You know what they call Sesame Street in France? 5, Rue Sésame
June 4, 2011 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Given Sesame Street's popularity over the past four decades, it's not surprising that the show has been broadcast all over the world. But it might be surprising to know the international extent of Sesame Street: the show has been localized with co-production of more than 40 programs in 30 countries, plus another 20+ dubbed versions. For the 40th anniversary in 2009, the Canadian National Post had a gallery of 101 Sesame Street characters (prev) and included a few international faces, Smithsonian had a spotlight on 18 local characters, and The Sesame Workshop had a list of Sesame Street Milestones, including some international Sesame events. But the Muppet Wiki trumps them all, with a a collection of international Sesame Street crossovers and a complete list of all international Sesame Street editions. Hop on inside for video clips from most of the 37 international editions of Sesame Street.

With localized co-production, international versions of Sesame Street aren't simply the same program as seen in the US but with local puppets and puppeteers. With the show in the Netherlands, Sesamstraat, each episode is thematic and lacks the focus on letters and numbers. In Sweden, Svenska Sesam was set behind the scenes of a theater and did not feature any puppets, except for in dubbed versions of US-produced skits.

But more than the odd changes, there were the significantly different settings and lessons that some programs provided. In 2000, the Egyptian co-production, Alam Simsam promoted gender equality, health and hygiene practices and emphasized environmental messages (prev., dead link). 2002 saw the TV debut of the first HIV-positive Muppet (prev., dead link), on the South African co-production, Takalani Sesame. Also in 2002, a localized version of Sesame Street was being planned for Northern Ireland to promote peaceful relations (prev), but it took another 6 years before Sesame Tree became a reality.

The full list of localized shows, with clips and playlists:

