The Dora Connection
For millions of young children and parents worldwide, a problem-solving 7-year-old Latina girl with a flair for adventure has become a favorite imaginary friend.
Few know more about Dora the Explorer, the beloved star character of Nickelodeon’s immensely popular animated television series of the same name, as well as Cathy Galeota (DistSt’87), who has been part of the show from the start and served as its producer for six years.
A hit since the first episode in 2000, Dora last year averaged 1.4 million viewers. Dora-associated products have generated more than $13 billion in retail sales worldwide, and Dora-inspired spinoffs include Go, Diego, Go! and Dora and Friends: Into the City!
“I have friends who have gone to the corners of the Earth and have seen something with Dora on it,” says Galeota, who joined Nickelodeon in 1996 as a production manager in New York after working in Los Angeles for the Disney Channel and The WB.
It was soon after she joined Nickelodeon that the idea emerged for a playful preschool show focused on solving problems. To increase the representation of minority characters in television, it was decided a bilingual heroine would serve as the show’s lead character. Galeota worked on the show’s pilot and in 2001 was named producer.
“Dora has crossed social, racial and language boundaries and is a hero to millions of children around the globe,” says the mother of two boys, ages 9 and 13. “She has empowered kids to take an active part in their education and be open to new experiences and adventures. Dora has a very personal relationship with her audience, speaking directly to camera and asking kids for their help. That kind of intimacy is very empowering for children.”
In 2007, Galeota was named a network production executive and last fall became senior vice president of current preschool series. Besides Dora, she oversees Paw Patrol, which follows an adventurous pack of puppies led by a tech-savvy 10-year-old named Ryder, and other shows. In a typical two-year production cycle, Galeota estimates she oversees the making of 60-80 total episodes.
“Cathy is an incredible champion of creativity, with a great ability to effectively lead large teams,” says Teri Weiss, executive vice president of Nickelodeon Preschool. “Her production expertise and collaborative spirit have fueled the incredible success of some of Nickelodeon’s recent preschool hits.”
Of her own career, Galeota says, “I am most proud of being associated with Dora. If you look at Dora and the connection she has made with kids, the sheer scope and amount of love that character has is really astounding.
Photography courtesy Nickelodeon