Our little Dora is growing up

There’s been a lot of buzz over the past month with Nickelodeon’s announcement they were introducing a tween version of Dora the Explorer. Most of it centered around the concern that squeeky-clean Dora, who is a role model to five-year old girls around the world, was going to get a Barbie makeover. There was even a greater fear that she would run in the same social circles as the Bratz characters.

Nickelodeon didn’t help matters when they issued a press release last month explaining the move.

“As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look. What’s more, she now has a rich online world in which girls can explore, play games, customize, and most importantly solve mysteries with Dora and her new friends.”

They released a teaser silhouette (see above), that seemed to suggest Dora would be trading in her signature walking shorts and t-shirt for a revealing mini-skirt. Obviously this had the Internet ablaze with accusations of selling out our kids and encouraging little girls to grow up too fast.

Potential PR problem for Nickelodeon? Hardly. They quickly released an actual rendering of the new tween Dora. Turns out that suggested mini-skirt was a tunic over leggings. All is well in Dora land once again.

I didn’t think for a second that Nickelodeon would do anything outrageous to their hallmark character. They’re too smart to jump aboard any bandwagon. And with literally hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, you can be sure they tested this concept thoroughly. They are simply following the first rule of youth marketing: stay relevant!

It’s common knowledge that kids typically outgrow their favorite characters. (On a side note: I thought this theme was addressed beautifully in the Toy Story movies by Pixar). Even the most popular youth franchises watch their audience walk away once they reach a certain age. Nickelodeon has addressed this by opening a door for Dora that not only extends play that is age appropriate, but also gives her character a more contemporary look.

The official roll out of the new Dora will be in September, and will be driven by a Dora Links fashion doll. According to Nickelodeon:

“By plugging the doll into the computer, girls can access an interactive online world. Girls will be able to explore Dora’s world, talk to the characters, earn currency, and help Dora solve mysteries which will be uploaded on a regular basis. The stories will have pro-social themes like volunteerism, water conservation, or planting trees to help the environment.”

Basically, Nickelodeon has designed Dora to grow up with her fans, without losing her core values. Brilliant!

Now, let’s just hope that Nickelodeon doesn’t get any bright ideas about a Hip Hop teen Diego (bling accessories sold separately).

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