Quick facts for kidsSesame Tree
(left to right) Potto, Aunt Claribelle and Hilda the Irish Hare.
|Theme music composer
|Country of origin
|No. of seasons
|No. of episodes
BBC Northern Ireland
||5 April 2008
– 28 January 2011|
||The Furchester Hotel
Sesame Tree is an adaptation of the American children's television series, Sesame Street, which was made entirely in Northern Ireland. The series was produced by Belfast based production company, Sixteen South and Sesame Workshop. The first episode aired on BBC Two in Northern Ireland on 5 April 2008, with the first series subsequently airing nationwide on CBeebies in August 2008.
A second series was launched in November 2010, and broadcast on CBeebies and BBC Two from 22 November 2010.
The project has been under consideration since 2004; in Sesame Workshop's presentation on their international projects, Northern Ireland was listed as a goal, with the intent of ‘building the Sesame model for respect and understanding curriculum across the sectarian divide."
In January 2006, The American Ireland Fund provided support to realise the project. Additional funding was secured from the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) and the Northern Ireland Fund for Reconciliation. Funding for the second series is provided by IFI and Northern Ireland Screen.
The initial series of Sesame Tree comprised twenty seventeen minute programmes, aimed at an audience of 3 to 6 year olds. Following a format similar to that of The Hoobs, it is composed of original puppet segments featuring Muppets created specifically for the series, local mini documentaries depicting a child's eye view of life in Northern Ireland, and classic Muppet segments from the library of Sesame Street.
The common area of the programme is the "Sesame Tree" – a hollow tree where children can ask questions and have them answered; the Sesame Tree is the programme's analogue to the street in the original Sesame Street programme. The residents of the Tree are Potto; Hilda and Archie, a new arrival for the second series.
All the characters were developed by Sesame Workshop and Sixteen South, and the Muppets for the series were built by The Jim Henson Company in New York, who worked with exclusively local writers and Muppet Performers. Martin P. Robinson assisted in auditioning and training local performers, who include Lesa Gillespie, Paul Currie, Michael McNulty, Mike Smith, Helen Sloan and Alana Kerr.
The Northern Irish science fiction writer, Ian McDonald, has contributed scripts to the series, along with local writing trio Kieran Doherty, Danny Nash and Ian Nugent. Each of these four writers has written five episodes each, comprising the full twenty episodes of the first series.
Speaking at the launch of Sesame Tree’s second series, Executive Producer Colin Williams said of Sesame Tree: "The programme continues to show contemporary life here in Northern Ireland and addresses issues such as respecting differences, sharing and dealing with new experiences such as going to school for the first time – things that are really important for young children not just in Northern Ireland but everywhere."
Dr. Charlotte Cole, Senior Vice President, Global Education for Sesame Workshop, said of the programme: "...we have worked in collaboration with [experts in] Northern Ireland, to create resources which focus on social inclusion, encouraging children to develop as individuals and as members of the larger community. We believe that Sesame Tree will have a long term, positive impact on how today’s young children perceive the world around them and their own potential role in that world."
The production also coincides with Tar ag Spraoi Sesame, an Irish dubbed package of Play With Me Sesame, airing on TG4 in Ireland. The title and background music for the programme was composed by artist of Northern Ireland, Duke Special.
- Potto (performed by Paul Currie) – The main character of the series. He is a book loving monster inventor who likes to "potter" around the devices. Potto is best friends with Hilda the Hare and is the cousin of Telly Monster. His puppet is the same AM Monster design that was used for Humphrey from Sesame Street.
- Hilda (performed by Lesa Gillespie) – An Irish Hare who is best friends with Potto.
- Claribelle (performed by Alana Kerr) – A bespectacled, red Muppet bird.
- Samson and Goliath – A bunch of Bookworms that live amongst Potto's books.
- Weatherberries – A bunch of singing fruit. They announce the weather whenever Hilda asks what the weather will be like that day.
- Archie (performed by Mike Smith) – A bespectacled red squirrel who loves math. He was introduced in Season 2.
- The Bookworms Move House
- Food for Thought
- Booga Granny Hare!
- The Share Necessities
- Big Hare Day
- Finders Keepers
- A Present for Claribelle
- CSI Sesame Tree
- Beezer Broccoli Birthday Cake
- Arty Party
- Turn and Turn About
- Practice Makes Perfect
- Potto's Really Rockin' Pocket Shoes
- One Wee Minute
- Hilda's Two Birthdays
- Same Difference
- Potto's Perfect Picnic
- Sad Hare Blues
- The Goldfish Tree
- A Very Special Visitor
- Hilda's Beezer Buddies
- Best of Furry Friends
- Let's Have a Party
- Run Potto Run
- Out of Tune
- Super Squirrel's Super Glasses
- Potto's Heard of Cows
- Potto's Movie Mania (Elmgrove Primary School)
- Squirrel's Day
- It's Not Me It's You
- Potto's Never Ending Story
- Pizza Perfection
- Scaredy Squirrel
- The Trying Game
- Promises, Promises
- Squirrel School
- The Big Sleepover
- Yes We Can
- Potto's Big Day Out
- Paul Currie – Potto
- Lesa Gillespie – Hilda
- Alana Kerr – Maisie the Weatherberry, Goliath the Bookworm (Series 1), Claribelle (Series 2)
- Sarah Lyle – Samson the Bookworm, Weatherberries
- Michael McNulty – Weatherberries, Potto (Right Arm)
- Helen Sloan – Claribelle, Weatherberries (Series 1)
- Mike Smith – Archie