Spending the night at the Furchester Hotel isn’t exactly the same as staying at the more luxurious JW Marriott. For starters, room service isn’t quite reliable. It may be Cookie Monster’s dream job, but his employment as a waiter is not the most convenient for guests—unless they want their plates to arrive empty. Joining Cookie in the new preschool series are Elmo and the Furchester’s proprietors—his aunt Funella Furchester; his Scottish uncle, Furgus Fuzz; and his seven-year-old cousin Phoebe.
Such is the setup for Sesame Street’s first-ever British spin-off series The Furchester Hotel, which comes across as a preschool version of classic sitcom Fawlty Towers—only featuring Muppets. And licensor Sesame Workshop is betting that the new series, with prime placement on top preschool pubcaster CBeebies, will add significantly to the company’s UK licensing presence. A full program is currently in the works.
With Hasbro signed on as global master toy licensee, the initial program-driving toy line will have a soft launch in the UK in spring 2015. A second wave of Furchester Hotel products, including apparel, accessories, stationery and bedding, will be released throughout the summer and fall of 2015.
While Big Bird and the cast of Sesame Street expand into China and Japan with new VOD and licensing deals, Elmo and his fuzzy relatives have a chance to carve out a new fan base in Britain. Sesame Workshop and its UK licensing agent CPLG are still seeking licensees across all categories, including publishing, home video and digital media.
“There are new characters and new play patterns, given the hotel narrative,” says Terry Fitzpatrick, chief content and distribution officer for Sesame Workshop. “We think it’s going to be a deep and rich extension of the base Sesame Street product business.”
The episodes revolve around creative problem-solving, such as what to do when the wolves staying at the Furchester howl at the moon while other guests are trying to get some needed shut-eye. “The hotel has an assortment of guests that range from animals, minerals and vegetables to the occasional human, and Elmo really is the eyes and ears of a preschooler in this wonderful new environment,” Fitzpatrick adds.
Co-produced by Sesame Workshop and CBeebies, the first of 52 x 11 minute eps aimed at three to sixes will debut this month. More broadcast partners for the BBC in-house production will be announced at MIP Junior in October. While Sesame Workshop is currently focused on the show’s UK launch, there are plans for an international rollout of The Furchester Hotel sometime in the near future.
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Kidscreen.