Reading the literature on Big Bird's job prospects
TO THE NAKED EYE, IT MAY APPEAR THAT: In last night's presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney said he would consider cutting federal funding for PBS, which could put Sesame Street's beloved yellow puppet Big Bird out of a job. And that would, as Romney admitted, be kind of a bummer.
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BUT ACCORDING TO SOME EXPERTS WHO ARE REALLY INTERESTED IN BIG BIRD: Big Bird himself is already an endangered species. In 1990, when there were just 13 foreign-language versions of Sesame Street, Sesame Workshop producer Gregory J. Gettas wrote in an Educational Technology Research and Development article called "The Globalization of 'Sesame Street': A Producer's Perspective" that Big Bird was sometimes replaced in international versions of Sesame Street by a character with more local appeal.
For example, rather than the character of "Big Bird," the star of the American version of Sesame Street, the Israeli version features "Kippy Ben-Kipod," a prickly-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside hedgehog said to represent the Israeli national character. In the Arabic-language series, on the other hand, the principal character is "No'Man," a camel drawn from Arabic history and tradition.
Sesame Street and its adaptations are now broadcast in more than 140 countries, and local adaptations of Sesame Street are produced in more than 18 international locations. Which means two things: That children all over the world are learning wholesome lessons about positivity and counting from a bunch of cute, heartwarming puppets, and that Big Bird's territory is being even further usurped. Mexico's adaptation Plaza Sésamo, for instance, replaces Big Bird with his "cousin," a rainbow parrot named Abelardo.