Bangladesh -- 2005 (to present?): Sisimpur (opening), YT playlist
Brazil -- 1972 to 1977, then 2007 to present: Vila Sésamo (old opening in black and white; vs full color modern opening), playlist (mostly modern with some old clips)
Canada -- an edited version of US edition first aired in 1973, then the intro was edited by 1980, and in the later 1980s there was additional Canadian content. From 1996 to 2002, the Canadian program was titled Sesame Park. Canadian clips (multilingual), Canadian ending clip, counting with Basil the polar bear (quiet clip), and Trash Busters (a musical clip set to the Ghost Busters themesong). Bonus: Oscar in a 2008 PSA
China -- 1998 to 2001, revived in 2010: 芝麻街 (Zhima Jie) Ernie sings Rubber Duckie, 7 minute clip from Chinese TV (with an annoying out-of-sync flicker). But before the series, Big Bird when to China, for a US movie that was shot in China in 1983. The movie is on YouTube in parts, as a camera recording of a video screen: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8; VHS clip including a part removed from the US DVD.
Denmark -- a dubbed program first aired in the 1990s, and a co-produced show started in 2009: Sesamgade, with dubbed clips. Local production intro, and a clip: Imagination
Egypt -- first airing in 2000: Alam Simsim (flash site for the show); intro, playlist
France has had two co-produced series: 1, Rue Sésame started in 1978, and then 5, Rue Sésame started in 2005. 1, Rue Sésame opening, Ernest et Bart clip; 5, Rue Sésame opening, The Horse Whisperer (redub?)
Germany also had two distinct local productions: first dubbed with a local intro from 1973 to 1977, the co-produced Sesamstraße first aired in 1978, with major updates in 1989 and 2000. In 2010, there was a spin-off called Eine Möhre für Zwei (Google translation). Sesamstraße intro and outro, intro from 2006, playlist of clips; Eine Möhre für Zwei intro, and a news(type) clip for of/for the show. There also appears to be a localized Elmo show for Bavaria: collection of teaser clips.
India -- 2006: Galli Galli Sim Sim (intro), playlist of clips (yes, that's Cartoon Network India's channel logo on some clips)
Indonesia -- 2008: Jalan Sesama (news clip on the show), intro (loud, poor sound quality), Rain Lamp (?) clip, rain, umbrella (?) clip, Cookie Monster: H,
Israel has had two productions -- 1982 to 1986: Rechov Sumsum; and 2002 to present: Sippuray Sumsum, though in 2006 the show was renamed to it's original title. Rechov Sumsum opening, a subtitled episode: Natan's Reserve Duty, part 1 and part 2, playlist of clips. There was a joint Israel-US production called Shalom Sesame, to bring Israeli life and Jewish culture to American audiences: a long 1988 intro, a slightly different opening, and YouTube user shalomsesame has 42 clips.
Israel and Palestine had a joint production that started in 1998: Rechov Sumsum in Israeli and Shara'a Simsim in Palestinian (Google Quickview, PDF). Shara'a Simsim intro with subtitles, slightly different version without subs.
Japan -- broadcast in English for more than 30 years, the show was localized from 2004 to 2007, keeping the name Sesame Street (Japanese website); recent Japanese intro, older outro. But earlier still, Big Bird visited Japan, similar to his Chinese journey. The movie is also available on YT, with the same weird camera recording of the video: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Jordan -- 2003: Hikayat Simsim. Video clip: Good Citizen song.
Kosovo -- 2004, aired in Albanian with the title Rruga Sesam and in Serbian as Ulica Sezam (Sesame Workshop, with video clips).
Kuwait -- first Sesame Street co-produced in Arabic, in 1979: Iftah Ya Simsim (intro), playlist of clips
Mexico -- debuted in 1972, and broadcast to a number of South American countries, Plaza Sésamo (Spanish website) became more localized to Mexico over the following years. In 1995, the show debuted on PBS in the United States, primarily in the Southwest. It is the only Sesame Street co-production that can widely be seen in the US. Modern intro, 1980s themesong, playlist of clips.
Netherlands -- first aired in 1976: Sesamstraat. 1976-77 opening, 1979 opening, 1980-81 opening, 1982 opening and outro, and a playlist of clips.
Nigeria -- in 2009, Sesame Workshop paired with The United States Agency for International Development and Presidents Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief to create The Adventures of Kami and Big Bird, to assist in education, de-stigmatizing HIV/AIDS and coping with loss. The initial program grew into Sesame Square in 2010. Clips: Kami and former President Clinton share HIV/AIDS message, from UNICEF, and Sesame Square on CNN, M Party clip.
Northern Ireland -- 2008: Sesame Tree (teaser clip), an episode split: part 1, part 2.
Norway -- 1991: Sesam Stasjon (intro) is based in a train station. 198 episodes were recorded, and re-run until 2004. Playlist of clips.
Pakistan -- the newest addition to the international Sesame family is set to debut in Fall 2011: SimSim Humara
Palestine -- following the 1998 Israel/Palestine production, there may have had a second Palestinian show called Hikayat Simsim, though details are unclear; the third, Shaareh Simsin, was set to start production in 2007.
Philippines -- in 1983, one season of the show Sesame! was produced. The follow-up program, Batibot, was more successful, but did not involve the Children's Television Workshop. Related (?): a clip of Sesame Street Live the Philippines.
Poland -- first aired in 1996 (though no longer in production), Ulica Sezamkowa (clip), following a Polish dub of the US program, in which one man provided the voices for the whole cast.
Portugal -- 1989 to 1994: Rua Sésamo (intro), playlist of clips, an episode in two parts
Russia -- 1996, with four "runs" (2nd: 1999; 3rd: 2003; 4th: 2006): Улица Сезам (Ulitsa Sezam - opening), playlist of clips
South Africa -- 2006: Takalani Sesame (intro) featured the first HIV-positive Muppet, Kami; Pollution Song with subtitles
Spain has had a local co-production three different runs 1979-1980, 1983-1987, 1996-2000: Barrio Sésamo (intro circa 1984), intro without title, and end credits from 1984, playlist of clips
Sweden -- 1981-1982, with re-runs through 1984: Svenska Sesam (two intros), an episode split in three, and a couple newer shows in parts from YT user s0fierce.
Turkey -- 1986 to 1991: Susam Sokagi (intro); playlist of clips, some are original US clips
United Kingdom -- 2002: Play With Me Sesame (intro and a clip)
posted by filthy light thief (46 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
In regards to the Pulp Fiction reference, the Muppets have spoofed Pulp Fiction in a couple of ways, including in this bonus feature from The Muppets' Wizard of Oz DVD, wherein Pepe the King Prawn interviews Quentin Tarantino.

Also, there's a PBS documentary called The World According to Sesame Street, which looks at a few localized productions of Sesame Street (trailer, and a clip from the Indian production).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:05 PM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

Great post. I give it an A, B, C, D, E...

