When in doubt, send in the clowns. Or, the Muppets. The Arab world is set to get its own version of Sesame Street for the first time in 25 years after a new local language version of the family favorite was commissioned by Bidaya Media, which is in turn sponsored by Abu Dhabi investment arm Mubadala along with creative hub twofour54.
Bidaya has been working closely with the Sesame Street workshop to provide technical, educational and creative oversight for the program, named Iftah Ya Simsim, the Arabic or Open Sesame. The new program goes live today on Abu Dhabi TV. The first season of Iftah Ya Simsim will include 28 episodes with more than 28 new and original songs, 28 live action segments, and 28 new animated stories along with the Muppets in their Iftah Ya Simsim neighborhood.
“twofour54 is very proud to be playing a role in the return of Iftah Ya Simsim to the region. Iftah Ya Simsim is a superb example of the quality of content that can be delivered by the media ecosystem we have built, and continue to build, here in Abu Dhabi,” said twofour54 chief exec Noura Al-Kaabi. “Our comprehensive infrastructure of studios, post-production facilities and production services, professional local talent, and network of media companies streamlined the completion of Iftah Ya Simsim, making it possible to complete the project in just one location – Abu Dhabi.”
“We are excited about what we have accomplished so far having teamed up with Bidaya and Mubadala to make it happen,” added Steve Youngwood, COO of Sesame Workshop. “We wanted to create something that reflects the local culture and values of the region and we found that here in Abu Dhabi.”
Multi-media platform twofour54 has been trying hard to turn Abu Dhabi into a creative media hub. This has been a banner year across the board for Abu Dhabi from both an inward investment and production point of view. Abu Dhabi execs scored two major coups by attracting both Furious 7 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens to shoot in the desert-set metropolis.
Image Nation Abu Dhabi is also resurgent, with two new projects announced at Cannes— The Circle starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson and Arabic-language sci-fi The Worthy teaming Emirati filmmaker Ali Mostafa with genre vets Peter Safran (The Conjuring) and Steve Schneider (Paranormal Activity)— that sum up its reinvigorated ambition. Image Nation also has the feature-length documentary He Named Me Malala, about Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner, world premiering in Toronto. Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim directed the film, which Participant co-financed. The project was brought to Image Nation by long-standing partner Parkes/Macdonald, who also brought in The Circle. Image Nation will also roll out much-buzzed-about Emirati filmmaker Majid Al Ansari’s Zinzana later this year.
As for Iftah Ya Simsim, the good-natured hijinks of the likes of Bert and Ernie- or Badeer and Anees as they’re known in the local version- might be just the fillip for a region going through a particularly troubled time politically.