Why Big Bird Looks Different in Different Countries' 'Sesame Street'

Why Big Bird Looks Different in Different Countries' 'Sesame Street'

By now, you've probably learned with varying degrees of shock that different countries' productions of Sesame Street feature different versions of Big Bird, officially his "cousins." If you haven't, well, it's a whole thing:

But why? Wouldn't it be cheaper and easier just to dub the existing episodes in different languages? Probably, but it wouldn't be better. When local productions of Sesame Street started planning to bring the early childhood education program to Latin America, they decided to keep only the "inside" segments of the American show, which could take place anywhere, but film their own "outside" scenes. According to one guy on Twitter, this is why you rarely see Big Bird and Bert in the same room, and it does seem to be true. This is Beto and Enrique of Mexico's Plaza Sesamo:

In contrast, this is Bodoque the Grouch:

(Televisa Univision)

It makes sense: Sesame Street's primary goal is educational outreach, and the extremely New York "outside" scenes of the American show are completely, well, foreign to children outside of America. By using local sets, local actors, and yes, local puppets, they can better reflect a child's local culture. Imagine how much more comfortable a child in Mexico is with this show:

It also allows them to tailor their scripts somewhat to teach children about issues that are especially important where they live. For example, the Northern Ireland production, Sesame Treefeatured an Irish hare and a "furry purple monster" who had to "overcme their cultural differences to becme friends and live together peacefully in their tree." It's unclear which of those is supposed to be the IRA, but they got their point across.

Top image: Sesame Workshop

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