Summer 2010: Register

Snapshot of Gregory and actor in a sound booth

in the booth: Gregory with Regan Mizrahi, the voice of Boots.

Courtesy Holly Gregory

Aventura! Sounds of Dora

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By Paige P. Parvin 96G

If you know a preschooler, chances are you know Dora the Explorer—the little Latina adventurer who, with her sidekick, Boots the monkey, and her trusty talking backpack, sets out in every episode to help someone.

Next time you happen to flip past the show, listen carefully to the voices and sounds. They may seem to flow seamlessly with the images on the screen, but every word, noise, and note are painstakingly directed by Holly Gregory 96C, coordinating producer for the award-winning series.

Gregory knew she wanted to work with children even while at Emory, where she taught movement classes to kindergarteners as part of the dance program. “My parents are teachers. I just have that gene,” she says. A Woodruff and Bobby Jones Scholar, Gregory majored in anthropology and English, was active in dance and Theater Emory, and then studied creative writing at St. Andrews in Scotland.

“I love writing, but Emory and St. Andrews helped me realize that I wanted to do it with other people,” she says. “The reason I got interested in TV is that it’s one of the most collaborative mediums out there.”

Gregory worked on a couple of children’s shows in public broadcasting before landing at Nickelodeon. “This job takes my favorite parts of the production process and wraps them into one,” she says.

Much of Gregory’s time is spent in a sound booth with the kids who are the voices behind the Dora characters. It takes a lot of energy to coax them to their best performances. “You can’t just point a camera at a kid or put them in front of a mike and expect it to go well,” Gregory says. “What I do is help them channel their creativity.”

Gregory also contacts the composers who create the original music that carries every episode and guides the sound technicians to deliver just the right pop or thud. One of her favorite things about the work is the cultural nuance inherent in a bilingual show; Dora routinely teaches her viewers simple Spanish words and phrases.

Each of the actors records his or her voice-over part individually; the art for Dora is produced in Los Angeles; the animation is completed in Korea; and freelance parts might be done anywhere in the world. But for the preschoolers who wait eagerly for Dora to come on each day, the show is a unified world where they can join Dora and Boots to go on an educational adventure, learn a new Spanish phrase, or grasp a moral lesson.

“I wanted to be part of something that does good in the world, and this show does good,” Gregory says. With an eighteen-month-old son of her own at home, she understands just how valuable that can be.

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