Sesamstraat ['seːsɑmstraːt] is a children's television show in the Netherlands, spin off the popular U.S. children's program Sesame Street. In its early days the show was broadcast in Flanders (Belgium) as well. It is the second longest running foreign adaptation of Sesame Street without interruptions, behind only Sesamstraße.
A blue Big Bird-like character, approx. age 4-years-old, a relative of Big Bird. He is always cheerful and eager to learn new things. He is a little younger than his friends Tommie and Ieniemienie, and sometimes he has a little trouble keeping up with them. Being the second youngest, he likes to play with Purk. He is best known for his funny laugh and his catchphrase "Echt waar?!" ("Really?!") He is also very sensitive and has been on the show since the beginning.
Pino has had many different performers through the years, including Dirk Grijspeirt (1976), Theo Joling (1977), Bert Plagman (1979), Erik J. Meijer (1980) and Leo Dijkgraaf (1984). In 1991, Renée Menschaar started performing Pino, and she has been his regular performer ever since. She is the first woman to play Pino, who has always remained a boy character.
Tommie is six years old. He is clever, energetic and creative. Tommie can write a few words, including his own name, which he is very proud of. He is famous for his own made up exclamations, like "Poe hee!" (approximately pronounced as: pooh hey) and "Hatseflats!". In the 2005/2006 season, Tommie got his own racing car.
Tommie has been around since the beginning in 1976. The first Tommie puppet was made by producer Ton Hasebos from an old fur coat. He was a teddy bear-like creature that walked on fours. Through the years he evolved from a 'teddy bear' kind of creature to a more doglike animal. Tommie's recent look, which was introduced in 1981, was designed by the Jim Henson company. The recently refurbished Tommie has a lot more fur in his face.
Like Pino, Tommie has had a few different performers, including Stef van der Linden in 1976 and Martin Pragt in 1978. In 1979, Bert Plagman became Tommie's performer, after sharing the part with Martin. Renée Menschaar (Pino's performer) and Judith Broersen (Purk's performer) both started their Sesamstraat careers as Tommie's right hand. Nowadays, Daphne Zandberg performs Tommie's right hand.
Representing the psychological age of a six-year-old, Ieniemienie is the oldest of the group. She is very clever and smart-alecky, and sometimes she tends to be a little bossy. Her best friend is Tommie. Being the smallest person on Sesamstraat, she often hangs out with Pino. Ienie is famous for her giggle, as well as her signature movements like scrunching her nose when she's angry or raising her shoulders when she's confused.
Ieniemienie was introduced in 1980. She started out as a mouse who lived in a hole and was often searching for cheese. Through the years, when female emancipation wasn't as much as an issue on the street, her personality became more childlike and girlish.
The puppet has been refurbished a few times, but without drastic changes; except for the 1996 anniversary special, in which Ieniemienie's legs were shown for the first time, during a stiltwalking scene.
Troel is a fluffy white girl poodle. She is very feminine and a little naïve, and she speaks in a high-pitched voice. Her best friend is Tommie.
Troel was introduced during the second season in 1977 as the first girl Muppet to star with Tommie and Pino. She was designed to look like a girl version of Tommie.
Troel was performed by Marijke Boon.
Even though the viewers had no problems with her, the producers found her too feminine for a show that dealt with female emancipation, so she disappeared after a year. A newspaper article mentions another reason for her disappearance: her performer didn't get paid as much as the male performers.
Troel was replaced by Ieniemienie a couple of years later.
The Dutch word "Troel" means "dear" or "sweetheart" in a more informal, sometimes even negative way.
Purk is a baby piglet. She wears a diaper and a little bow in her ear. She is clumsy and messy and loves to get herself dirty. She is still learning how to talk, and she can't walk yet. She's taken care of by everyone on Sesamstraat. Everybody loves Purk.
Introduced in 2003, Purk is the newest of the Muppet characters, and she's very popular. She was created in order to introduce the subject of "a younger child in the family". It took three years for Sesame Workshop to approve the character: they felt that Purk should not be too fat due to the issue of obesity. The actual puppet was based on a drawing by Sesamstraat actor and mime artist Hakim Traïda.
