The people behind “Sesame Street” are gearing up to offer a new kind of babysitting service.
Sesame Workshop is slated to begin production on “Esme & Roy,” a new animated series about a young girl and her monster pal who help take care of all kinds of interesting creatures when their regular guardians need aid. The show is the first launch of an animated program from the educational non-profit since “Dragon Tales” and “Pinky Dinky Doo” were released last decade, and is could potentially appear on HBO in the U.S. in the spring of 2018
“We are looking to expand the type of content we make and where we meet our viewers,” said Steve Youngwood, chief operating officer of Sesame Workshop, in an interview. The company, which in 2015 agreed to make its best-known program available first to HBO subscribers, has worked to overcome financial difficulties that threatened the very existence of Grover, Elmo and Big Bird. Now, said Youngwood, Sesame Workshop is looking to expand through partnerships with companies like HBO, YouTube, and even its old stomping grounds, PBS, which continues to show past and current “Sesame” episodes.
“We are a small company with big ambitions,” he said.
Sesame Workshop will develop 52 11-minute episodes of “Esme & Roy” – the equivalent of 26 half-hours for U.S. TV. The new series will be produced with Canadian animation studio Nelvana and is created by kids’ TV veterans Dustin Ferrer and Amy Steinberg. The series will also debut on Corus’s Treehouse in Canada and be available for additional international distribution in 2018.
In episodes illustrated by renowned illustrator Dankerleroux, the two friends demonstrate an impressive skill – the ability to take care of monsters. The goal of the series, said Yougwood, is to encourage kids to practice “mindfulness,” or develop the self-regulation skills necessary to help a developing mind focus on a problem at hand. “Our latest research shows that emotional intelligence or mindfulness, is a key enabler of getting kids to learn,” he said.
Curriculum was at motivating factor behind “Esme and Roy,” said the executive. Sesame Workshop has long used research to determine what “gaps” exist between subjects that young people need to know about and programs that actively teach those topics. He said his production team had examined nearly 70 ideas before narrowing them down to a dozen and then choosing the “Esme & Roy” concept
Under the pact developed with HBO for “Sesame Street,” the Workshop was to develop a new original educational series for TV as well as a spin-off series featuring a “Sesame Street Muppet” to be named at a later date. Those plans continue, said Youngwood.