To celebrate the upcoming 30th anniversary of Sesamstraat, a live TV special was broadcast. The studio audience was introduced to a brand new set (there was a competition to see who could ...
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To celebrate the upcoming 30th anniversary of Sesamstraat, a live TV special was broadcast. The studio audience was introduced to a brand new set (there was a competition to see who could come up with the most original idea). For the first time in the history of the Dutch Sesame street, the Dutch cast and Muppet's were integrated with some of their American counterparts: Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster and Elmo (performed, as always, by Kevin Clash). Written by
Sesamstraat turned 30 in early 2006, and to celebrate this, a special was filmed in front of a live audience at the start of the season (September 2005). For the first time in the show's history the Dutch cast (human and Muppet) were seen to interact with original Sesame Street characters Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster and Elmo. Way back in the eighties, Big Bird had visited Germany's Sesamstrasse, but up until now BB's Dutch cousin Pino and friends had never been seen next to any of their American counterparts (not counting photo-shopped publicity pictures). This was despite the fact that all four of the Dutch Muppet's (Pino, Tommy, Ieniemienie and Purk) are fabricated in the Sesame Workshop nowadays.
Muppeteer Kevin Clash (Elmo himself) flew over to the Netherlands to perform his signature furry red character (dubbed by Hein Boele) while a whole bunch of extra puppeteers was attracted to handle the classic Sesame characters. Accordingly, most of the show consisted of new recordings of old numbers and routines, including Bert and Ernie's well known banana in the ear routine. They even got to do a couple of Joe Raposo classics (translated by the likes of Harrie Geelen) that had only been available in audio form in the Netherlands before. The show also introduced Tommy's brand new Dragster, a new act by a puppeteer/mime artist who only uses his fingers and a couple of Ping Pong balls (a naked Muppet!), and the latest incarnation of the Sesamstraat set.
Back in 2004, 5 set designers were asked to come up with a concept to replace Henk Tilder's street design. The jury consisted of director Norgert Ter Hall, actor Aart Staartjes, puppeteer Bert Plagman, producer Astrid Prickaerts and production executive Ajé Boschhuizen. Erly Brugmans won the competition, resulting in easily the most abstract set in the show's history. In fact, one can hardly call it a street any longer. Ajé has gone on record saying it is the equivalent of a child's imagination. Instead of houses, a bunch of giant building blocks have been thrown around the set, the largest of which doubles as a clock. The insides of these blocks serve as little rooms for the street's neighbors, though when they say goodnight at the end of each show, all of them climb into foldout beds in the open air. Pino doesn't even have a nest anymore, though there are several places for the all important bed time stories to be read. These include a most unlikely piece of beach and some sort of hole in the ground with a carousel top over it. Vegitation is implied by having giant stems of broccoli serve as trees.
While all this was going down, behind the scenes things were actually quite stressful, as Sesamstraat was changing time-slots once more, from 17.50 to the earlier time of 17.25 (an hour before the streets classic airtime of 18.30). Worse than that, the show's distributer, the NPS, was facing the ax. Pino himself had already made a rare appearance outside of the street to travel to The Hague to protest the canning of the NPS (the CTW owned character had never, ever made any public appearances before) and during the rehearsals for 'Open Huis in Sesamstraat', the creators grabbed the opportunity to give an impromptu press conference making a plea for the NPS, with Wim T. Schippers and Paul Haenen providing the voices of Ernie and Bert, for the first time with the actual puppets available to perform their dialog. B & E were successful: the NPS is still around, and Sesamstraat is now 25 minutes long (as opposed to 15) and shown three times a day (on two different channels).
As an added bonus, this special marked one of the rare occasions where the entire production team gets a well deserved credit at the end (in Sesamstraat everybody always remains uncredited).
8 out of 10
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