<I>Dora</I>: Composer Bobby Villarreal draws upon Latin heritage
July 3, 2024

Dora: Composer Bobby Villarreal draws upon Latin heritage

LA-based composer Bobby Villarreal has been working on the Paramount+ reboot of the iconic children’s series Dora. The animated show draws on numerous authentic Latin styles of music, including reggaeton, bachata, salsa, banda and cumbia. 

A Houston native and graduate of Berklee College of Music, Villarreal (pictured) is no stranger to the children’s entertainment space. He is currently writing additional music for Netflix’s Gabby’s Dollhouse, as well as Nickelodeon’s Blues Clues & You. For his Dora work, Villarreal drew inspiration from
several modern Latin artists. Listeners may hear elements of Bad Bunny, Peso Pluma, Karol G, and J. Balvin throughout the show's many themes. 

Villarreal incorporated authentic instruments in the soundtrack, including the Puerto Rican Cuatro, Timbales and Congas. He also blended in Latin pop beats programmed with 808s, trap drums and modern synths. 

“I grew up a huge fan of the original Dora the Explorer series,” states the composer. “I used to watch the show with my younger brother when he would get home from school in the afternoons. Dora The Explorer was the first animated show I can remember from my childhood that celebrated Latin culture, taught kids about Spanish and had a main character who I identified with as a Latino — which was all the more exciting!

“As a third-generation Latino who grew up in Houston, TX, my parents’ house was filled with the songs and musical stylings of Juan Gabriel, Luis Miguel, Selena, Rocío Dúrcal, Elvis Crespo and Celia Cruz, to name a few. At the time, I didn’t realize how lucky I was for this to be the soundtrack to my childhood.”

Listening to songs from those artists became a part of Villarreal’s DNA and musical taste. 

“Now, years later, I’m married with a wife and two kids, and we love jamming out to modern Latin artists such as Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Natalia Lafourcade, Karol G…I enjoy so many different Latin genres, and I found much of my inspiration for the score to Dora by keeping my ears open to the eclectic and rich sounds that shaped my childhood, as well as the modern Latin music I love listening to today.”

Some of the regional Latin American instruments featured in Dora’s score include the Puerto Rican Cuatro, a 10-stringed guitar that’s also the national instrument of Puerto Rico. Six of the Cuatro’s string pairings are tuned in unison pitch, which gives the guitar a lush chorus sound and melodic richness often heard in Latin Salsa music, he explains. 

“I also had the privilege of working with Venezuelan percussionist and composer Lorena Perez Batista, who recorded incredible performances on Timbales and Dominican Tambora that added a beautiful organic and percussive depth to Dora’s rainforest underscore that I absolutely loved.”

Villarreal says he wanted to make sure he kept the spirit of the original Dora character and series strong in the new show, while also bringing a fresh and modern Latin musical perspective for Dora’s new adventures.

“Understanding Dora – the fearless leader who is a friend to all and a champion of empowerment – and drawing from my uniquely-musical upbringing really gave me a solid foundation when first approaching the score on the new series,” he concludes.

The CG-animated series is produced by Nickelodeon Animation and streams on Paramount+ in the US.