Melissa Napolitano


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A comparison and contrasting analysis of contemporary and classic forms off children's media featuring Dora the Explorer vs. Franklin the Turtle

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Melissa Napolitano

  1. 1. Melissa Napolitano September 21, 2012Com 410 Assignment #3 As of late, television producers have invested both time and attention to the developmentof educational children’s series. During the production of new children’s media, experts havebeen able to maintain many of the traditional aspects and tactics of interactive learning viatelevision. Throughout this tedious process, they have also successfully revolutionized,expanded and challenged the minds of children worldwide with the airing of new children’sprogramming. Though they were aired essentially during the same time period, Franklin theTurtle and Dora the Explorer are the series I have chosen to demonstrate the aforementionedtransition of children’s media. Franklin the Turtle will represent the earlier, more traditionalportrayal of children’s programming, and Dora the Explorer, the new and improved innovativeseries. Along with the parallels that can be drawn between the two series, a handful ofdifferences exist as well. In November of 1997, Nick Jr. aired the first episode of Franklin the Turtle in the UnitedStates. Prior to its debut in the U.S., the series was featured in Canada and successfully reachedand taught approximately 79% of the country’s preschool population traditional moral andfamily values. Kurt Lehner tactfully transformed Brenda Clark and Paulette Bourgeois’children’s book series into an animated television series for boys and girls between the ages of 2-5. Each episode depicts the innocent and vibrant main character, Franklin the turtle, going abouthis daily routines of playing with friends, attending school and interacting with his close knitfamily. Along the way, Franklin experiences conflicts in regards to morality, family values andjust about every challenge associated with growing up. With the help of his insightful parents,
  2. 2. grandparents and teachers, Franklin is able to overcome the obstacles he is faced with andunderstand the lessons behind each situation. In each episode Franklin learns how to deal withreal life situations, when it comes to communicating with friends, family and teachers. Franklinis presented with a problem and is taught how to work through it in the most effective waypossible. He not only learns the lessons himself, but teaches his viewers how to be a betterfriend, child or student. The episodes follow a pattern of two back to back 11 minute stories toldfrom Franklin’s point of view. This presentation is ideal for the age range of the target audiencebecause the short time span allows children of the younger portion of the age spectrum tomaintain full attention and grasp the lessons being taught. Being that the stories are told from themain character’s point of view, they are simplified and presented in a relatable fashion becauseFranklin portrays your average young boy. In my opinion, the creators of this series successfully constructed a fun and entertainingenvironment for learning. Though the focus of the series is based on life lessons as opposed toacademics, the teachings it has to offer are vital in the difficult process of growing up. In today’sworld, many families struggle to ingrain favorable morals and appropriate reactions to situationschildren are bound to be faced with. This is likely to be a result of our fast paced and highlytechnological society. Franklin steps up to the plate and not only demonstrates conflicts amongfriends in the classroom, on the playground and after school but also depicts how to make newfriends, experience failures, etc. Franklin teaches children that it is normal to possess thedreaded feelings of disappointment, guilt, betrayal and more. The contents of each episode arerealistic and relatable for children in the target audience, making the series as a whole anultimate success.
  3. 3. The contemporary children’s media artifact of discussion is the ever popular children’sprogram, Dora the Explorer. The program was aired on Nick Jr. in the year 2000 and has sincecreated hype among parents and children alike. The creators, Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh, andEric Weiner, successfully paired educational appeal and the factor of entertainment in this series.The plot of the show is revolved around the adventures of an eight year old Latina girl namedDora Marquez. With the help of her friend Boots, the guidance provided by Map and the handycontents of Backpack, Dora must reach a destination and avoid the team’s arch enemy, Swiperthe fox. The creators of the program present Dora as a positive role model for children. Despitethe fact that Dora is a child herself, she is independent, athletic, family oriented and bilingual.Dora’s fun-loving personality makes it easy for children to relate to her, and provides a safeplace for learning. In each episode, she subtly teaches viewers about her heritage and traditionalvalues in addition to