Can you give us all the countries that have received exported versions of Elmo? And how many have declared war on the U.S. as a result?
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:06 PM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

An oft-quoted fact about the Dutch Sesamstraat is that Wim T. Schippers (Ernie) and Paul Haenen (Bert) are the only international actors allowed to write their own Bert and Ernie audio material.
posted by Harry at 2:07 PM on June 4, 2011

oh my.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:08 PM on June 4, 2011

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street

Come and play
Everything's A-OK
Friendly neighbors there
That's where we meet

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street

It's a magic carpet ride
Every door will open wide
To Happy people like you--
Happy people like
What a beautiful

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame street...
How to get to Sesame Street
How to get to...
posted by schmod at 2:13 PM on June 4, 2011

filthy light thief, as an occasional lots-of-links-in-one-post fellow traveller, I salute you. Excellently done, amazing post. If only they were all like that.
posted by felix at 2:17 PM on June 4, 2011

I have a distinct memory of watching that Big Bird Goes To China movie when I was home sick with a huge fever and just getting the strangest flashes....big bird eating plastic food, big bird towering over a crowd, big bird lost and confused, it upset me so much that I started to wail loud enough that my mom came in and asked me what was wrong.

The movie! I said. The movie is too sad!

I was pretty delirious and my mom was very tired so she took the take out and put in another one, a safe one, another sesame street one. It was the one where Big Bird gets stuck in a museum overnight.

And then has to help the dead Egyptian kid go to the after life, cause his heart isn't light enough, and if he fails his soul will be trapped there FOREVER.

I stared to cry again.
posted by The Whelk at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2011 [8 favorites]

I kind of like the ones that don't just repurpose the American Sesame Street theme, but do their own. India and South Africa are great examples.
posted by LN at 3:02 PM on June 4, 2011

It really surprised me in Japan at just how popular Sesame Street was, but that they had never heard of any of the other Muppets. It just feels so... wrong.
posted by gc at 3:03 PM on June 4, 2011

I did not realize (or had forgotten) that Sully and Bruno were two different characters.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2011

Great post!

There was a great PBS documentary about the international co-productions. Highly recommend it.

Also, there was an Armenian Sesame Street for awhile...
posted by k8t at 3:30 PM on June 4, 2011

Course them furiners like it, cause it's pure Socialism!
posted by orthogonality at 3:33 PM on June 4, 2011

First: Excellent, excellent post.

Second: Sesame Street is one of the greatest things humans have ever accomplished. Right wing haters can suck it (even if they probably can't spell it).
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:52 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you, O Filthy One, for sweeping the clouds away.

My (rainy) day is made. If anyone needs me for the rest of the day -- you know the address!
posted by trip and a half at 4:05 PM on June 4, 2011

This post wins the Internet, we can shut it down now.
posted by desjardins at 4:06 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it just me who finds Mr. Noodle fucking creepy?
posted by orthogonality at 4:11 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I still haven't forgiven them for the removal/disappearance of Don Music.

"The character, played by Richard Hunt, was abandoned because of complaints about his alarming tendencies toward self-inflicted punishment. Apparently, kids were imitating his head-banging at home." Muppet Wiki

Yes, as a little kid in the 70s-early 80s, I did imitate him, but through that I learned early that artistic creation is a tough, sometimes agonizing process, and that kept me working on creative stuff, even when it got frustrating as a kid.

That is an damn important life lesson.
posted by chambers at 4:14 PM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is it just me who finds Mr. Noodle fucking creepy?

Not at all, he weirds me out. My 2yo doesn't like him either.
posted by gaspode at 4:15 PM on June 4, 2011

Is it just me who finds Mr. Noodle fucking creepy?

Creepy, yes, but not a creepy as that (non-sesame street) guy with a full-body spandex outfit with all his innards mapped out.

That Mr. Slim Goodbody, gallivanting about with that diagram of his intestines on it, acting like some fun-maze for kids leading right to his junk.

I hear he's a nice guy, and has been doing good work teaching kids for years and years, but that outfit always just creeped me out. Call me a stifled Victorian square, but spandex body suits have no place in science and biology education.
posted by chambers at 4:38 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

filthy light thief, you are my hero.
posted by misozaki at 4:45 PM on June 4, 2011

