INDONESIA: Sesame Street's coming to town!

Domestic version features new characters and will highlight nation's 'cultural diversity'

Jakarta Post
Saturday, January 13, 2007

By Jason Moynihan

An Indonesian version of the much-loved children's educational program of the United States, Sesame Street, is currently in production with local company Creative Indigo Productions and New York-based, non-profit educational organization Sesame Workshop.

The partnership will produce three seasons -- or 156 half-hour episodes -- of a completely original Indonesian-language series to be shown nationwide, scheduled to start late 2007.

The Creative Indigo team, led by its director of education and research Dr. Muhammad Zuhdi, recently returned from a two-week workshop in New York, where they received training and exchanged ideas with Sesame Workshop staff.

According to the Sesame Street Indonesia project director Atun Purbo, the workshop covered a wide variety of areas including methods of conducting research for the program, script-writing, musical composition and even how to handle the Muppets (the hand-puppet characters widely used in all Sesame Street programs).

"The team also brainstormed some potential titles for the show, but these haven't been finalized at this point in time," Atun told The Jakarta Post.

According to a press release sent to the Post by the Sesame Street Indonesia project, Creative Indigo organized in November a two-day seminar in Jakarta to which they invited a number of educational experts from around the country to discuss Indonesian children's developmental needs, and how a Sesame Street project might address them.

Based on this seminar, the local Sesame Street production team decided upon the theme of "Indonesia's cultural diversity" as the focal point for the series, which complements the multicultural nature of the original program.

Other important areas include literacy and social skills, as well as environmental awareness.

Sesame Street airs in 120 countries around the world, and has been acclaimed internationally for being an educational and entertaining program.

Through its innovative mix of live action, animation and puppetry, many of the series' characters have become household names, such as Big Bird, Elmo and Oscar the Grouch. Meanwhile, the program has helped generations of children to learn about literacy, math and important social skills.

The Sesame Street Muppets will appear in dubbed segments on the Indonesian version of the series.

In addition, Sesame Street Indonesia is developing new characters for the localized program.

"I can mention that we are planning to have at least two Muppets representing Indonesian children, and one or two representing endangered Indonesian wild animals," said Dr. Zuhdi.

The Creative Indigo team is also working on creating a set that will represent Indonesia's social environment, ensuring that the show will be easily identifiable as an Indonesian program.

In addition to the studio-filmed parts of the show, there will also be short live action documentary segments filmed throughout Indonesia, allowing local communities from all over the archipelago to be involved in the series.

Creative Indigo Productions is a fast-growing, cutting-edge production company that largely focuses on producing infotainment television programs for several local TV networks.

"We believe Creative Indigo will produce a high-quality educational experience that will capture the hearts and minds of Indonesia's young children," said Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell.

Initial funding for Sesame Street Indonesia has been made possible by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID has worked with the Indonesian government for over 40 years, and today has a US$750 million, five-year budget for improving basic education, governance, health and economic growth in Indonesia.

It looks like Indonesian children will soon have their very own characters from whom they can love and learn -- and popular foreign programs such as Dora the Explorer will have some local competition.