To get a different perspective on some of its curriculum, Sesame Workshop recently turned to its pint-sized audience members. Last fall, the company partnered with the World Heart Federation to run two animation workshops in Colombia for seven- to 10-year-olds. The goal of the project was to help these budding toonsters animate their thoughts about heart health, as well as feeding kid-created shorts into Plazo Sesamo, the Latin American Sesame Street format that airs throughout South/Central America and Mexico, and in the U.S. on Telefutura and PBS.
Executive producer Ginger Brown and her team found two animation houses willing to host the workshops, which ran as five classes throughout October and November. Jaguar Taller Digital is based in the nation’s capital of Bogota, and Toonka Films in Cali, a more rural city in the Southwest. The kids’ approaches to the issue were as different as their locales: The Bogota group tackled the subject very specifically, turning out a short about a surprise birthday party for a heart, complete with sound effects they recorded themselves. The Cali group, meanwhile, chose to take an overall body health tack, coming up with a concept about a boy who gets hypnotized by a candy bar. He keeps getting fatter and fatter until a carrot superhero saves him from obesity by teaching him how to change his eating habits and exercise.
The shorts will air on Plazo Sesamo sometime during the 2008 season, and Brown says the effort will likely be repeated, perhaps by other Sesame Street co-productions in territories where animation is affordable. ‘It’s a better way to get kids’ honest opinions than showing them something an adult has done and asking for their feedback,’ she says, adding that it may also inspire some kids to pursue a career in animation.