Purk debuted in a Sesamstraat "Sinterklaas" special as a surprise. In the special, Tommie runs away from Sesamstraat, after the adults gave his stuffed crocodile to Purk. Before the taping of the special, Sesamstraat organised a press convention about Purk's 'birth', hosted by Tommie and Ieniemienie. Purk came falling out of the sky.
Humans in Sesamstraat
- Buurman Baasje, a cranky neighbour from the Maanzaadstraat (Poppy Seed Street), hating being disturbed by the people (and especially the Muppets) of Sesamstraat. His (nick)name means literally "Neighbour Bossy", being so called because in his first episode (in 2003) he encountered Tommie with the word "baasje". Since then everyone calls him like that, although his real name is Drommels. He is played by Martin van Waardenberg. He is the program's equivalent of Oscar the Grouch.
- Elvan (Elvan Akyıldız) was introduced in 1995, taking over the role of a teenage character from Lot.
- Frank (Frank Groothof) joined in 1983, in the role of a naughty young guy. Later he became more a kind of funny uncle towards the children.
- Gerda, (Gerda Havertong), joined in 1984, as a nice aunt. Since 1997 Gerda became a less seen character, while the actress Gerda Havertong took up the role of Gerda's sister Peetje, a funny Surinamese lady who is always using naughty tricks on everyone.
- Hakim (Hakim Traïda) joined in 1984. He is an often silent mime character, often in his own inserts. In his first episodes he never talked, but later he was more seen in stories in the street and spoke more.
- Lot (Lot Lohr) joined in 1988, taking over the role of a teenage character (often referred as "Lotje" by meneer Aart). Since 1995 she is more in the role of a working mother, often seen behind a laptop.
- Lex (Lex Goudsmit), a grandpa figure. He died in 1999.
- Meneer Aart (Aart Staartjes) debuted in 1984. The idea was introducing a "snake in the paradise". Meneer Aart demanded to be called "Meneer Aart" (Mr. Aart). Although very clumsy, he saw himself as the most important man of the street. He was mostly grumbling at the muppet characters. Since the death of Lex, Aart has sometimes taken up the role of a grandpa. Just like the other characters he doesn't like Buurman Baasje. He always calls Pino "Piño".
- Paula (Paula Sleijp) joined in 1982. Her role is some kind of grandma, but since 1996 in a more stern way. In the 1990s Paula Sleijp also played the character of the Baroness, a silly and dumb lady with a French accent. After 28 years, she left the show in 2010.
- Rik (Rik Hoogendoorn) debuted in 1993 as Mr. Aart's nephew (although he never calls Aart his uncle). Rik is a clumsy young man, trying to do silly inventions, which often do not work. He is also a thick man, who enjoys eating and hates sports. He left the cast in 2007.
- Sien (Sien Diels) was already in the first episode in 1976. She runs a store. In the first seasons she was often wearing overalls and using tools, because of the focus on female emancipation.
History of the show
After a pilot episode entitled Sesamplein (Sesame Square), Sesamstraat began broadcasting in 1976. It started as a Dutch/Belgian coproduction, with only one thirty-minute episode a week. These episodes had only 12 minutes allotted for the Dutch cast. At this time there were only two Muppets and three live actors, Piet Hendriks, Sien Diels, and Annet van Heusden. Piet, who owned a hobby and crafts workshop and a camper which he would drive around The Netherlands and Belgium for live trips. Sien, who owned a grocery store, where the exchange of knowledge and happenings were as important as the selling of products. And Annet, who played a kindergarten teacher. In 1978, Sesamstraat's format changed to a daily 15 minute show that aired in the evening, around dinnertime. Starting in September 2006, Sesamstraat expanded to 30 minutes and airs three times a day. The first season was shot on location in a half Dutch, half Belgian town. It was broadcast every Sunday for a half-hour in the afternoon. For the second season, a realistic town square was built inside the studio, which slowly evolved into a more abstracted, colourful town, featuring Pino's nest, Sien's store, a workshop, two houses, an apartment building, a trailer and a treehouse. The insides of the house sets could be decorated in different ways, so that the viewers would never be certain about who lived where.
For the 2005/2006 season, Sesamstraat moved into new scenery. The set became completely abstract, with toy block-like buildings, broccoli for trees, and a tower with a giant light-up clock. The scenery was introduced with a TV special. Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, and Elmo flew over to Holland for this special occasion. It was the first time the American characters visited the Dutch street.
