Ur­ban Ex­plorer

Nick’s preschool icon gets a new cast of friends and a new set­ting for her ad­ven­tures with Dora and Friends: Into the City, pre­mier­ing Aug. 18. By Tom McLean.

Animation Magazine - - Tv -

It’s been 14 years since Dora the Ex­plorer first hit the air­waves for Nick­elodeon and was a huge hit with pop­pets and par­ents alike.

De­spite having never lost its pop­u­lar­ity, Dora is get­ting a new an­i­mated preschool se­ries of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent take on the char­ac­ter, ag­ing her slightly and send­ing her to a new set­ting for Dora and Friends: Into the City. The new show de­buts Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. on Nick and is cre­ated by orig­i­nal se­ries co-cre­ators Chris Gif­ford and Va­lerie Walsh Valdes.

“The big dif­fer­ence is that Dora has moved from the mag­i­cal rain­for­est into a city, so she now has hu­man friends and they go on ad­ven­tures around the city,” says Valdes. “But also, this is a city that has por­tals into other worlds, so it still has some of that mag­i­cal real­ism in the show, but it feels very dif­fer­ent be­cause it’s a lit­tle more grounded in re­al­ity. I also think it’s a de­par­ture be­cause we don’t of­ten see Dora act­ing as a peer.”

De­spite having aged Dora a few years, the show re­mains tar­geted at preschool­ers and in­tro­duces a new group of friends for Dora to in­ter­act with. The new cast of char­ac­ters in­cludes Pablo, a boy Valdes de­scribes as a lit­tle goofy but cu­ri­ous and up for any ad­ven­ture; the sporty Alana, who vol­un­teers at an an­i­mal shel­ter; mu­si­cal prodigy Emma, whose shy- ness van­ishes when she takes the stage; Naiya, who is in­ter­ested in his­tory, cul­ture and myths; and Kate, a cre­ative girl who likes to make up sto­ries and put on plays.

“It’s a re­ally nice bal­ance between all th­ese girls,” says Valdes. “They have re­ally dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and we’re try­ing to make char­ac­ter-driven sto­ries, so you get to know th­ese other girls and it’s not just about Dora.”

Car­ry­ing a Tune

The new show, the first sea­son of which will be com­prised of 20 half-hour episodes, also has a large mu­si­cal as­pect with any­where from four to 13 orig­i­nal songs in each episode.

“When Chris and I were com­ing up with this re­it­er­a­tion, we had both been re­ally in­spired by what we saw in the Dora live show when that was go­ing around the coun­try,” says Valdes. “The kids just loved it and it was their ver­sion of a Broad­way mu­si­cal, so we’ve tried to in­cor­po­rate that into this se­ries.”

Though the se­ries re­tains the 2D style of the orig­i­nal se­ries, the pro­duc­ers sought a richer and more tex­tured look for the show to give it the au­then­tic feel of a city.

The se­ries is be­ing pro­duced at Nick­elodeon, with the an­i­ma­tion work split between Saerom in Korea, which an­i­mated the orig­i­nal Dora the Ex­plorer se­ries; and Snip­ple in the Philip­pines. “Part of that is this is such a big show,” says Valdes. “We have, like I said, mu­sic num­bers, so just imag­ine an­i­mat­ing a num­ber of kids singing and danc­ing. It’s re­ally a ma­jor pro­duc­tion.”

De­spite having cre­ated the char­ac­ter with Gif­ford, Valdes says she feels a lot of pres­sure from fans to get the new show right.

“It feels like a com­pletely dif­fer­ent show to us, and a very dif­fi­cult to wran­gle show be­cause she’s such a beloved char­ac­ter,” she says. “We’ve had so many peo­ple say, ‘You’re go­ing to take care of her, right?’ And we say, ‘Yes, we prom­ise,’ but when you have a lot of eyes watch­ing you, the pres­sure is on.”

Pro­duced at Shad­owMa­chine with an­i­ma­tion ser­vices by Big Star in Korea, the cast came to­gether sur­pris­ingly eas­ily. “There’s no other way we got them ex­cept we asked them,” says Bob-Waks­berg.

Bob-Waks­berg says Net­flix has been very sup­port­ive and hands-off. “It’s always, ‘How can we make this more the show you want to make?’ It’s never, ‘It’s too weird for us!’”

That kind of free­dom can be a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing, he ad­mits. “It’s scary to think if au­di­ences re­ject this, I can’t hide be­hind the old, ‘Oh, I had to wa­ter it down for the net­work,’” he says. “This is re­ally the show I wanted to make and if they don’t like it then they don’t like me! It’s ter­ri­fy­ing in the best pos­si­ble way.”

The LEGO Movie: An­i­mal Logic con­structs (and de­structs) a stop-mo­tion aes­thetic with CG. CG su­per­vi­sors Damien Gray & Ai­dan Sars­field; head of an­i­ma­tion Rob Cole­man; R&D lead Daniel Heck­en­berg [Mon­day, Aug. 11, 9 a.m.] How to Train Your Dragon 2: Be­hind-the-scenes of DreamWorks’ sum­mer spec­ta­cle. Writer and direc­tor Dean DeBlois; head of lay­out Gil Zim­mer­man; head of char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion Si­mon Otto; VFX su­per­vi­sor Dave Walvo­ord [Tues­day, Aug. 12, 2 p.m.]

Cre­at­ing the Ama­zon Jun­gle in CG. Lead set de­signer Tom Hum­ber; se­nior cam­era & stag­ing artist/tech­ni­cal lead Karyn Mon­schein; assem­bly tech­ni­cal direc­tor John Kalaigian; lead fur tech­ni­cal direc­tor David Barks­dale; lead ef­fects tech­ni­cal direc­tor Alen Lai [Tues­day, Aug. 12, 3:45 p.m.] The Box­trolls: Pup­pets, print­ing and com­posit­ing — a unique col­lab­o­ra­tion in LAIKA’s an­i­mated fea­tures. Direc­tor of rapid pro­to­typ­ing Brian McLean, cre­ative su­per­vi­sor of puppet fab­ri­ca­tion Ge­orgina Hayns, co-VFX su­per­vi­sor Steve Emer­son [Wed­nes­day, Aug. 13, 3:45 p.m.]

A look at Walt Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios’ new­est short. Direc­tor Pa­trick Os­borne, VFX su­per­vi­sor Josh Staub [Thurs­day, Aug. 14, 10:45 a.m.] The Dam Keeper: How two first-time di­rec­tors brought paint to life in their an­i­mated short film. Di­rec­tors Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi; pro­ducer Me­gan Bar­tel; su­per­vis­ing an­i­ma­tor Erick Oh [Thurs­day, Aug. 14, 9 a.m.]

Sim­u­la­tions as a Mul­ti­Stage Pro­duc­tion Tool; Cre­at­ing the Earth as a

Glob­ally ac­claimed VFX stu­dio Dou­ble Neg­a­tive ( Her­cules, Godzilla, Jupiter As­cend­ing) is get­ting ready to launch a new Van­cou­ver stu­dio, and is re­cruit­ing for po­si­tions around the world. Visit them at the Jobs Fair, stands 11 & 12 and show them what you got.

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