But that’s not the case here, stresses Moner, because the movie has everything kids and parents remember about the series, which debuted in 2000. That includes Dora’s signature look: bangs, a hot pink shirt and bright orange shorts.
Moner, who starred in “Instant Family,” “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” “100 Things to Do Before High School” and “Transformers: The Last Knight,” isn’t just your average teen nostalgic about the bilingual exploradora’s adventures — she was involved in the show’s animated 2014 spinoff “Dora and Friends,” which turned Dora from a 7-year-old to a tween. Moner was the voice of one of the friends, Kate, so playing the high school version of Dora came naturally to her.
“When I read the script and realized it was really clever and fun and kid-friendly, I thought ‘this will work,’ ” the Cleveland, Ohio, native said. “It’s very touching to see all the characters and animals, Boots, the backpack and the songs.”
In the movie, Dora lives with her archaeologist parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña) in the South American jungle, with only pet monkey Boots to keep her company. When her parents go to Peru to search for a legendary Incan city of gold, they send the previously home-schooled Dora to live with her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) and his family in Los Angeles, California.
Trusting and enthusiastic, Dora is the ultimate fish out of water when she attends public high school for the first time.
“She’s not sarcastic at all, she doesn’t have a phone, she doesn’t have social media. She’s completely out of the loop, which I think is funny and has a good dynamic,” Moner explains. Eventually Dora, Diego and two classmates end up in Peru, where Dora’s explorer skills guide them on a dangerous rescue mission.
Moner may be considerably more social media savvy than Dora, but she actually has a lot in common with her legendary character. Peruvian on her mother’s side, Moner is bilingual in English and Spanish (she even learned some lines in the indigenous language Quechua for the role). She also loves to sing and dance (she got her start in musical theater), and she adores animals.
During the four-month film shoot in Australia, which stands in for Peru, Moner learned a lot about the unique animal and plant life Down Under — a very Dora-ish thing to do.
“I did a lot of exploring, no pun intended. The plants, the animals, the insects . . . it’s like, where did these come from, how did they end up here? It’s crazy,” she said. “I visited the zoo and an animal hospital and even got to see a surgery on a koala.”
Moner believes, whether audiences watched the original show or not, Dora could be just the inclusive and intelligent role model today’s kids and teens need.
“Right now it’s really cool to not care. So Dora’s unwavering optimism, her unshakable nature, the strength of her character, her contagious sense of joy, that’s all important for kids and teens to see.”
More about Moner
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Siblings: Two brothers. Jared is 22; Gyo is 15.
Pets: A dog that is a Staffordshire terrier-Rhodesian ridgeback mix. “His name is Pluto, and he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Education: Graduated from high school; studying psychology at a community college.
Favorite book and why: “Prayers for the Stolen” by Jennifer Clement. “It’s super empowering and educational. It’s about young Mexican girls, and one in particular who’s an immigrant to the U.S.”
Favorite movie to re-watch: “Elf” (2003). “My family loves it.”
Musical artist she loves: “The obvious answer is Beyoncé, but also right now, this Spanish artist Rosalía. She takes classic Spanish flamenco music and makes it modern.”
Favorite superhero: Wonder Woman. “I love Gal Gadot, who plays her. She’s so admirable.”
Actor she’d most like to work with: “Donald Glover. He’s also my celebrity crush. I love him so much.”
Hobbies: “Playing with my dog or making music with my little brother, who is actually a producer. He’s really talented. I do the vocals and the melodies.”
Upcoming projects: “Let It Snow” comes out around Thanksgiving on Netflix. “It’s a Christmas [romantic comedy] for older kids and teens.” It’s based on a holiday short-story collection by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle.