Meet Fatima, the face and voice behind Dora the Explorer

Fatima Ptacek voices Dora in the TV series Dora and Friends: Into the City.
Fatima Ptacek voices Dora in the TV series Dora and Friends: Into the City. Bonnie Osborne

FATIMA Ptacek's name might not sound familiar but her voice certainly does to millions of children around the world.

The 14-year-old actress is the voice of beloved bilingual preschool adventurer Dora, in the Dora The Explorer series and the new show Dora and Friends: Into the City.

The child actress, who also models and is a competitive gymnast, landed the role in 2010 and has spent the past four years balancing her studio recording sessions with her film work.

The talented teen starred opposite Catharine Zeta-Jones in The Rebound and received critical acclaim for her lead role in the Oscar-winning short film Curfew.

Ptacek plays a slightly older, 10-year-old version of Dora in Into the City, which sees the young problem solver move to the city of Playa Verde and form a new group of friends.


Q: Dora is known and loved around the world; do you find people recognise your voice? And if so what are their reactions?

A: Sometimes! I am mostly recognised by younger kids and when they discover I'm Dora their reaction is priceless. It's always positive (everyone loves Dora).

They come up to me and say, "You sound like Dora…are you Dora!?" and when I tell them I am, they just get so excited, their parents do, too!

However, most of the time I usually fly under the radar. I'm never being chased down by paparazzi or anything like that.

The best experience is when celebrities recognise who I am. They tend to ask me to record a video message for their kids and later give me a huge hug, saying things like "You're the reason why I could spend five minutes to take a shower!" and "My son/daughter loves Dora, you've brought so much happiness to our living room!"

It's such a great feeling when those moments happen.


Q: What was it like taking over a role which is so iconic and has been previously voiced by other actresses?

A: Voicing Dora is a very fun experience and I love what I do. Stepping into the role was a little daunting - audiences have known Dora so well for such a long time, so I was a little nervous to carry on that legend.


Q: Dora's a little older now. Tell us how she has changed or grown up in the new series Dora and Friends: Into the City?

A: Dora is a little older now and has a brand new group of friends. Instead of having adventures in the rainforest with Boots, Backpack and Map, she's exploring the city with the help of Map App on her smartphone and going on community service missions.

Her adventures are a little more realistic in this series; she's very community-minded and always has a focus on helping others.

In saying that, she still goes on fantastical adventures with the help of her new magic charm bracelet. In one episode, we'll see Dora helping to find homes for puppies in an animal shelter and in another we'll see her return lost jewellery to a Mayan princess.

What I like best about this series is that it is a great balance of realistic and fantastical adventures, whereas the original Dora the Explorer focuses almost entirely on the fantastical. Dora and Friends makes Dora an even more relatable character to the kids watching at home.


Q: You have a lot of sporting and academic interests. Are you still into gymnastics and horse riding? What are you current interests?

A: I am! I'm a competitive gymnast and I absolutely love it. I'm also about to start track and field at school which I'm excited about.

I'm also a huge bookworm; I love to read. I'd also consider myself to be a foodie and love going into restaurants to discover new favourite dishes. And of course I enjoy being a normal teenager, hanging out with my friends and being a big goofball at home.


Q: Language also seems to be an interest of yours; aside from speaking English and Spanish you're also studying Mandarin?

A: I am studying Mandarin. It's difficult but I'm enjoying it. I think it's important to learn a Chinese language and between learning English, Spanish and Mandarin, I should be able to communicate with most of the world!


Q: You also have an interest in politics. What was it like meeting First Lady Michelle Obama on Sesame Street?

A: It was an incredible experience. She is such a smart, inspiring woman and such a sweet person. I'm positive she's made of bubblegum and sugar.

She was also so caring, making sure I had eaten on set and telling me to make sure I ate plenty of fruit and vegetables. You may not know this, but we actually became pen pals for a little while after we finished shooting.


 Dora and Friends: Into the City airs daily at 8.30am Qld, 9.30am NSW on Nick Jr.

Topics:  dora the explorer

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