Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Free Sesame Videos on iTunes!

Over the years Sesame Workshop has produced an extensive library of non-commercial, educational resource videos staring the Muppets and cast of Sesame Street. These videos are intended to educate both children and adults on key issues while remaining entertaining and enjoyable.

From health and safety concerns to dealing with emotions and new situations, these video engage and educate children and adults alike with the Muppets and lively music. For years these videos have only been available on VHS through a number of outlets, such as educational resource centers or via the Sesame Workshop website. But now, thanks to a partnership with iTunes, anyone with access to the web can enjoy these videos for free!

The iTunes Store is now offering a new series of videos entitled Learn Along With Sesame. Each episode is a quick and easy free download of a full-length eductional resource video. The series currently includes six episodes ("Happy, Healthy, Ready For School", "Music Works Wonders", "You Can Ask", "Lead Away", "Talk, Listen, Connect", and "A is for Asthma") and the collection is expected to grow as time goes on.

These six episodes total more than two-and-a-half hours of educational entertainment with the ever-lovable Sesame gang, and they are 100% free! So what are you waiting for? You can access the Learn Along With Sesame series by browsing the "kids" section of the iTunes "TV show" section, or by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Return of the Twiddlebugs

Two weeks ago I shared the news of Sesame Workshop's new international series of claymation shorts titled The Adventures of Bert and Ernie. Well, information has been released on a second animated spin-off in the works. Sesame Workshop is also planning to a series of short computer animated shorts staring the Twiddlebugs! The Twiddlebugs are a species of colorful insects that live in Ernie's window box and have been a part of the Sesame Street universe since 1972's illustrated adventure "Sherlock Hemlock and the Great Twiddlebug Mystery".

The computer animated series is set to be produced by Magnetic Dreams Animation Studio. Magnetic Dreams has worked with Street for several years now, producing dozens of inserts and characters. There are 52 three-minute episodes of The Twiddlebugs currently in production. Although no distribution outlets have been announced, sources predict a fall 2008 debut of the shorts.

Magnetic Dreams Animation Studio provided the Twiddlebug's CGI debut in season 37 in a newly created sketch (which you watch below). The sketch severed as a test, and somewhat of a pilot, for this new series of shorts. I will keep you updated with more information on all the Sesame Street related projects and series as more information is released.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Podcasting with Kevin Clash

Muppeteer Kevin Clash recently appeared (via telephone) on the February edition of the Wisconsin Public Television's podcast. The wonderful mp3 podcast includes an in-depth conversation with Clash about his career, Sesame Street, Elmo and the other Muppets. The mp3 can be downloaded from the WPT website (click here). The 15-minute interview with the celebrated Sesame Street performer is a real treat, so be sure to check it out, listen and enjoy!

Download the podcast episode here!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bert & Ernie's Animated Adventures

Sesame Workshop is planning to produce two seasons of a new international series titled The Adventures of Bert and Ernie. This claymation spin-off revolves around the imaginative adventures of the classic Sesame Street duo. However the characters will not be puppets but rather full-body claymated figures brought to life though the art of stop-motion animation.

The Italy-based animation studio Misseri Studio is set to animate and co-produce the show along with German public broadcaster NDR and UK broadcaster Five's Milkshake preschool block. Although the series is still being "shopped around" to international outlet, it has already attracted many distributers. The Adventures of Bert and Ernie has been picked up by ABC in Australia, Cartoon Network India, DR-TV in Denmark, Disney Asia, Disney Spain, HOP in Israel, NPS/Zeppelin in the Netherlands, NRK in Norway and SVT in Sweden. Although the international community getting into the series, Sesame Workshop does not plan to bring the series of 5-minute shorts to US audiences at this time.

The first season of the series, which includes 26 five-minute episodes, will be available to syndicates in March 2008, and a second season (also of 26 episodes) is already planned to follow in the spring 2009.

Each five-minute episode finds Bert and Ernie recalling stories of their past adventures sparked by photos and memorabilia in their scrapbook. Viewers are quickly transported into the vibrant world of the duo's imagination where their story springs to life (and often changes in an instant due to the character's conflicting point of view or recollection of events). Other characters included in the series are Bernice (Bert's pet pigeon) Ernie's Rubber Duckie, never-before-seen family members of both Bert and Ernie and other new characters met in their adventures.

Terry Fitzpatrick, Sesame Workshop's executive VP of distribution said that "we are proud to bring a whole new dimension and energy to the wit and charm of these classic and beloved characters".

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sesame Sweeps Children's Emmy Nominations

The nominees for the Children’s Programming Emmy Awards were announced today by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. This year marks the first time in the 34 year history of the Daytime Emmy Awards that Children’s categories for programs, performers and writers have been singled out and honored at a separate ceremony. The Children’s Emmy Awards will be presented as part of the 34th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on June 15, 2007.

The complete list of nominees was released last week and Sesame Street dominated the list with five nominations (the greatest amount of any single program). Sesame Street's nominations are listed below (along with the other nominees in the category). So be sure to catch the 34th Annual Daytime Emmys live from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on Friday, June 15, 2007 on CBS to see how many awards Sesame Street will take home to add to their record-breaking collection of more than 101 Emmy Awards.

