On Friday, May 6, Sesame Workshop debuted a new YouTube channel, Sesame Studios. Sesame Studios features engaging, educational content for kids in a digital platform. Lawyerherald.com described it as “a trendy addition to the assemblage, taking classic elements from the 46-year history of Sesame Street & modernizing them through internet presentation.” KeraNews.com summed up the content of the channel as, “a new wave of digital characters, segments and songs.” Mashable.com’s headline read, “A YouTube Channel with no Elmo.”
That’s right – Sesame Studios’ videos do not include any of the familiar Muppet characters. You’re probably thinking, “A Sesame Workshop YouTube channel without Muppets?! What would that even look like?” Well, here is a brief breakdown based on the channel’s 6-day history:
A new group of characters will be introduced.
Marvie, a digital gumdrop-shaped puppet with fantastic fuchsia hair, will serve as host. She will be introducing new videos and playlists, as well as encouraging children to interact with the content. She encourages the children to share their creativity by having their parents post in the “comments” section of her videos, or by posting artwork to Sesame Studios’ Twitter (@sesamestudios) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sesamestudios/) pages. Marvie is very creative herself, as she shares drawings, poems, and dance moves with the viewers.
Sesame Studios will feature original digital short videos ranging in length from 30 seconds to 5 minutes each.
Videos on the new YouTube channel will focus on such curriculum areas as literacy, health, and social-emotional development. Three new videos will be added each week. Content will include live-action nursery rhymes, films on animals, animated songs and new digital series. Among these new series will be The Totems, Scribble Tales, and Words with Puffballs.
It seems that Sesame Workshop is looking to continue the vision that Joan Ganz Cooney expressed at the beginning of Sesame Street‘s run: “It’s not whether kids are learning from television, but what they are learning.” In this case, something like “digital media platforms” can be used in place of the word “television”, and the statement still holds true when quality educational content is involved. The videos that have been uploaded to the channel are teaching kids about self-expression, caring for people and animals, hygiene, and diversity in families.
Steve Youngwood, COO of Sesame Workshop, also sees the comparison, having described Sesame Street as “the original disrupter in kids’ media.”
According to Sesame Workshop, “Sesame Studios represents another new frontier for us; one where we can bring our educational expertise to an emerging platform for our audiences.” Over the last 46 years, Sesame Workshop has proven that they are a company that is not afraid to change with the times. Malik Ducard, Global Head of Family and Learning at YouTube, agrees: “For nearly half a century, Sesame Workshop has enriched the lives of children while embracing the evolving media landscape — whether it was TV in the 1970s or digital today.”
Even in the midst of this modernizing and digitizing, however, Sesame Workshop has not wavered from its educational focus. Kay Wilson, Sesame Workshop Sr. VP of Creative Development, said, “Our goal is what it’s always been: to engage children with compelling, meaningful content…We want new content, new characters and new creative…We look at this as being a whole new crop of Creative talent. Kids who love Sesame Street are going to love Sesame Studios, and others will find that it is different and fresh.”
What has been uploaded to the channel so far?
As of this writing, only eight original videos have been uploaded. The viewer may wish to choose “Welcome to Sesame Studios” as a starting point. This video is a minute-and-a-half mash-up of what viewers can expect from the channel.
Also of importance is the new Sesame Studios theme song, a tangible example of Sesame Workshop’s mix of progressive education and traditional Sesame methodology. The song, which was written and performed by Todrick Hall, includes modern references such as “clicking on videos,” while also containing lyrics that pay homage to the original Sesame Street theme (“sunny days” and “chase the clouds away”).
Link to video: https://youtu.be/eEukgdHTLtI?list=PLkon_sSMyfKZo4dHa7J9Vh45hndU0nZPg
Three videos feature our host, Marvie, and each reveals a little more of her personality and interests. There is also a lively animation about brushing your teeth, set to a catchy techno dance number (I thought that the disco ball inside the mouth was a nice touch).
Of the original series, “The Totems” is the only series which has had videos uploaded thus far. The Totems are peg-shaped creatures. They remind me of Russian nesting dolls, except that they stack on top of one another (as seen in the “Totem Families” video). The upbeat, positive songs and very bright, vibrant background colors were highlights. Additionally, several animated details stood out: the fishbowl was egg-shaped, the dog is square and skinny instead of round or fat, and in one scene when a pet falls out of a tree, the leaves not only fly up off the tree but also off of the ground when the animal lands. Thus far, “The Totems” seems to be a series with a general theme of acceptance and loving and caring for one another.
There are also two playlists on the site which feature content which weren’t produced by Sesame Studios. The dozen videos on the “Sesame Street Favorites” list range from classic animations to a “Number Baker film” to Stevie Wonder singing on the Street. The list is comprised of material from Sesame Street‘s first seasons such as “Ladybugs’ Picnic” and “King of 8”, as well as more contemporary videos like “OK Go – Three Primary Colors”.
The “YouTube Favorites” list currently features 9 videos with content by KidPresident, StoryBots, HISHE Kids, BASHO & FRIENDS, FredBot, and others. (Content on this playlist was originally uploaded anywhere from 1 month to 5 years ago.) Wilson Stallings mentioned in an interview that Sesame Workshop’s creative team have been searching for people who have a fresh approach to children’s media but who have not yet found a platform on which to showcase their work. This “YouTube Favorites” playlist seems to bring her approach to mind.
I think the Sesame Studios logo is visually very attention-grabbing, if not a little overwhelming at first encounter. I find the YouTube page to be very well organized (which is to be expected of something produced by Sesame Workshop). I think the nod to classic Sesame Street clips is a fitting way to remind viewers that Sesame Workshop is staying true to the educational roots of the TV show (plus, it keeps the two channels connected, considering that Sesame Street‘s YouTube page will contain a playlist of Sesame Studios’ videos). Perhaps the classic clips will also be a way for parents to better connect with the channel, as they are able to rediscover bits from the Sesame Street of their youth.
At this point in time I find the “YouTube Favorites” playlist the most intriguing portion of the channel. Its exact purpose and potential currently seem somewhat unrealized. It will be interesting to see whether it will indeed develop into a gateway for Sesame Studios to discover collaborators, or whether it will just be a resource for more quality educational children’s videos.