Talk about your odd bedfellows. Shawn Levy, the producer of the sci-fi film Arrival and the Stranger Things TV series on Netflix, is reported to be working on a new movie based on Sesame Street, according to The Guardian. The story was released on the 47th anniversary of the famed PBS children’s show, and while Shawn Levy might seem like an odd choice for the project, stranger things have happened before.
Jim Henson’s Muppets made a return trip to the TV last fall with much fanfare after two successful movies, but The Muppets ratings declined steadily as audiences complained that the show was “too adult” for their children to watch, and it was ruining their childhood memories. According to today’s report, the untitled project was in development at 20th Century Fox but has since moved. Shawn Levy will, no doubt, have a lot of pressure to get the tone of this movie right, something that ABC (and parent company Disney) can attest is not an easy task.
“Sesame Street is at Warner Bros and we are right now working on a treatment for what I think is going to be a really imaginative and entertaining take on that beloved and decades-old global brand,” Shawn said. “The trick there is to honor these characters that are beloved, but in a movie that feels entertaining for the kids who we might bring to the movie – and humorous for those parents who bring their kids. It’s early – we’re still at the treatment stage, but very bullish on that.”
Levy’s will not be the first movie based on the famous street gang. In 1985, many of the TV cast members (and a bunch of Muppets who had only been featured on the Sesame Street show) became movie stars for the first time in Follow That Bird with a story that centered around the adventures of Big Bird trying to make his way back home. Then in 1999, the ever-popular Elmo got to star in his own adventure, Elmo in Grouchland, where the fuzzy red one wound up in a land full of blanket-stealing Grouches.
The public was invited to visit the streets of Sesame on this day in 1969, where man and Muppet of every color lived together in harmony even if the real world didn’t. The show went beyond the ABC’s and 123’s. It attempted to expose children to other cultures in their own country. Children in suburbia learned what life was like in the big city, and those in the city learned what life was like out on the farm, and so on.
By Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary in 2009, the show had been seen in more than 140 countries, and as of 2014, the show had won 167 Emmy Awards and eight Grammy Awards, which is more than any other children’s show.
But things have been difficult on those same streets in recent years. Due to budget cuts, the number of new Sesame Street episodes filmed had to be cut considerably. Then in January of this year, the show’s length was cut from an hour to 30 minutes and was moved from its PBS home to the premium channel, HBO. Months later, rumors began to spread that three of the Sesame Street veteran actors, Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado, and Roscoe Orman, had been dropped from the show. However, according to Sesame Workshop CEO, Jeff Dunn, that was just a misunderstanding.
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“We apologize for the misunderstandings around the changing cast roles at Sesame Street,” Dunn wrote. “Over more than 40 seasons, Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado and Roscoe Orman have made enormous contributions to both television and to the lives of preschoolers. They are, and always will be, a key part of the Sesame family.”
Today’s movie news comes just days after Jazz harmonica legend, Toots Thielemans, who created the Sesame Street theme song, passed away at the age of 94, so perhaps the show could use a much-needed boost from Mr. Levy.
[Featured image by Fabian Bimmer/AP Images]