Other special Sesamstraat episodes include the 2500th episode, and a yearly special episode focused on Sinterklaas. The 25th Anniversary series in which Dutch celebrities made guest appearances on the street. On January 7th, 2000, Prime Minister Wim Kok read the daily story "Er staat een olifantje in het gras..." (There is a little elephant standing in the grass) for the Muppet residence before they went to sleep. Wim Kok is one of the many prominent guests who read a story to them. (Normally this was done by Frank, Gerda or Paula). Other celebrities that have made guest appearances are: Freek de Jonge (Comedian), Ruud Gullit (Professional soccer player), André van Duin (Comedian), Mary Dresselhuys (Actress), Hans Dagelet (Actor), Kees van Kooten (Writer), Brigitte Kaandorp (Comedian), Sonja Barend (Show host) and Janine Kastelijn (Youth Winner for Reading in 2000).
In 1992, a 30 minute film, Sesamstraat en Melkweg, was produced for the Artis Zoo Planetarium in Amsterdam.
In 2005 the show saw some schedule trouble. The government decided to halt the funding and broadcasts of NPS. After this news, a large protest from all of the programs and actors was held on September 5, 2005 in Den Haag (The Hague), including characters from Sesamstraat. Since the show had just moved into the new set, Pino loudly expressed himself by saying, "NPS must stay! We just moved and I don't feel like packing my toy pets again". With these words, the big Sesamstraat-bird showed what he thought about the government and the public network's plans. At "het Plein" in Den Haag, Pino and comedian/TV host Jörgen Raymann presented 93,000 signatures supporting NPS to the cabinet representatives. During the day, several NPS artists protested on two stages. Among them were Wieteke van Dort (Klokhuis), the band Relax and from Metropole Orkest's "The Bigband". This protest was also featured on television with an interview done by Aart Staartjes, with Bert and Ernie.
The final debate took place on September 12th, 2005 in the Tweede Kamer. It was decided that NPS could continue making programs, but it had to make a several changes to fit into modern television. A new broadcast schedule was put in place, which meant that Tommie, Pino, Ieniemienie and all the other characters on Sesamstraat had to move to a new time… again! This was the fourth time that the broadcast time for the NPS children’s program had changed in the previous five years.
Not only did Sesamstraat move broadcast times, but channels as well. It moved from Nederland 3 to Nederland 1. A spokesman said they weren’t happy about the change. "It's positive for Sesamstraat to move to Nederland 1 (the expanded family network). But we can't deny the problems all this shifting causes. With every shift we're losing viewers."
In 2008, the show got 15 minutes of extra broadcast time a day. This meant there was room for two more Muppets. Angsthaas and Stuntkip were introduced.
In 2009, the show saw more schedule trouble. Because NPS wanted to make some trail shows regarding a multi-cultural show, it was decided to move Sesamstraat from 17:30h to 17:00h. The program makers and many fans protested against the time change. It was even brought before parliament, but was thrown out because the government may not get involved in decisions of the NPS Board of Directors. This was the fifth time in just a few years that the show had moved times. This was a controversial change, opponents argued that many children in the Netherlands have two working parents, and that they wouldn't at home at this time of day to watch the show.
That October brought a new segment for the show. Several famous Dutch singers perform duets with the Sesamstraat characters Pino, Tommie, Ieniemienie and Purk. All songs were written by Henny Vrienten. The segments air every Friday starting October 30, 2009. Among the artists are Trijntje Oosterhuis, André van Duin, Edsilia Rombley, Ernst Daniël Smid, Hind, Guus Meeuwis, Huub van der Lubbe and Willeke Alberti.
All the duets were broadcast again in a special on December 25 and 28.
For Sesamstaat, Rubotoys is a licensor since February 2005.
- Hellen Huisman (female voiceovers for Sesamstraat, including Prairie Dawn)
- Wim T. Schippers (voiceovers, most notably Kermit the Frog and Ernie)
- Paul Haenen (voiceovers, most notably Grover and Bert)
- Fabeltjeskrant (another Dutch children's television series featuring puppetry)
- Dutch Sesamstraat website
- English Sesamstraat website and international versions too
- Sesamstraat on the Muppet Wiki, an external wiki