"Dora" Capsule Reviews: "Enchanted Forest Adventures," "Halloween Parade," and More
More than one of our staffers genuinely liked Dora’s Christmas Carol, which is one reason I chose to walk into the Dora’s Enchanted Forest Adventures DVD with a little hope that its longer length and running theme would lead to a better-than-average Dora experience. Unfortunately, it’s all just the same Dora the Explorer that kids adore and parents usually don’t. “Tale of the Unicorn King” introduces Dora and Boots the Monkey to Unicornio, a unicorn who has been chosen to be King of the Enchanted Forest if he can prove his kingly mettle in a series of tests. In “The Secret of Atlantis,” Dora and guest-star Diego help the unicorns and the dragons bury their ancient feud and raise the lost city of Atlantis, which used to be their home until their conflicts led to the sinking of the city. The fact that King Unicornio has to leave the Enchanted Forest to raise Atlantis provides the inciting incident that drives the double-length “Dora Saves King Unicornio.” The owl left in charge in “Secret of Atlantis” has decided not to give the crown back, trapping King Unicornio at a dam while instituting a reign of terror in the Enchanted Forest, as he crushes his enemies before him, revels in the lamentations of their women, and makes the rivers run red with the blood of those who dare dissent from his iron-fisted rule.
Or, at least, that’s how I wanted it to play out. The reality is that the owl just makes a lot of mean-spirited rules and exiles anyone who stands up to him. The fact that Owl is voiced by Jason Alexander signals how untrustworthy he is right when he’s introduced in “Tale of the Unicorn King,” and I must admit I snickered a bit at his lip-smacking eagerness as he talks King Unicornio into putting him in charge during “Atlantis.” Since I didn’t read the plot synopses on the back of the DVD box, I was genuinely surprised when I found out that my secret hope for a coup d’etat actually came off. However, even if these plot synopses make these episodes sound interesting, I can assure you that they are all standard Dora fare, with the same simple-minded challenges to the audience and the same thorough scrubbing to ensure there isn’t even a whiff of a hint of a trace of actual peril to anyone involved. It stands in stark contrast to a short film like “The Gruffalo,” which is quite capable of communicating the danger to prey animals like squirrels and mice without being too frightening, or even Go, Diego, Go!, where animals have to be rescued from a variety of hazards. Other shows and movies aimed at comparable age groups are at least willing to acknowledge the existence of danger as an abstract concept, which is one of several reasons why Dora consistently disappoints.
The only special features on this disc are a trio of music videos (although not, sadly, Jason Alexander’s more entertaining song as Owl). It also seems that Nickelodeon has gone back to running multiple Nick Jr. trailers as the disc is inserted, meaning the recent releases that had only one were an anomaly.
Also recently released on DVD is Dora’s Halloween Parade, even if releasing a Halloween-themed DVD at the end of August makes as much sense as releasing the Christmas-themed DVDs in October last year. The episode contains four episodes, “Halloween Parade,” “The Backpack Parade,” “Boo!”, and “Dora La Musico.” There’s not much to suggest that any of these will differ much from standard Dora. Dora’s Halloween Parade was released on August 30, 2011.
Coming out on the same day as Dora’s Enchanted Forest Adventures is another Dora boxed set, Dora’s Storybook Adventures. This set repackages three old Dora DVDs: Fairytale Adventure, Dora Saves the Snow Princess, and Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom. It seems that those royals have a propensity for getting themselves into perfectly safe scrapes that only a bilingual moppet can save them from. In any event, these are exactly the same DVDs that have been released before, so if you already own them there’s no reason to double-dip.
Dora’s Enchanted Forest Adventures and Dora’s Storybook Adventures will be available on September 13, 2011.