LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Though she'll forever be a seven-year-old little girl, "Dora the Explorer" celebrates her 10-year anniversary on Monday.
To mark the occasion, the animated, bilingual television character will appear Monday alongside her creators and executives at Nickelodeon cable TV network to ring The Closing Bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
The network itself plans to air an hour-long primetime TV movie, "Dora's Big Birthday Adventure," on Sunday night. A 10th Anniversary, 12-minute documentary will immediately follow with celebrities including actresses Salma Hayek Pinault and Rosie Perez, singer Shakira and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper among others, paying tribute to the little world traveler.
When "Dora the Explorer" first aired on August 14, 2000, Dora was the first animated Latina character on TV in a leading role. Today, she is seen by over 100 million kids around the world. The show airs in over 150 countries, and it is translated in over 30 languages. Since 2002, her character has accounted for more than $11 billion in consumer product sales.
"She has the broadest possible appeal. So the good news is we set out to make sure to be inclusive of a niche audience, and we are successful with the broadest possible audience. That always feels good when that happens," said Cyma Zarghami, president, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group.
"Dora the Explorer" episodes are both educational and interactive as the character starts out the episodes to find a destination then counts on viewers to help her reach it.
The fact she talks to viewers in Spanish and English, as well as the interactive aspects of the series, are what make it attractive to kids, according to Chris Gifford, who created "Dora" with Valerie Walsh.
"We try hard not to make Dora sound like a teacher, but like a friend -- a little girl who happens to speak two languages," said Gifford. "You can play along with her by learning those languages, or if you're already bilingual, you have that in common with her.
Gifford said the connection between Dora and her viewers is very "powerful" because of how she involves them in her life.
"She needs their help to go on that journey," he said. "When it comes to a preschooler's life, they are pretty powerless. So, to help Dora get to the City of Lost Toys, or get home for her birthday party is a pretty powerful thing."
Not only that, says Gifford, but Dora "acknowledges their help every step of the way."
Juana Lovo, a Los Angeles preschool teacher who teaches English and Spanish classes is a big fan. She says not only does "Dora the Explorer" follow the basic pre-school curriculum of problem solving, but kids actually retain the her lessons.
"When we go over colors in Spanish, the kids will say things like 'I saw that last night on Dora' and they talk about it," says Lovo.
But it's not just a mix of English and Spanish that the little bilingual adventurer speaks. In France, she speaks French and teaches English, in Russia the bilingualism is Russian and English, and so on.
Her ability to speak in any language in any country in which she airs has made her not just a lucrative property for Nickelodeon, whose corporate parent is Viacom Inc, but a valuable one for kids around the world.
"Dora's in Iraq, in North Korea, in Ecuador -- places that are having a lot of difficulty right now," said Gifford. "That Dora can bring comfort into places like that, encourage intercultural understanding, cooperation and friendship is pretty amazing."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte