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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Parents, no need to lock Dora the Explorer away from your daughters, say the guardians of the popular TV cartoon character and toy line.
U.S. cable TV network Nickelodeon and toymaker Mattel vowed on Monday that plans to make a 'tween Dora doll would not undermine the wholesomeness of the educational bilingual star who has a sidekick monkey, map, compass and backpack.
Parents had voiced fears and complaints that introducing a 'tween Dora with long hair, long legs and a trendy make-over was not in keeping with the character's outdoor, adventurous spirit and would prove a poor role model.
"We don't need another Bratz phenomenon for pre-schoolers. I don't want my 2/5-year-old daughter asking for mini skirts and lip gloss to continue her Dora obsession," wrote Elizabeth Sloman, 30, to the Pensacola News Journal.
As an online petition against the new 'tween Dora began to build up speed, Nickelodeon and Mattel, the world's largest toymaker, addressed these concerns and assured parents that Dora was not changing -- and not going off the rails.
"The award-winning preschool Dora character that audiences know and love is not changing at all," the two companies said in a joint statement on Monday.
"In the nine years she has been on television, Dora has become an important role model to many. The Latina heroine has connected with a generation of young boys and girls all around the world through her courageousness and sense of adventure."
Dora and her friends Boots the Monkey, Isa the Iguana, Tico the Squirrel and the mischievous Swiper the Fox have won a huge international following since becoming regulars on Nickelodeon in 2000 with a Spanish version introduced later.
But an uproar ensued among some parents last month when Mattel and Viacom Inc. unit Nickelodeon unveiled plans for a "tweenage Dora" who moves to the big city, attends middle school, and has a new, fashionable look.
Initially, the companies said Dora's look would not be revealed until fall. They did release a silhouette showing she was trading in her tomboy shorts and bob haircut for longer hair and a short skirt, and that image caused a stir.
"What next? Dora the cheerleader? Dora the fashionista with stylist purse and stilettos?" wrote parents who started the online petition (www.ipetitions.com/petition/Dora_Makeover/) called "Let's Go: No Makeover for Dora."
"If the original Dora grew up, she wouldn't be a fashion icon or a shopaholic. She'd develop her map reading ... design new ways to bring fresh water to communities in need ... become a wildlife preservationist biologist."
In response, the companies on Monday unveiled Dora's total new look, showing a young girl in flowered tunic, purple leggings and sandals. They said Dora would be solving mysteries with four new girlfriends related to the environment, wildlife and school.
"This version of Dora -- which is approximately modeled after a nine- or 10-year-old -- is an age-appropriate doll that lets girls continue to learn and grow with the character," they said.
"The reason for creating this new Dora line is to offer an alternative to moms who want their daughters to stay little girls, a little longer. The sense of adventure that is such a core part of Dora the Explorer continues in this new line."
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Bob Tourtellotte