's almost like a little brother to Dora. We see him as modeling the behavior of a small child, so he's not in total control. So when a challenge comes he's like "What are we going to do?" He gets frantic. So Dora is more of the comforting hero. She's like "It's okay. Don't give up. We'll figure it out."
RD: There were some big names involved in the voice cast. Was that something you wanted to do from the beginning?
VWV: We didn't have any big names in the beginning. Celebrities aren't interested in a new pre-school show. But once the show became popular, Nickelodeon has relationship with celebrities through its Kid's Choice Awards and stuff so we could get them. It was something that was definitely more of marketing toward the parents.
RD: When did you first realize that Dora had become a phenomenon?
VWV: The show became very popular very quickly, but we were still struggling to figure out the [first] season. We sort of had our heads down, writing and going to storyboard meetings. I would get calls from some of my friends who had kids and they'd say that their kids loved it. And I'd say that was great, but I was so immersed in making the show that the popularity didn't pop out at me.
But then probably two years later, when we were hearing that it was doing great in the ratings, I didn't think it had reached that pop status. But I was driving across the country to L.A. and stopping at these small towns along the way and I'd find Dora cards and Dora tchotchkes everywhere I went. And then another time we did a research trip down in Guatemala and our tour guide said we're going to go to a community that is 100% Mayan and they don't have a lot of outside influence and we got out of our van and there was a Dora piñata. So I knew then that she was everywhere.
RD: Many of the other iconic pre-school series, like Blue's Clues, have some live-action elements, what do you think being completely animated affords you?