So there I was going through the slideshow of Sesame Street muppets designed to teach children around the world valuable lessons about tolerance, respect, equality, health care, and so on. Finally I get to Japan:
Teena is a young girl Muppet who represents kawaii or the ideal of cuteness in Japanese culture. Teena dresses in all pink, wears flowers in her pigtails and loves flowers.
Fortunately, Japan has also invented just the right way to respond to this: "..."
posted by No-sword at 4:45 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My friend took me to see Being Elmo not too long ago - I don't mind him (my three-year-old went through a short but intense Elmo phase) but she found him very annoying. By the time the credits rolled, I think she had softened considerably. Kevin Clash is amazing. A woman in the audience raised her hand during the Q&A and told him that her brother with MS loved Elmo, they had every DVD there was, and he watched them every day. Clash said - "do you have a cellphone? Elmo would be happy to call him as soon as this is over." What a guy.
posted by pinky at 5:39 PM on June 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Murray the rapping muppet kinda weirded me out at first, not because he rapped but because I turn on Sesame Street 30 years later, now that my kid is Sesame-aged, and there's this NEW MUPPET whom I've never heard of who's seriously on half the show. (I mean, Elmo is after my time, but I at least knew who he was.) I guess it failed to occur to me that in 30 years, things change, even on beloved childhood TV shows. :)

But Murray's grown on me. As has the block format, though I miss some of the short skits like Ladybug Picnic, which is hard to imagine being out of rotation!

Two of my favorite recent Sesame Street sketches are Jason Mraz singing "Outdoors" and the fairly famous Sesame Street does Mad Men, which cracks me up every time. ("Good work, sycophants!")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:59 PM on June 4, 2011

Is it just me who finds Mr. Noodle fucking creepy?

Here's a vote in favor of Mr. Noodle. When I step back and try to just observe what he does, I'm really impressed by his control over his facial muscles and overall physicality, and by the way he communicates emotions and ideas through his body. I know nothing about his background, and would rather theorize than googleize, but I imagine he went to some sort of clowning or Commedia Dell'Arte school. It's clearly communication through exaggeration, and would be out of place in most contexts, but for kids who are exploring communication and their bodies and the way that things work -- Mr. Noodle tends to get things wrong most of the time, until he finally hits upon a solution -- he speaks their language. Admittedly I wasn't a huge fan at first, but when Miles is watching Elmo and it's time for Mr. Noodle to do his schtick, I can't help but watch, and almost always smile, if not laugh.
posted by vverse23 at 7:20 PM on June 4, 2011

There have been two children's television programs who's presence has immeasurably enriched the world, to the point where the two creative minds behind them deserve to be remembered down the ages the way we remember Virgil and Homer, they were so important to American culture, and by extension, world culture:

Jim Henson.
Fred Rogers.

Mr. Rogers is responsible for shepherding so many lost and vulnerable children through childhood - look up any MeFi thread on his show. I also know more than a few people personally, who suffered hell and horror as children, but grew up to be interesting and awesome people, and credited it to him. He knew how children thought and felt, and put emotions and how to deal with them on the highest plane of learning, with the kind of gentle confidence that doesn't need to show its strength, any more than the sky needs to show its breadth. Routine - his jacket and shoes for a cardigan and sneakers. Things are understandable and predictable, the world does make sense. Honesty - There's a very early episode where he tells his audience he is learning calligraphy, "fancy writing." He shows his practice pad, where he's made mistakes. He shows a movie of himself at a class, paying attention and struggling as he learns, just like the other adults there. He allows children to see himself as he actually is, and they learn to see the world as it actually is. Imagination - Everything that you think, everything that you feel, is important and real. Even if it's make-believe, it is important to think about what you are thinking about, and it is never wrong to think wrong things, as long as you understand why you are thinking them. So much power and majesty in this show, it's unreal.

Jim Henson put the wonder of learning into everything, and seeded everything with joy and laughter and curiosity. Henson thought about what he was showing children, and never stopped considering the lessons he was teaching - Mr. Snuffalaupagus was imaginary to begin with, none of the adults believed Big Bird when he told them about Snuffy. Some terrifying child abuse cases came to light in the '80s, and Henson decided it was incredibly important that children learned that they will be believed when telling the truth, about everything, even if it's about a giant wooly mammoth, or about an adult who hurt you. He understood the power of marketing and advertising, and put that power to use, advertising letters, numbers, words and emotions. Henson believed in art as a transformative experience, and used music, animation, acting and puppetry to transform his audience from helpless babies into educated children. He paid attention to science, so when science said children learn better when their parents are involved, he used his skills as an entertainer to draw in adults, with celebrity cameos, clever parodies, and engaging storylines using pun and wit. It ever evolves and changes, moving with the times, experimenting and living as people and society do.

When judging between the two, the only consideration is this: Henson asked, "What happens after I'm gone?" He prepared for it, groomed his troupe for it, and now lives on in the bones and flesh of Sesame Street, and will for a long time to come.

