Can you say “diferente?”Â
Dora the Explorer is swinging into theaters nationwide Friday for her first live-action movie, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” adapted from her long-running Nickelodeon animated series.Â
But big changes are in store for the beloved bilingual brainiac (played by Isabela Moner), who’s now a socially awkward teenager struggling to fit in at her new Los Angeles high school. Dora is soon whisked back to the rain forest on a rescue mission to find her explorer parents (Eva Longoria and Michael PeÃ±a), who have been kidnappedÂ by bad guys in search of the mythical lost city of Parapata.Â
Rest assured, “Dora” fans: Cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), monkey sidekickÂ Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo) and the mischievous Swiper the Fox (Benicio del Toro) are all back for our Latina heroine’s latest adventure.
But why is Dora so much older than in the kids’ show? And where are Boots’, well, boots?
We phoned director James Bobin to ask the big questions.Â
The biggest difference between the show and movie is that Dora is no longer a precocious youngster, but an exuberant, inquisitive teen navigating the treacherous waters of a suburban high school after moving from her lifelong jungle home.Â
“She’s 16 but acts the same as she did at 6,” Bobin says. “Sheâ€™s super positive and the world hasnâ€™t beaten her down yet. Sheâ€™s unlike any other teenager you know: self-aware, somewhat self-conscious. That automatically makes Dora a fish out of water.”Â
The educational showÂ was known for its frequent use of call and response, as Dora asked viewers to repeat Spanish phrases or basic questions about themselves, such as “What’s your name?” “Lost City” parodies that in the prologue during a family dinner where a young Dora (Madelyn Miranda) turns to the camera and asks “Can you say ‘delicioso?'” Confused, Dora’s parents ask who she’s talking to and brush it off as just a phase.Â
Dora breaks the fourth wall a couple more times at the beginning of the film, although “not throughout because we didn’t want it to get in the way of the narrative,” Bobin says. “But I did want the audience to understand this is the same girl from the show, so when we first see Isabela, one of the first things she does is turn to the camera and say, â€œHi, Iâ€™m Dora! Iâ€™m being chased by angry elephants.â€™”
“Lost City” frequently tips its hat to the series, with iconic lines including “Swiper, no swiping,” and a 2-D animated sequence in the middle of the movie featuring fan-favorite characters such as Benny the Bull and the Fiesta Trio. Dora also sings about her beloved Map and Backpack, although neither object actually speaks.Â
“The backpack is magic in the sense that it has endless capacity, but it doesn’t talk because we thought that might be too much in the real world,” Bobin says. “The movie (takes place) in an exaggerated reality, so we wanted to keep that tone within the ballpark of plausibility.”Â
The same logic applied to Dora’s beloved pet monkey Boots, who is introduced as a baby wearing shiny red bootsÂ before Dora’s parents advise her to take them off. The chimp reappears midway through the story sans shoes, which Bobin says seemed more realistic for a live-action movie.Â
“In the real world, monkeys donâ€™t wear boots,” Bobin says. “The first time we see Boots (as a baby), heâ€™s eating his boots, as a real monkey would be doing if you put boots on him.”
After a museum field trip gone dangerously wrong, Dora and herÂ classmates wind up on a plane to South America, where they team up with a bumbling explorer named Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez), who claims he wants to help Dora find her parents. Like the ragtag group of teens, Alejandro is a new addition to the “Dora” universe not based on any preexisting characters.Â
The film introduces this “idea that there are people who are explorers and there are people who treasure hunters,” Bobin says. “Doraâ€™s family (is)Â about the attainment of knowledge, research and respect of past cultures. Thatâ€™s who Dora is. At the beginning, Eugenio’s character seems to be thinking along similar lines but in the end, it turns out maybe heâ€™s not.”
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