Some of you might be old enough to remember this... Back in 1983, the Children's Television Workshop and China Central Television teamed up to produce Big Bird in China, a primetime special that aired on NBC.
I'm not making this up! In the special, Big Bird, Barkley and Little Xiao Fu traveled through China to find Feng Huang, the Phoenix bird. Along the way, they walk along the Great Wall, learn the "little duckling dance" and pick up a few Chinese words. And Oscar the Grouch digs a hole to China.
Twenty-seven years later, it looks like Big Bird is going back to China in the new series Sesame Street's Big Bird Looks at the World, a co-production between Sesame Workshop and Shanghai Toonmax for Chinese television: Big Bird to Get Makeover in Mandarin.
The nonprofit educational organization that created Sesame Street announced this week that it’s turning creative control in China over to Shanghai Media Group’s Toonmax Media Co. in hopes that more localized content will make Big Bird more popular among Chinese children.Sesame Street has been broadcast in over 140 countries and regions of the world, and a short-lived localized version even aired in China over ten years ago. But handing over full creative control to Toonmax is apparently a big departure for Sesame Workshop.
The organization says it is partnering with Toonmax and pharmaceutical giant MSD to produce 52 eleven-minute episodes of the famous muppet show in Mandarin. It will include a new character named Lily, a 4-year-old tiger from China who loves martial arts, and starts next week (Dec. 22).
The next step in this partnership, hopefully, will be a Mandarin language-learning program produced for young viewers here in the United States.