When we were little, we had Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. MC Hammer had a short-lived, animated career. As did Kid 'n' Play. This was about the extent of our Saturday
Christina Bianco stars in Dora.
morning exposure to the multicultural world outside of shirtless, unnaturally blue "men" and talking turtles (although their teacher, Master Splinter, was supposed to be Japanese, as evidenced by his sassy kimono and fortune cookie affectation).

But we are living in a politically correct world, and cartoons about brown children who aren't part of a rap star's posse and who don't live in urban squalor have been written into today's programming. One such star is an animated 7-year-old Latina who lives inside a computer, and in the hearts of the preschool set.

Dora the Explorer is a hot property on Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. segment; it is the highest rated preschool show on commercial television among kids age 2 to 5. The bilingual Latina's explorations

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and adventures are formatted as interactive, CD-ROM-style quests. "Dora is empowering," says actor Christina Bianco, who plays Dora in the live, staged production of the show. "She teaches lessons about friendship and about other cultures." Other characters on the television show include a monkey named Boots, Dora's best friend and comic relief, as well as Map, a special guide, Swiper the Fox, the antagonist, and Tico, a Spanish-speaking squirrel.

"Dora is kind of a pop star to the kids," says 21-year-old Bianco. "When you get on stage, the kids are screaming for you. It's overwhelming." The staged show is an elaborate set-up, with full costuming, acrobatics, choreography, and musical numbers. "It's a rock concert for kids," says Bianco. "I went from babysitter to pop star in seconds." And what better idol for America's children than a little girl whose daily life provides valuable lessons in fact-finding, problem-solving, friendship, and multiculturalism? •