Die Sendung mit der Maus
|Die Sendung mit der Maus|
The mouse, mascot of the show
|Created by||Dieter Saldecki
Gert Kaspar Müntefering
|Presented by||Armin Maiwald
|Theme music composer||Hans Posegga|
|Country of origin||Germany|
|No. of seasons||13|
|No. of episodes||520|
|Producer(s)||WDR, RBB, SR, SWR|
|Running time||30 min.|
|Original network||Das Erste|
|Original release||March 7, 1971 – present|
Die Sendung mit der Maus (The Program with the Mouse) is a highly acclaimed children's series on German television that has been called "the school of the nation". The show first aired on March 7, 1971. Originally called Lach- und Sachgeschichten für Fernsehanfänger ("Laughing and Learning Stories for Television Beginners), it was controversial because German law prohibited television for children under six years of age. The program was initially condemned by teachers and childcare professionals as bad for children's development, but is now hailed for its ability to convey information to children. The show has received over 75 awards. The first doctoral dissertation on the program was written in 1991. On March 7, 1999, the program's Internet site was launched and received 2,400 e-mails and 4 million hits on the first day.
Aimed at young children, the program has a magazine format, with several segments, some humorous, others educational presented in a simple, straightforward manner. Many of the show's early viewers are now adults whose children are forming the second generation of viewers. It is not uncommon for children to watch the program with their parents or for children to stop watching around the age of 10 or 12 and then come back at the age of 18. The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag found that although the target age was from about four to eight, the average age of viewers was 39.
Each show consists of several segments, the Lachgeschichten purely to amuse, and the Sachgeschichten ("non-fiction stories"), short educational features on a variety of topics, such as what must be done before a plane can take off or how holes get into Swiss cheese or the stripes into toothpaste. These are punctuated by a short cartoon with the mouse, often with one or more of its friends.
The show starts with its theme music, unchanged since 1971 and recognised throughout the German population. The introduction consists of a few bars of the theme and a German voice-over describing the topics in that week's show. The voice-over is then repeated in a foreign language. Initially, Turkish, Spanish and Italian were used, in order to include the children of foreign guest workers, but now, other languages are used as well. The foreign language changes every week. After the theme music ends, the foreign language is identified.
Between the show's segments are "mouse spots", hand-drawn cartoons of 30 to 100 seconds that feature the orange mouse and its friends, a small blue elephant and a yellow duck. None of the characters speak. Rather, sound effects and music comprise the soundtrack as the characters interact and solve problems. The animated interludes serve to separate the segments, offering young viewers a moment to relax, avoiding sensory overload from too rapid a succession of input.
Educational film shorts
The idea for the educational film shorts came from one of the founders of the series, who noticed that children were very aware of the advertising on television. They were very well-made with very good photography and he got the idea to make "commercials" about reality. The first production answered the question, "Where do hard rolls come from?" Some 400 letters a week arrive at the production office, and a large part of each show is used for such features, often answering questions asked by viewers. Segments have covered such topics as:
- How re-usable hand warmers work
- How the Internet works
- How a hot-air balloon flies
- How to make electricity from lemons, enough to light a light bulb
- How a cell phone works
- How solar cells work
A stuffed toy "Mouse" flew into outer space and was a "guest" on board the Russian Mir space station, where it appeared in an educational segment. The stuffed toy was later brought back to the producers on earth.
A number of the educational segments have also dealt with difficult topics, such as life in Germany in the aftermath of World War II, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and death. Care is taken to explain things in a way that is comprehensible to young children. Analogies are used to explain concepts, and often everyday items already known to most children are used to illustrate. For example, a segment on the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest was produced using Playmobil figures to represent the three Roman legions involved, a total of 16,500 soldiers. Wanting to convey how large a force that was, the program purchased 16,500 Playmobil toy figures and dressed them up as Roman soldiers, lining them up into columns as they would have appeared in real life. The columns of toy soldiers took up 200 meters. These toy Roman legions are now housed in three museums in different parts of Germany.
A segment on the internet shows messengers running through the hallways of a large building, delivering messages in envelopes (data packets) from the user to servers and back. The hallways represent the data lines and the offices were internet hosts. In just eight minutes, the program accurately describes how the internet functions in a manner simple enough for children to understand. In the case of industrially produced things, each step is shown in great detail, so one can actually see how, for example, a piece of metal is formed by a tool. If something happens too fast for the naked eye it is shown filmed in slow motion. After each step, usually the previous steps including the new one are recapped briefly to help children remember what they already saw. Concepts which are not visible at all are explained with some form of analogous portrayal.
Accordingly, the language used in the narration is kept very simple. The segments are usually narrated by an off-camera voice. Sentences are short. "Big words" are not used, and difficult concepts are broken down and described while they are being shown on camera. This is designed to free children from the more abstract concepts and devices of language, thus giving their minds space to comprehend the concepts explained rather than having to struggle comprehending the language of the explanation. Nonetheless, the educational film shorts are such effective presentations of their subject matter, a number of them are used as teaching tools at universities and colleges.
As the last part of every show, Käpt'n Blaubär (Captain Bluebear) tells his pink, green, and yellow grandchildren a cock-and-bull story, which his grandchildren always doubt to be true. His sailor side-kick, Hein Blöd, a rat, was created as a buffoon, a device that allows freedom for his character to express things other characters cannot. The characters of Käpt'n Blaubär, his grandchildren, and Hein Blöd were created by Walter Moers and made popular by Moers' book, The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear and Blaubär's appearance on Die Sendung mit der Maus. Käpt'n Blaubär is voiced by veteran German actor Wolfgang Völz, with deep timbre and an accent of the Low German common in coastal area of Germany. The scenes on board Blaubär's ship are made with Muppets-style puppets, while his stories are short animated films.
Shaun das Schaf
Käpt'n Blaubär is sometimes replaced or complemented by the stop-action animation, Shaun the Sheep ("Shaun das Schaf"), and one episode of The Mouse featured a visit to Aardman Animations, showing how Shaun is produced. This educational film short, broken up into segments because of its complexity and length, showed the various stages of production and the amount of work required to create a single episode of Shaun. The episode of Shaun seen in production was then broadcast in its finished state at the end of that Mouse.
Die Sendung mit der Maus and its creators continue to receive high praise from both television critics and pedagogic experts. The most notable of the roughly 75 awards won by the show and its creators are:
- 1973 Golden Bambi
- 1985 Ernst Schneider Award
- 1988 Adolf Grimme Award in Gold
- 1993 Deutscher Fernsehpreis, special prize
- 1995 Bayerischer Fernsehpreis awarded for the special Postwar Mouse (Armin Maiwald)
- 1995 Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Armin Maiwald and Christoph Biemann
- 1996 Goldene Kamera
- 2002 Ernst Schneider Award
- 2005 Georg von Holtzbrinck Prize for Science Journalism
- 2006 IQ Award
The program is today seen in almost 100 countries.
In countries outside of Germany that carry the English-dubbed version of the show, Die Sendung mit der Maus airs under the title of Mouse TV. The program retains much of its original format, but the dialogue and narration have been dubbed into English. The English version was created in Australia and has been aired on the following networks:
To encourage French children to learn German and vice versa, the program began airing on arte, a Franco-German television channel, on Sunday mornings beginning October 9, 2005. In Germany, the show is dubbed into French and in each country, subtitles appear in the local language. In French, the program is called La souris souriante (The smiling mouse). In El Salvador, the show aired in Spanish as El cajón de los juguetes (The toy chest).
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