Notes from The World According to Sesame Street

[The World According to Sesame Street]( is an interesting movie about creating localized Sesame Street versions in other countries. It also serves as an inspirational story about the power of communication to change and start positive memes, and thereby improve the world of the children who experience it.

> Our mission at Sesame Workshop is to use media to help children reach their highest potential. (2:00)

Each localized show is a combination of unique local stories, lessons and puppetry, and translated clips from other countries to fill it out. The emphasis is on the local content, however.

> Internationalism doesn’t mean you copy the rich country. Internationalism means that you can now offer your country’s best thing to the rest of the world. (9:21)

“They say if you watch television it’s a sin and it also hurts your eyes. [Asked if he watches TV] Yes.” – Bangladeshi boy (13:30)

In Kosovo, a team member saw teaching childen to recognize hand grenades as a major opportunity for the show. (31:30) However no one on the team (both Serbs and Albanians, bitter enemies for decades) had ideas for a segment on empathy. (32:00)

Muppets come in a few different flavors: animals (usually native), “monsters” (ambiguous creatures), and humanoids (usually with non-natural skin tones–purple, green–to avoid racism). This last bit also makes many scenes easy to port to another culture and simply dub to their language.

> We thought the muppets were quintessentially American, and it turns out they’re the most international creatures ever created. (19:15)

The biggest opportunity in Bangladesh came through influencing a Minister in the government; nothing else had worked. Interesting (unfortunate?) that many (most?) places in the world are not meritocracies. Reminds me of this quote from [The Management Myth](

> I once sat through a presentation in which a consultant, a Harvard M.B.A., showed…how the client company’s “competitive advantage” could be analyzed in terms of “the five forces”…”No,” [the client] said, shaking his head with feigned chagrin. “There are only three forces in this case. And two of them are in the Finance Ministry.”