Outstanding Directing In A Children's Series
• It's a Big Big World
• Lazy Town
Sesame Street

Outstanding Performer In A Children's Series
• Levar Burtin (as himself) in Reading Rainbow
Caroll Spinney (as Oscar the Grouch) in Sesame Street
Kevin Clash (as Elmo) in Sesame Street

Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series
• HI-5
• Hip Hop Harry
• It's a Big Big World
Sesame Street

Outstanding Writing In A Children's Series
• Reading Rainbow
Sesame Street

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Henson Brings T.J Bearytales to Life with Digital Puppets

Hasbro has announced plans to join forces with The Jim Henson Company to produce 3-D animated adventure based on their popular character T.J. Bearytales. T.J and his friends will star in two direct-to-DVD musical, comedy adventures that will teach viewers about the importance of friendship and the fun of using their imagination.

The first feature, "My Beary Outer Space Adventure" will be available on DVD this fall, and the second title, "My Beary Colorful Adventure" is set to be released in the spring of 2008. The Jim Henson Company is producing these titles using the Henson Digital Performance Studio, the Company’s proprietary animation system that allows digital characters to be performed by puppeteers in real-time.

I’ll keep you posted with details on this, and other Henson projects, as information surfaces.

Power of the Dark Crystal Update

Recently there have been some rumors circulating around the internet about the production status of the Jim Henson Company's "Power of the Dark Crystal", the sequel to the classic 1982 fantasy film. Lisa Henson, co-CEO of The Jim Henson Company and producer of Power of the Dark Crystal, made this official statement earlier today regarding the production status:

"The Jim Henson Company remains committed to producing 'Power of the Dark Crystal'. The film has not been 'cancelled' or 'put on hiatus' or any of the other rumored status changes that have been floating around. This film is an ambitious undertaking for us and it continues to move forward...We are grateful to the fans who support 'Power of the Dark Crystal' and we are excited to make this new chapter in the Dark Crystal story a reality."

Also, for all the fans that want to stay on top of every bit of news for the upcoming production, be sure to check out our Power of the Dark Crystal blog for every announcement, every interview, every production image and every morsel of information on this highly anticipated film. Check it out here! I'll keep you updated here (and there) on all the latest Dark Crystal news as it comes.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Update on NECA's Labyrinth Figures

As reported earlier, NECA is working on several Labyrinth themed action figures - namely Jareth the Goblin King. That action figure is tentatively lined-up for release next month. And for those interested, pictures and pre-orders are up around the web.

But aside from Jereth, NECA also is planning to release a detailed Hoggle action figure to accompany the Goblin King. The figure is planned for release this spring as well. Also in development (not sure on where, when, or how they will be released) are a host of goblins from the film. Approximately six unique goblin figures based on specific characters from the film are currently in the works. NECA is still looking at when and how they will release them, but plans are to release these goblins later in 2007.

NECA will be at Toy Fair in New York next week (February 11-14) and both the Jereth and Hoggle figures will be on display. For those wanting an early glimpse at the Labyrinth figures be sure to pick-up the latest issue of "Lee's Toy Review". The magazine includes pictures of both the completed Jareth and Hoggle figures as well as five photos of the work-in-progress goblin sculpts. I'll keep you posted as more information NECA's Labyrinth coverage develops, until then enjoy the copy of the Labyrinth images from "Lee's Toy Review" (click to enlarge).
Click to Enlarge

A very special thanks to Squigiman for providing the magazine scan.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dinosaurs DVD Bonus Features & Date

On Monday I reported that the final 36 episodes of "Dinosaurs" will be released on DVD in May in the "Dinosaurs: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons" DVD box set. Since that initial report more details have surfaced on the set. I've talked with some people close to the set which have stated that aside from all 36 episodes from the third and fourth seasons, the 4-disc DVD set will hold a nice collection of bonus material. Bonus features are said to include a special behind-the-scenes featurette entitled "Creatures with a Cause: The Issues of 'Dinosaurs'" and the beloved "I'm the Baby, Gotta Love Me" music video. Additionally there will be audio commentaries on two select episodes by Brian Henson and the writers, producers, cast and crew, plus viewers will be able to enjoy another batch of hidden "Dino-Eggs" throughout the discs. The total runtime of the four-disc set is just over 11-hours! And for all of you wanting to know a specific release date -- the studio has confirmed that the set is lined-up for release on Tuesday, May 1, 2007. I will bring any more information on this highly anticipated release as soon as I get it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Happy Birthday!

It was two years ago today that I started a little blogging project - and over the past 730 days the project has grown (and grown). I started out with a simple mission: create a place to share the latest Henson and Muppet news in one easy to find place. I wanted a place where fans could catch up on the current events that matter without having to read hundreds of forum posts, rummage through tons of the newspapers, search hundreds the web journals and news sites, or wait for a formal press release to surface.

When I started out I had no real idea what this blog would actually be, nor did I envision what it would become. The site grew (and continues to grow) - we now get well over three-thousand daily visitors! The blog has changed format, design, and even its name. It's been an exciting 2-years - with over 600 news posts!

But don't you worry, the blog isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I will continue to dig up and compile all the news that you crave. I've been able to connect with some great fans, supportive "insiders" and even some actual Muppeteers. I hope to continue blogging and hope that The Muppet Newsflash will continue to be your definitive source for Muppet news on the web. I want to give out a special thanks to everyone who has assists me in my blogging, everyone who sends in news, everyone who gives feedback and support, and (last but by no means least) all the visitor and readers. So blow out the candles and grab a piece of cake 'cause it's our Birthday!