Sometime in 1997, a pilot for Dora the Explorer was made by the studio Funline Animation. Half of the 15-minute pilot was officially released on Funline's website by Helena Giersz, the production designer of the series.
Helena Giersz from Funline Animation, a studio located in NY, once got a phone call in 1997 from Nickelodeon asking for character designs for a children's show originally called "Nina's Pop-up Puzzle." This was a working title for what was soon to become "Dora the Explorer," and according to her the phone call "changed everything and started [her] journey" with the popular Nickelodeon series and its spin off, "Go, Diego, Go!." She was told by the writers that Nina (who was later renamed Dora) lived in a computer, had a sidekick Boots (named after the computer term "reboot") who was a monkey, and solved math and language problems together.
She states various changes that were made, including Tico the Skunk (who later becme a squirrel), "Benito" the Bull, who was later renamed Benny, and Boots the Monkey who wasn't wearing any boots. He also had a design similar to the Grumpy Old Troll. The only character that was never changed from her first sketch was the infamous Swiper the Fox. Together thes group of friends worked towards a goal they had to reach each episode, and at the very end of the "level," the characters would sing the "We Did It!" song with the snail marching band, which was inspired by popular kids computer games from the 90's and how similarly they ended.
Early on in the series development, research determined that Nina should have an additional goal, which was teaching the viewers Spanish. As mentioned earlier there were many changes from the design sketches, and one of them was Nina, the green-eyed redheaded Irish girl, who became the dark-haired, dark-eyed Dora from Costa Rica. The show was picked up for production, and six people including Helena traveled to Costa Rica for a research trip, and for the first time she got to experience the flavor and colorful world of the rainforest. This very trip inspired her to make various changes to the characters, as they were happening throughout production. Many episodes later, Dora got a home and a family.
The pilot was made in Poland, and the production team had to wait 6 months for the news about the show getting picked up.
It is the first episode not to be aired on television.
The pilot was later intergrated into the episode "Beaches."
Although Isa went through concept art, she does not make an appearance in the pilot.
A few changes from Helena's concept art were made, including:
Boots not wearing any boots and having a color scheme similar to the Grumpy Old Troll.
Tico the Skunk, who would later become a squirrel.
"Benito" the Bull, who would later be renamed Benny.
The only character who reportedly did not go through any changes from the concept art is Swiper.
The voice actors present are not known, but Dora and Boots are believed to have the same voice actors.
The end of the pilot does not feature the blue mouse that would later be intergrated into the show's formula.