Iftah Ya Simsim, the Arabic version of Sesame Street, will return to screens across the region for a second season in September 2017.
Bidaya Media, a children’s education content development company, is producing the series in partnership with twofour54 Abu Dhabi, and Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street.
Season two will begin production this month at twofour54’s Abu Dhabi studios. twofour54’s film and TV services division will provide production services as well as two months of studio space, equipment and a crew from its pool of industry freelancers, followed by six months of post-production in its state of the art facility.
This season of 11-minute 52 episodes sees the debut of new characters Ka’aki (Cookie Monster) and Elmo, the furry red Muppet with an infectious laugh. Ka’aki will be played by the puppeteer Ammar Al-Sabban, while Abdulla Rafaah, who played the role of Rashid in the previous season, will play Elmo.
The new season will also mark the return of celebrated puppeteers Abdullah Kassem, Asma Alshamsi, Maher Mozawak and Michel Jabali, who play the lovable Muppets No’man, Shams, Melsoon, Gargur (Grover) and other Muppets. Emirati actor Fatma Al Taei will play the role of Amal, the local librarian.
“Following the success of Iftah Ya Simsim’s revival last year, we are happy to return with a new season of Iftah Ya Simsim to showcase the fantastic Arab talent in this region while also entertaining and educating the younger generation of the Arab world to become smarter, stronger and kinder,” said Dr. Cairo Arafat, managing director of Bidaya Media. “We are excited to showcase and welcome our new characters, Ka’aki and Elmo, to the Iftah Ya Simsim family and we are confident that our audience will shower them with the same love and affection they have given to our existing characters over the past year.”
Acting CEO of twofour54, Maryam Al Mheiri said: “Securing the production of the second seasons of Iftah Ya Simsim is a win for Abu Dhabi and for its reputation as the hub in the region for quality content creation. The production will create 60 job opportunities for the local production industry, and will result in another fine example of the content that production companies from twofour54, like Bidaya, are bringing into the market to meet the appetite of audiences throughout the region, especially for Arabic-led content.”
Targeted towards pre-schoolers aged 3-7 years old, the new season of Iftah Ya Simsim will explore early vocabulary and STEAM concepts in an engaging manner, using the whole-child approach and exploring academic, health and emotional themes through fun-loving episodes that inspire children to become independent, analytical thinkers and self-initiators.
Abdulla Rafaah, who played Rashid and will puppeteer for Elmo this season, said: “The addition of the new characters including Elmo is a very exciting chapter for the already much loved Iftah Ya Simsim series. I am very excited to be bringing my favorite childhood character, Elmo, to life. Elmo is an inspirational character and personally meant a lot to me growing up. I hope to be able to bring a smile to the face of our children through the character of Elmo.”
Bidaya Media will lead production of Iftah Ya Simsim’s studio segments from script to screen, as well as post-production, with twofour54 a strategic partner throughout the project.
Baynounah TV will produce the show’s live action films, while Lammtara Art Production, Ajyaal Media, and 3 Quarter will be responsible for producing the semi-animated storybook segments.
Iftah Ya Simsim is the first locally created and produced Arabic-speaking version of world’s longest-running education TV series for kids, Sesame Street. The performers behind the characters are artists selected from the region, making this a truly organic, home-grown initiative which supports and promotes its regional talents.
All of Iftah Ya Simsim’s content is based on the educational curriculum and objectives that are regularly reviewed and updated by the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States (ABEGS), the Joint Program Production Institute (JPPI), Bidaya's Educational Advisory Committee including representatives from Abu Dhabi Education Council, Health Authorities of Abu Dhabi, twoFour54, Poet’s Academy and Zayed University.