Wednesday, December 14, 2005

French "Values" on Their Version of "Sesame Street": What Characters Should the French Invent for 5 Rue Sésame?

Thirty-six years after the original "Sesame Street" made its debut in the United States, Elmo has left his familiar neighborhood for a fresh wave of globalization, bound for countries that are discarding dubbed American versions for local productions inhabited by denizens with names like Nac, Khokha and Kami.
In an article about the globalization of Sesame Street, Doreen Carvajal informs us that
France is the latest country to offer up its version with 5, rue Sésame, a quaint street of tall buildings and bright blue skies, flower boxes and, of course, a tidy village bakery stocked with baguettes. But certain American puppets are gone, including one that you might expect could rattle French sensibilities: "Sesame Street's" floppy-armed front man, Kermit the Frog.

"It took us a year and a half to launch this show," said Alexandre Michelin, programming director for France 5, a state-run public television and co-producer with Sesame Workshop of the two-month-old show. "We had to adapt it to keep 'Sesame Street' values and ours, finding a way to make it work with French issues."

For rue Sésame, that means there is a glancing scene of a tall suburban building, laced with graffiti - a nod to suburbs around the country that were engulfed in rioting a few weeks ago. The local bakery is run by Baya, an Arabic-looking woman, although - in another reflection of French sensibilities - her origins are never mentioned.

Big Bird has also vanished, replaced by an enormous yellow character, Nac, whose trumpet nose, vivid colors and whimsical nature were tested with children and reviewed by a French psychologist. The American bird disappeared because the French co-producer wanted a unique and distinctive puppet star that could also be a mascot for their station.

…Within France, the creators of 5, rue Sésame are studying their completed shows and considering whether some cultural values need further adjusting.

"We had the feeling that it was a little bit too sweet, too nice," said Michelin, the France 5 programming director. "We need some irony. It's very difficult to evaluate, but we have the feeling that in France we can be a little edgier."
Rack your brain to think of characters who would be naturals on "5, rue Sésame". By all means, share your thoughts in the comments section…

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