TRENTON, New Jersey – When this 12-year-old talks, millions of preschoolers around the world listen.
All Caitlin Sanchez needs to say is "Swiper, no swiping!" Or to summon the powers of her magical backpack.
Sanchez is the new voice of "Dora the Explorer," one of the world's most popular cartoons for preschoolers.
She has always enjoyed music and acting, but never expected to be talking to Boots the Monkey, Swiper the Fox, The Map and other characters who appear regularly on Dora's cartoon adventures.
"When my mother called me on the phone and told me I got (the part), I really didn't believe it at first," Sanchez said. It's the first cast change in Dora's voice since the Nickelodeon cable show debuted in 2000 (the original voice of Dora, Kathleen Herles, is now 17 and in college).
The show is broadcast worldwide and translated in 24 languages, entertaining millions of preschoolers.
On the show, the 7-year-old Latina heroine and her band of animal friends take their audience along on their quests in an imaginative, tropical world filled with jungles, beaches and rain forests. During their travels, they ask their audience to help them solve the various problems they encounter.
Sanchez, who has been acting professionally for nearly five years, does the English- and Spanish-speaking parts for Dora on the new season of shows being broadcast in the United States. She has long been a fan of "Dora," and feels honored to be a part of the show.
"Dora really is an international icon to preschoolers and a really good role model, so it's neat to see how she has spread across the globe and become so popular," said Sanchez. "One of my friends went to Ireland, and she brought back a Dora book in Gaelic ... I love being part of this (show)."
Getting the role wasn't an easy task for Sanchez, who is the oldest of three children in what she describes as "a very musical" family.
"I was kind of nervous about trying out and everything, but I believe you should be confident in everything you do and if you follow your dreams and be positive, you can do anything you want to do," she said. "I was real excited to get it, and it has been a lot of fun. This show really helps kids learn."
She soon learned that doing voiceover work isn't a simple task.
"With each script, you're saying the lines and doing the songs a lot of times — they want me to use different inflections, to do things in different ways so they can decide what they like best," she said.
In this season's shows, Dora meets friends from different cultural backgrounds (French, Mayan, Guatemalan, German and more) who teach her special skills. Dora also uses more math to help solve problems, and she also will teach multiword phrases in Spanish.
Sanchez, a self-taught musician who loves to play jazz piano, sees her work on "Dora" as another step toward reaching her dreams. For now, that includes attending a prestigious school such as The Juilliard School, though she realized she might change her mind.
"I know I can be anything I want, and my parents have always encouraged me to be the best I can be and to enjoy myself, so that's what I try to do," she said.