Nickelodeon, the popular kid's programming channel, has been slapped with a lawsuit by one of its biggest stars.Caitlin Sanchez, the 14-year-old who until recently provided the voice of "Dora the Explorer," filed the suit Wednesday evening in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, where the network is based.
Sanchez says Nickelodeon owes her millions of dollars for "merchandising, re-runs, promotional work and recordings." According to the suit, Sanchez "work[ed] hundreds of hours marketing the Dora Brand for free."
The suit alleges that Nickelodeon "took advantage of a hard-working teenage girl," and forced her and her parents "into signing an unconscionable contract with convoluted, vague and undefined terms that allowed producers of the Nickelodeon hit to exploit her."
The suit also says that Nickelodeon pushed Sanchez and her parents to sign the contract "within a half-hour of first seeing it," and didn't provide them enough time to seek legal counsel.
Nickelodeon says the suit is without merit.
"The claims being made are baseless," the network told CNN. "Unfortunately, Caitlin's voice changed and she was no longer able to portray the Dora character ... Caitlin's contract was extensively negotiated through her agent and in compliance with her union. She was well-compensated for her work and for personal appearances."
According to Sanchez's suit, she was paid $5,115 per episode.
Sanchez has provided the voice of Dora since 2007, taking over for Kathleen Herles. Nickelodeon says that Herles was also let go when her voice changed.
The show, which has been on the air since 2000, is a hit with kids and parents alike. Each episode involves a journey in which Dora goes exploring with the help of a map. Along the way, she uses short Spanish phrases as a way to teach viewers a new language. There is also a fully-Spanish version that airs on other networks.
The suit also names as defendants MTV, which owns Nickelodeon, and Viacom, MTV's parent company.
Sanchez, who lives in Fairview, New Jersey, has also made cameo appearances in Law & Order SVU and Lipstick Jungle.
Nickelodeon, which debuted in 1977 as Pinwheel, has spent the past two years remaking itself. In 2009, the network unveiled a new logo and renamed its subsidiary networks "Noggin" and "The N" as "Nick Jr." and "TeenNick," respectively. The network also launched a Canadian version last year.