Screen Education

Hidden Treasures ADOLESCENT ADVENTURES IN DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD

As kids move into their tween years, they usually leave their early-childhood loves behind. The music of The Wiggles falls away, to be replaced by K-pop, boy bands and rap music. TV programs that once fuelled their imaginations and viewing habits are replaced by teen romances, gross-out comedies (both animated and live-action) and dramas like Stranger Things. The catchphrases and theme songs of the earlier years are filed away at the back of their brains, and the merchandise that once demonstrated their often-obsessive affection ends up at the back of the cupboard, thrown away or handed down to the next bunch of up-and-coming little kids.

Nickelodeon’s beloved animated TV series Dora the Explorer, which features six-year-old Dora and her similarly aged cousin Diego exploring the jungles around their Peruvian homes, is a great example of this. The show has spawned thousands of pieces of merchandise, from books to doona covers, lunch boxes to board games. If you are a child of the new millennium, you have probably owned a Dora- or Diego-themed item or can yell out one of the show’s many catchphrases.

The (mostly) live-action film Dora and(James Bobin, 2019) – only ‘mostly’ because it has a number of CGI-created non-human characters – updates the franchise for an audience that has outgrown the TV series. The film does something very clever: it taps into the recognition factor that tweens have for the obsessions of their earlier childhood, and extends that familiarity and storytelling beyond the boundaries of the original ‘little-kids’ TV show. The film takes Dora into both her teen years and a new culture, otherwise known as high school. By doing so, it gives its audience permission to adapt, and then carry, their earlier childhood selves (and passions, including the media they used to consume) with them as they start to move into their adolescent years. Along the way, the film also offers its audience ways of thinking about the relationship between modern and ancient cultures.

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