The Names of 34 International Sesame Street Co-Productions

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia Commons

When Sesame Street debuted in 1969, many producers, teachers, and government officials from different countries contacted the Children’s Television Workshop about airing versions of Sesame Street within their own countries. Show creator Joan Ganz Cooney was astonished: “To be frank, I was really surprised, because we thought we were creating the quintessential American show," she said. "We thought the Muppets were quintessentially American, and it turns out they’re the most international characters ever created.”

Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, France, Israel, Germany, and various Caribbean nations were among the first to begin research for Sesame Street co-productions. The first international co-production to air was Brazil’s Vila Sésamo in 1972. The series ran for five years (it returned to the air in October 2007).

But some countries found Sesame Street to be too controversial for public broadcast. British broadcasters rejected the idea of creating a British version of Sesame Street, although they aired the American version on a limited basis from 1971 to 2001. Even the state of Mississippi banned the children’s television show in May of 1970.

CTW executives met with individuals from each country and worked together to develop a unique curriculum based on the needs of the country’s children. Unique characters, sets, and curriculum goals were developed for each co-production, and American cast members trained puppeteers within each country.

The goal of each Sesame Street co-production is to provide the youth in each country with a program that reflects their country’s culture, values, and educational priorities. They seek to combine universal life lessons with cultural specificity. For instance, in 2003, the South African co-production Takalani Sesame created the first HIV-positive Muppet. The Muppet, named Kami, was created to address the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. Russia’s version, Ulitsa Sezam, first aired in 1996 and aimed to prepare Russian children to live in a “new open society,” although the television show is no longer played. The co-productions were also used to encourage peace and understanding among conflict-ridden regions—Shara’a Simsim tried to give Palestinian children a sense of national identity within Israel, and Hikayat Simsim aired in Jordan to “promote respect in the face of conflict.”

Other countries air dubbed American versions or spliced scenes from the American series with country-specific content, but these versions are not considered co-productions.

By 2006, there were 20 co-productions in countries all over the globe. In 2005, the New York Times reported that income from the co-productions equaled roughly $96 million. By the show’s 40th anniversary in 2009, the series was seen in over 140 countries. Currently, there are 34 Sesame Street official co-productions. Here's what they're called.

1. Afghanistan: Baghch-e-Simsim

2. Australia: Open Sesame

3. Bangladesh: Sisimpur

4. Brazil: Vila Sésamo

5. Canada: Sesame Park

6. China (Mandarin): Zhima Jie

7. Colombia: Plaza Sésamo

8. Denmark: Sesamgade

9. Egypt: Alam Simsim

10. France: 5, Rue Sésame

11. Germany: Sesamstrasse

12. India: Galli Galli Sim Sim

13. Indonesia: Jalan Sesama

14. Israel: Rechov Sumsum

15. Japan: Sesame Street Japan

16. Jordan: Hikayat Sesame

17. Kosovo: Rruga Sesam

18. Kuwait: Iftah Ya Simsim

19. Mexico: Plaza Sésamo

20. Netherlands: Sesamstraat

21. Nigeria: Sesame Square

22. Northern Ireland: Sesame Tree

23. Norway: Sesam Stasjon

24. Pakistan: Sim Sim Hamara

25. Palestine: Shara’a Simsim

26. Philippines: Sesame!

27. Poland: Ulica Sezamkowa

28. Portugal: Rua Sésamo

29. Russia: Ulitsa Sezam

30. South Africa: Takalani Sesame

31. Spain: Barrio Sésamo

32. Sweden: Svenska Sesam

33. Turkey: Susam Skokali

34. United Kingdom: Play With Me Sesame