English is often cited as one of the hardest languages to learn and Sesame Workshop is busily working to help Elmo and co. deliver a more interactive language learning experience through its platform-agnostic 26 x two-minute Sesame Street English shorts.
Landing broadcast deals for the shorts is certainly a priority, but the project is actually part of a larger initiative to help introduce English to kids at an early age via new media formats ranging from websites to cell phones and podcasts. ‘Children are programmed to learn languages, and parents around the world want their kids to know (English) as their second language,’ says Miranda Barry, EVP of creative at the Workshop.
Sesame Street English renders the familiar Muppets in a refreshed anime-inspired style meant to resonate in its original target territory, Asia. The shorts cover four themes, each with their own Muppet champions. So Elmo and Cookie Monster teach viewers about letters, phonics and relational concepts. Bert and Ernie handle numbers, while Grover explores science and nature and Big Bird and Abby Cadabby take a look at neighborhoods, transportation and the world around them.
The planned SSE package includes a DVD paired with a wireless Leapfrog-esque magic pen that children can use to answer questions and play games by touching the pen to a special sheet of paper, which is being developed in Japan. Each of the four themes can be compiled to form a learning unit (i.e. five shorts focusing just on letters can be put on one DVD) and there’s an option to supplement with additional content from the existing Sesame library.
At press time, the Workshop was in serious conversations with major partners in Asia to distribute the project as a full teaching program and it’s also toying with SSE’s classroom potential for US preschoolers.