counting, spelling, and reading in both English and Spanish. Being that theepisodes are repetitive in terms of the progression of each journey, the audience has theopportunity to actively participate in the program and feel a stronger connection to thecharacters. Each episode is highly interactive, as Dora encourages her viewers to follow alongand repeat certain phrases, allowing for a greater retention rate of the information beingpresented. In my opinion, the progression of the series has enhanced interaction and learning forchildren in a unique way. The introduction of a second language to children at a young age isnecessary in today’s society, especially Spanish. Dora was Nick Jr.’s first bilingual character,her success and appeal to children and parents alike sparked the idea for a spin off series,featuring Dora’s cousin, Diego. His show is called Go, Diego, Go!, following a similar plot asDora’s series. Though Dora had both male and female fans, it is safe to say that children tend to
  4. 4. desire to watch programs that feature characters of the same sex as themselves. Diego’s debutgained the attention of young boys, widening the reach and the target audience. Now, thedynamic duo continue to enhance the growing minds of boys AND girls worldwide. Many parallels can be draw between Dora the Explorer and the age old favorite,Franklin. Both Nick Jr. series provide an environment for learning. Like Dora, Franklin is afriendly, playful, smart young cartoon character. He provides a great environment for learningand can be classified as a perfect role model because of his motivation to be successful and sharehis big heart with everyone he meets. Another similarity is that both series are told through theeyes of the main character. For children, this is an effective way to engage and interpretinformation as it is presented to them because it is coming from a character they know, trust andrelate to on multiple levels. The major differences between the two series lie within the characterization and the typesof experiences and lessons being taught.Franklin’s series aims to teach children the skills theyneed to be emotionally stable as they enter pre-k and kindergarten; meaning the creators targetdevelopmental lessons as opposed to the educational ones we see in Dora. This is the mainvariation I see when comparing the two hit series. Franklin focuses on life skills anddevelopment, whereas Dora concentrates more on education that would occur in a classroom.Some other differences are that Dora is a human and Franklin a turtle. Similarly, Dora representsa child as an adult figure. This tactic is used in many children’s series to create a role modelrelationship between viewer and character. Franklin is a mere boy trying his best to get througheach of the struggles life throws his way. He is heavily dependent on his family and constantlylooks to his elders for guidance, something Dora has never done. Despite this they are bothstrong, well developed characters with a large fan population. The final variation between the
  5. 5. series is that Dora is much more interactive. She constantly asks her viewers to repeat and getinvolved in each episode. This is something that Franklin lacks. The reasoning behind that islikely to be attributed to the shorter segments of Franklin’s episodes, and the fact that histeachings are developmental, not academic. Like many other Nick Jr. series, these two were ahuge success and have changed learning for the youthful generations to come. With eachpassing year, the ability to provide interactive learning through media is improving, expandingthe minds of children to a limit that once seemed surreal. In today’s world, children of all ages are exposed to many forms of media each and everyday. Our technological society offers a wide variety of interactive media to an extent that wasseemingly impossible years ago. In recent years, children’s media specialists have placed astrong focus on cultivating products that benefit children both educationally anddevelopmentally. This concentration is due to the rapidly increasing amount of exposurechildren have to technology, television and the media as a whole. Parents, child specialists,researchers and doctors have collaborated and debated the effects of media on the world’s youth.After extensive studies, the results remain varied, along with personal opinions about the effectsof screen time on youngsters. Despite the negative stigma associated with screen time, Disneychannel, Nickelodeon, PBS and many others continue to create programming for children. Ithink the vast variety of programming available to children today is for the most part, seen as anadvantageous in the eyes of parents. What may be lacking in the home is easily compensatedthrough the experiences children view on television. Every parent wants their child to developand grow to their full potential; programming plays a large role in that department and offersmind expanding challenges for children everywhere.
  6. 6. Works Cited(2007). In Retrieved October 19, 2012Franklin (2012).In Retrieved October 19, 2012Dora The Explorer (2012). In ages/index.jhtml. Retrieved October 19, 2012