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Sesame Street’s 40th Season Offers CG-Animated Muppets
Today marks the launch of Sesame Street‘s 40th anniversary season, and the next stage in the long-running program’s edutainment domination will include a brand new segment series, Abby’s Flying Fairy School, starring fairy-in- training Abby Cadabby in all new CG animated adventures, courtesy of SpeakeasyFX.
“Until now, Sesame Street used exclusively hand-driven Muppets. We went the CG route with ‘Abby’s Flying Fairy School’ so that we could bring to life all the wonderful physical action our writers envisaged; such as underwater scenes,” explained Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer at Sesame Workshop. According to Parente the CG format will also allow Workshop to easily expand the show experience through online games on SesameStreet.org.
Fairy School follows Abby and a new gang of friends around fairy school, where they learn to solve problems using rhyme, reason and cooperation. The goal is to help preschool aged viewers learn along with Abby and develope their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
New Jersey based SpeakeasyFX used Autodesk’s Softimage to model, animate, render and composite the over 500 characters and elements in the 13 nine-minute segments they produced. Softimage’s ICE (Interactive Creative Environment) was also instrumental in generating the magical effects that bring Abby’s new CG world to life. The team’s greatest challenge was emulating to look of the live-action Muppets, which required complex fur and cloth simulations as well as innovative rigging.
“To preserve the creative vision, we decided to build our digital Muppet models as if a hand was manipulating them from inside,” said SpeakeasyFX’s executive director Scott Stewart, “This was a breakthrough modification to our workflow and was critically important in helping us find the right balance between CG and traditional Muppet performances.”
Stewart is pleased with the results his team was able to achieve with Softimage’s flexibility and the innovative thinking of SpeakeasyFX’s creative talent. He says that the clear vision of the Sesame Workshop team helped the project stay true to its Muppet roots and move forward smoothly.
“We feel fortunate to have collaborated with SpeakeasyFX on Abby’s Flying Fairy School,” Parente enthused. “They developed the digital characters with fantastic furry detail. Doing the series in CG, using Softimage software, provided the freedom to showcase different types of storytelling, while preserving what viewers of all ages love about Sesame Street.”
Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rKQUtrQsHo to view a clip of Abby’s Flying Fairy School, which debuts with Sesame Street‘s 40th anniversary season.
Street’s Star-Studded Anniversary Activities
The acclaimed children’s series will also offer a new block format, show open, nature curriculum and an appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama this season. The popular PBS daily show kicks-off ‘My World is Green & Growing,’ a two-year science initiative designed to increase positive attitudes towards nature, deepen children’s knowledge about the natural world and encourage behavior that shows respect and care for the environment. First Lady Michelle Obama appears in the first episode of the season and teaches ‘the street’s’ residents about the many benefits of planting a garden and healthy eating as part of Sesame Street‘s ongoing ‘Healthy Habits for Life’ initiative.
As preschoolers today have different viewing habits, the 40th season has been reformatted to resemble a typical broadcasting block. Murray the Monster Muppet hosts each episode from different locations linking four longer segments with fun-filled interstitials throughout the hour. The block format begins and ends with a brand new show open and close, integrating colorful chalk-art animation with the show’s Muppets, set to the re-versioned classic ‘Sunny Days.’
Both parents and their children can look forward to seeing a wide variety of celebrities appearing in the new season. The guest list includes Kobe Bryant, Greg Kinnear, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cameron Diaz, Hugh Jackman, Debra Messing, Eva Longoria, Adrian Grenier, Julianna Marguiles, Judah Freidlander, Sarah Jessica Parker, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, Jennie Garth, Paul Rudd, Ricky Gervais, Patricia Arquette, Brendan Fraser, Matthew Fox, Christina Applegate, Debi Mazar, Cedric the Entertainer, Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz and Meredith Vieira.
Also marking the show’s big Four-O is the release of a two-disc compilation titled Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days and a fully illustrated coffee-table book titled A Celebration: 40 Years of Life on the Street (Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers).
Visit Sesame Street at:
The Sesame Street YouTube Channel