Dora, the adventurous bilingual seven-year-old girl who trapezed around the jungle with her signature map and purple backpack, was first introduced to viewers during the hit eight-season Nick Jr. cartoon series that aired in 1999.
The show stopped running in 2013, but the character is back and this time, she has new exploits to endeavor. In “Dora the Explorer: City of Gold,” the first live-action movie based on the animated series, 14-year-old Dora is starting high school — a difficult enough task for any adolescent, but one made all the more daunting by the fact that she has never known any reality beyond the jungle.
“You’re going to see a different kind of Dora, one that connects with all kinds of audiences, not just kids,” Eugenio Derbez, who plays Alejandro Gutiérrez, a mysterious guide who leads Dora and her friends around the jungle, told NBC News.
Dora may be trying to navigate high school, but she can’t escape her past forever, and is soon summoned back to the jungle to save her parents. She reconnects with her monkey sidekick, the beloved Boots (Danny Trejo) and her long-standing fox enemy Sniper (Benicio Del Toro).
It's on this journey of a lifetime that she encounters Alejandro, the not-so-helpful guide.
“I’m the one who’s in charge of guiding Dora and her friends through the jungle, but I’m not as clever as I look or as brave as I can be,” Derbez said. “I’m really scared of everything.”
“Dora the Explorer: City of Gold,” which premieres on Aug. 9, was filmed in Australia, where poisonous snakes and deadly spiders abound and make for a somewhat terrifying set. But while Derbez acknowledged there were moments when he was genuinely afraid while filming, he was mostly amazed by the wonders around him.
“I always felt that I was being a kid all over again,” Derbez said. “Actually they were making fun of me constantly because I was climbing up the trees and taking pictures of everything … the trees are huge, the ants were this big, the mushrooms were different. It was the jungle.”
Just as Dora has changed in the last 20 years since the world was first introduced to the cartoon, Hollywood is slowly adapting for Latinos.
Derbez, a highly acclaimed Mexican actor, comedian and filmmaker, had been trying to crossover to Hollywood for years, but he said he kept being offered the “same kinds of roles” as criminals, drug lords or gardeners.
“After 10 years, I said, ‘no more,’” Derbez said. “I quit and went back to Mexico and I said, ‘I’m going to do my own shows, my own movies. That’s it. No more American dream.”
While in Mexico, however, Derbez received a call to audition for Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill,” a movie about twins who drive each other insane during Thanksgiving. He promptly flew to Los Angeles, where he met directly with Sandler.
“He said, ‘my nannies and my whole staff in my house, they’re Mexicans. And I asked them who was the funniest comedian in Mexico and they said your name,” Derbez said. “That’s my people.”
After the 2011 release of “Jack and Jill,” Derbez returned to Mexico, where he then began filming his now-legendary movie “Instructions Not Included,” a film about a ladies’ man who unexpectedly becomes a father. The comedy became the most successful Spanish-language film in the U.S. and worldwide.
“Back then, the studios were always trying to reach Latino audiences, but they thought the only theme we care about is immigration and it's not. And they thought that by only hiring someone called Martínez or González or Fernández, they’re going to have diversity in their movies.” Derbez said. “And that’s not true. People want to see their own stories.”
This is why Derbez only takes projects he believes counteract harmful stereotypes about Latinos, “Dora the Explorer: City of Gold” included.
“While watching Dora, you always learn something and here you’re going to learn a lot,” Derbez said. “Especially for Latinos, it’s a big deal because now we’re seeing this Latina that’s successful, brave, smart and hopefully she’s going to be inspiring for kids all over the world.”
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