Global productions of Sesame Street

Australia

The Australian version of Sesame Street features just one character, Ollie, and runs as short snippets between existing Nickelodeon programs.

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Ollie is a muppet with a distinctly Australian personality and attitude. The set of the production was also made to resemble a suburban Australian home, complete with a Hills Hoist clothesline. The cirriculum in this version of the show follows the US patent, but with a local flavour – including teaching children about sun and water safety, and water conservation.

Bangladesh

The Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street, called Sisimpur, was launched in 2004. Much of the programming relies on Bangladeshi children telling their own stories through short, self-make films. The production team teaches local teenagers to use video cameras in order to express their convey their own realities. Due to the scarcity of televisions in the impovrished nation, aid organisations have set up weekly community viewings of the show.

Brazil

Vila Sesamo first aired on Brazilian television in 1972, only three years after the original television show took the US by storm. At the time the main character Garibaldo, a massive feathered muppet similar to the popular US character Big Bird. One of the unusual challenges faced by producers of the show was how to clean the feathered outfit worn by Garibaldo. The solution was a most unlikely cleaning agent – vodka.

Egypt

The Egyptian version of Sesame Street, Alam Simsim, first went to air in 2000. The show incorporated three Egyptian muppets into the existing Sesame Street format. The major focus of the show was minimising gender disparity in the country’s education rates. Alam Simsam received a major boost in ratings when First Lady Suzanne Mubarak appeared on the show and encouraged girls to read more.

France

France was grappling with a new cultural identity when 5, Rue Sesame went to air in 2005. It’s not surprising, then, that the show had a dedicated segment teaching children about different cultures and ethnicities. In keeping with the tolerance theme, the show’s producers introduced a wheelchair-bound character called Griotte. Griotte’s character provided numerous difficulties for producers, who were faced with the challenges of creating a wheelchair that was authentic, yet flexible enough for a pupeteer to use comfortably.

Germany

Sesamstrasse was created around the goals of Friedrich Froebel, the German educator who first coined the term kindergarten in 1840. Froebel believed that children expressed their needs and desires through playing, and that this was important in later cognitive development. To this end, the German version of Sesame Street has a heavy focus on creative play and developing skills for further education.

India

A lion called Boombah is the main focus of the Indian version of Sesame Street, called Galli Galli Sim Sim. Boombah is joined on the show by Chamki, a five-year old girl, who producers created in an effort to rise female literacy rates in a country in which one-third of girls are illiterate.

Indonesia

The title of the Indonesian version of Sesame Street, Jalan Sesama, literally means ‘Togetherness Street’, and reflects the show’s goals of creating and fostering unity across the diverse nation. Characters on the show often speak in their own dialects but focus on coming together and speaking with one voice.

Israel

The Israeli version of Sesame Street, Rechov Sumsum, is so popular in the country that officials named an actual street in the city of Haifa after the show. This version of the show aims to provide children in conflict zones with a safe haven, a place they can express their worries and concerns. Likewise, it aims to foster cross-cultural understanding and tolerance.

Japan

The local version of Sesame Street in Japan is fairly new, with the concept only getting off the ground in 2004. Many of the main characters in the US original appear in this version, but there are also additional muppets whose identity is uniquely Japanese.

Jordan

Children’s rights has been on the agenda in Jordan since the country’s Queen, Her Majesty Queen Rania, made it one of her top priorities. Jordan’s local version of the hit show, Hikayat Simsim, went to air in 2003, but gained momentum in 2007 when the monarch became patron of the show. Queen Rania’s contribution was recognised in 2005, when she received the Sesame Workshop Award.

Kosovo

The locally-produced version of Sesame Street airs with different titles. In Albanian its title is Rruga Sesam, and in Serbian it is Ulica Sezam. The production is a collaboration between the Sesame Workshop and UNICEF, and aims to tear down post-conflict ethnic differences and stereotypes. In order to overcome differences in the written alphabet between the two dominant cultures, the show’s producers created a ‘visual dictionary’ in which children of different cultures hold an object and say its name in their own language.

Latin America

The Latin American version of Sesame Street, Plaza Sesamo, is broadcast to 34 countries, and aims to encorporate the experiences of children across South and Central America. The show is set in a mercado, a small marketplace, and characters speak Colombian Spanish, a more neutral form of the language that is more easily understood by diverse Spanish-speakers.

The Netherlands

Sesamstraat, the Dutch version of Sesame Street, premiered in the country in 1976, and reaches nearly 68 million households. The show focuses on fostering cultural diversity and multiculturalism, as well as tackling the national problem of bullying in schools.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Irish version of Sesame Street is unlike other productions, as it focuses on a mythical ‘question tree’ where children can have all their queries answered. As such, the show is titled Sesame Tree. The selected questions are presented to the show’s two muppets, Hilda and Potto, at the start of the episode. The two puppets then set off to the answer the questions.

Palestinian

The main goal of Shara’a Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street, is to provide Palestinian children with positive role models, and to bring happiness to children in conflict zones. The show focuses on providing young boys with the tools to resolve conflict without the need to resort to aggression or violence. It does not mention the region’s political crisis, but does place an emphasis on tolerance and hope.

Russia

The Russian version of Sesame Street, Ulitsa Sezam, was created by a team of Russian educators and artists, and went to air for the first time in 1996. The first season of the show focused on life in an open society, helping children come to terms with the seismic change in Russian life in the early to mid 1990s.

South Africa

The issue of HIV/AIDS in Africa was tackled head-on by Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street. The show created the first HIV-positive muppet, Kami, as a way to tackle stereoptypes and address the issue that affects many African families.

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