Mr. Rogers is lost to my daughter, except as a fly in amber, preserved but no longer a living and vibrant part of the world around us.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:20 PM on June 4, 2011 [12 favorites]

Wonderful FPP, by the way.
posted by vverse23 at 7:20 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to point out that the linked German page has, at the bottom, a reference to a character called Gunni the Talking Toilet. Who appears to be exactly that but "has a good heart."

Oh, Germany.
posted by emjaybee at 8:06 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought Mr. Noodle died. Are we referring to Mr. Noodle's brother Mr. Noodle? Is he still around?
posted by IndigoRain at 8:39 PM on June 4, 2011

Bill Irwin - Mr. Noodle is still alive
Michael Jeter - Mr. Noodle's brother died of complications related to HIV.
posted by MasonDixon at 9:01 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle, passed on. Mr. Noodle himself is still hale and hearty, as are Ms. Noodle, and Mr. Noodle's brother Mr. Noodle's sister, Ms. Noodle.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:02 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shame. Michael Jeter was one of my favorite "Hey, it's that guy!" actors.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:23 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sesame Street is more than international, it's intergalactic.

A day of the daytime star.
The clouds are compelled to commence fleeing, and are filled with dread.
I have a destination;
and there, because of the atmosphere, I am pleased.
Describe to me immediately
how to go to Sesame Street.

posted by Smedleyman at 9:29 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sesame Street is more than international, it's intergalactic.

Well, there is Sesame Street in Klingon (previously on MetaFilter, too).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:31 PM on June 4, 2011

Ah, I was thinking Michael Jeter was Mr. Noodle, not his brother.

I google-image-searched Bill Irwin and suddenly realized (and confirmed with IMDB) that he was the funny magician on an episode of The Cosby Show.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:21 AM on June 5, 2011

He was also the Flying Man on Northern Exposure (which, coincidentally, I always thought of as my adult Sesame Street).
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:04 AM on June 5, 2011

1 2 3 4 5, 6 7 8 9 10, 11 12. da nana na na.
posted by panaceanot at 5:05 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The movie! I said. The movie is too sad!

Oh, The Whelk, I think I might have you beat for traumatic Sesame Street movie memories. When I was very, very young, my parents thought they were doing an awesome thing by taping "Follow That Bird" when it aired on TV, to show me later. And it would have been awesome, if they had managed to tape the whole thing.

Cue me, alone in my basement, watching the movie, loving it. But then it gets really sad. Big Bird is kidnapped. The mean people turn him blue and make him perform as the Bluebird of Happiness. He's singing this song about how he's all alone and his heart aches and he misses his friends. Big Bird cries. The tape goes dead.

My dad comes down a few minutes later to snow on the screen and me bawling - "Big Bird is lost and alone and HE HAS NO FRIENDS!!!"

Quickest trip to the video store. Ever.
posted by ilana at 7:40 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Plaza Sesamo is really two different shows. The early (70s and 80s) version was very pan-Latin, then becoming very Mexican. Used to watch it with rabbit ears from Mexico.

Still enjoying watching it. Also enjoy that Cookie Monster has a name in Mexico: he's "Lucas, el monstruo comegalletas"
posted by kaszeta at 7:59 AM on June 5, 2011

One of the great things about Canadian Sesame Street (until the CBC took a huge misstep by replacing it with Sesame Park) was the fact that the Canadian inserts were produced at the network's local stations all across the country. This was a great way to link together disparate parts of a very large country.
posted by evilcolonel at 8:04 AM on June 5, 2011

The "Sesame Street around the world" documentary is really great. I especially liked the description of putting together Kosovo's versions, and how much they had to pay attention to differences between the Serbs and Albanians while trying to bring the children together. The Kosovo link posted above has a couple of great examples of how they worked with this.
posted by bizzyb at 8:15 AM on June 5, 2011

Gah. Or "The World According to Sesame Street", rather.
posted by bizzyb at 8:17 AM on June 5, 2011

Does anyone remember "the origami guy" on Canadian Sesame Street? I wish I could find some footage... This is best thing I found about him after an all nighter of googling.
posted by steve jobless at 5:59 PM on June 5, 2011

I was just looking up Sesame Street on Wikipedia, and realized that several of the characters from when I was a kid are still on the show. Luis, Gordon, Bob: they're still there. Amazing.
posted by grouse at 9:08 PM on June 5, 2011

Don't look up David unless you want to be sad.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 12:17 AM on June 6, 2011

Karlos, you can't leave a trail of crumbs like that, or someone might follow them. Rest in peace, Northern Calloway.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:31 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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