Sunday, March 27, 2011

Our Sesame Planet

When creating a Sesame Street campaign one might assume, and with good reason, that the 'setting' for your game is a given. I mean, we're talking about the world's most famous address, 123 Sesame Street is known all across the United States. You've got a good forty plus years of material to utilize and new characters, events and even places are constantly being added.

But what if...what made your own Sesame Street? What if your hometown had this one magical place where sheep sang and monsters played and Humans went to work with Grouches? For ideas on a different kind of Sesame Street, I direct your attention to the rest of the world and the over 140 countries whose children have grown up with Sesame Street in some form or another, even if that form isn't exactly the same as ours.

Currently, approximately 20 countries have unique co-productions with Sesame Workshop that produce unique interpretations of the Sesame Street 'milieu' if you will. Each has its own unique setting and characters and so of the variations on familiar Muppets and themes are remarkably entertaining.

Here is a small sampling...


Sesamstrasse is the international version of Sesame Street in Germany. Sesamstrasse was the first co-production of Sesame Street outside the United States. It is currently in its 36th season.

A number of changes and additions were made to Sesame Street when it was adapted for Germany, my personal favorite being Rumpel, a green Grouch who lives in an old water barrel with his pet caterpillar.

The German production company and many parents found Oscar too negative and most suburban and rural German children had not familiarity with trash cans. Rumpel was created to serve as a cross between Grover and Oscar. He likes rainy days when others want sunshine, eats food people don't often like and has other Grouch like qualities but is generally friendly, good natured and even a bit playfully mischievous at times. At one point he had a superhero identity similar to Super Grover and often tries to make weird, near alchemical recipes from his great grandfather's cook book.

Plaza Sesamo

Produced in Mexico and initially covering mostly Mexico and Puerto Rico, Plaza Sesamo first went on the air in 1972. It was and remains extremely popular, eventually spreading throughout Latin America as many of my Spanish speaking friends can attest too.

In addition to having Spanish speaking versions of a number of the American Muppet characters, this show features what has to be, without a doubt, the most awesome alternative to Big Bird I've ever seen. The colorful, giant parrot Abelardo Montoya is Big Bird's cousin, appearing on the American Sesame Street once in an episode explaining the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Since then he can be seen in his next writing letters, emailing and video chatting with his American cousin.

Sesam Stasjon

The Norwegian co-production of Sesame Street is set in a train station. Many stories revolve around a train taking the characters somewhere or bringing a new character or situation to the station. The two main Human cast members and four original Muppet characters work at the station or on the Sesame Train. A major departure from the standard Sesame Street format, aside from the unique setting, was that some stories unfolded over a number of episodes. Multi-episode story arcs were quite popular with viewers and give Sesame Stasjon a very different feel.

Jalan Sesama

Indonesia's co-production, Jalan Sesama means, "Street for All", a name perfect for its overall theme of diversity and acceptance. The series is set in an Indonesian village rather than the New York neighborhood featured in the American version of the program. It began in 2008.

It features a number of new Muppet characters including the very cool looking Tantan the Orangutan and the strangely furry Jabrik the Rhino.

Sesame Street Japan

For over thirty years Japan simply dubbed the American Sesame Street until in 2004 they created their first localized co-production.

The show was praised by many for covering a wide range of lesson topics such as ethics, the environment, interacting with friends and how to approach problems and solve them logically.

Unfortunately it was also ridiculed by critics who said that the parts of the show dedicated to learning English words were not especially accurate with their use of grammar, thereby perpetuating language issues instead of helping.

The show does have another of my favorite international characters however; the sweet, chipper and adorable orange monster Grorie. Grorie (also seen as Groly) is basically a female Grover, right down to doing sketches in which she has various jobs such as a waitress in a pink and white stripped French waitress apron. Rumors have it a Super Grover like magical girl identity was planned but never used. Come on! Sailor Grorie? What's not to love?

I could go on and on. Really. Don't get me started on Israel's resident Grouch, Moishe Oofnik. Old Jewish Grumpy Grouch? I think we might be related!

So as your planning your Sesame Street campaign, think about the people in your neighborhood, the street where you live and what things do and don't belong in your version of everybody's favorite locale.

Barking Alien

Muppet Quotes

Phil Donahue: This is Sesame Street. A place where people, birds, monsters all live in perfect harmony.

Here's A Sesame Street News Flash!

Well, later today we leave Sesame Street and head for stranger pastures. I hope everyone is ready for a bit more Muppet craziness and guest cameos galore!

If you have any ideas or requests for stuff to be covered let me know. While I can't guarantee I'll get to all (or any) of it before the month's end, my new regular feature of Muppet Mondays should start in May. April will most likely be taken up by the A-to-Z challenge.

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