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Furchester Hotel – The Sesame Street Gang Come to CBeebies

CBeebies and Sesame Street

 

It always feels good to get a little something from CBeebies drop into my inbox.  We miss CBeebies quality programming featuring British accents and no adverts. American children’s television isn’t all bad though.  Through childhood, student years and as a mother I have always been a huge Sesame Street fan.  The wonderful documentary Being Elmo made me an even bigger fan.  The latest news from CBeebies was the most exciting I’ve received in a long while. CBeebies and Sesame Street are working together to create a new series,  The Furchester Hotel.

Filming started on Monday 24 February, and will continue for just over three months. The enormous Furchester Hotel set fills all 700 square metres of the HQ2 studio at dock10, MediaCityUK, and was transported in 10 lorries from the three construction companies employed to build it over two and half months. It shows the interior and the garden of The Furchester Hotel and is raised 1.1 metres off the floor in order for the puppeteers to perform standing in the main areas. The set is double height with a sweeping staircase that guests take to the bedrooms when the lift isn’t working – which is almost always.

How amazing does that set sound and how disappointed am I that I can’t accept an invite to visit the set for myself? It makes me want to jump on a plane right away.

What is The Furchester Hotel?

The Furchester Hotel, is about a close-knit family of cheerfully incompetent Muppet monsters who own and operate an ‘almost’ world-class hotel. The proprietors are Funella Furchester, the welcoming monster owner, her loving husband, Furgus Fuzz, and their daughter, the unflappable Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz. The Furchester family is joined at the hotel by Elmo, Phoebe’s cousin who is on an extended visit, and Cookie Monster, who has landed his dream job as room service and dining-room waiter.

The Furchester Hotel aims to promote and build creative problem-solving skills for its young viewers. As the Furchester family scrambles to meet the needs of its guests, the monsters use their exceptional thinking skills to brainstorm possible solutions to problems that arise. And even when they think they have exhausted all the possibilities, their perseverance prevails because their family motto is, “A Furchester never gives up!” The daily mishaps and mix-ups at The Furchester Hotel will provide many opportunities for our young Muppet friends to model ways in which pre-schoolers’ natural curiosity and creativity can be harnessed to collaborate and solve problems.

Cookie Monster and Elmo are in Town

It takes approximately 70 cast and crew to make the series, including nine puppeteers and four assistant puppeteers. Experienced puppeteer Louise Gold plays Funella; Mak Wilson, who has been designated Puppet Captain, performs many of the guest Muppets, including resident guest Harvey P Dull; Andrew Spooner performs Furgus; and Sarah Burgess plays Phoebe. Elmo and Cookie Monster are played by Sesame Street puppeteers Ryan Dillon and David Rudman respectively and the head writer for the series is Belinda Ward.

“We’re so excited to be starting work on The Furchester Hotel. The studio set is truly amazing, and to see the puppets arriving on site really brings the project to life,” says Alison Stewart, Head of CBeebies Production. “We’re delighted to welcome The Furchester family, Elmo, Cookie Monster and their friends to Salford.”

“The excitement in MediaCityUK is palpable as we begin production on The Furchester Hotel,” says Carol-Lynn Parente, Executive Producer, Sesame Workshop. “We know this series will engage children with humorous problems and quirky solutions in ways that only the beloved Muppets can. We look forward to seeing The Furchester Family, along with their friends Cookie Monster and Elmo, delighting children and families on CBeebies for years to come.”

“Me cannot wait to ‘work’ as dining-room waiter at The Furchester Hotel,” says Cookie Monster. “Me hear their cookies are delicious. Om nom nom.”

The Furchester Hotel is co-produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organisation behind Sesame Street, and the In House Production team at CBeebies, the BBC’s pre-school children’s channel. The 52×11-minute series is set to debut on CBeebies in Autumn 2014 in the UK.

Hopefully I can find a way to watch it here too.

 

 

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Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster on Kinect – A Review

I have been so excited about the forthcoming release of this game for a number of reasons.

  1. I am a huge Sesame Street fan and think it is the best in pre-school entertainment
  2. I have been waiting for a game that my 3 year old can play easily on Kinect.
  3. It is billed as a co-operative game and I would love to find  a game that my children won’t argue over.
  4. I am interested in evaluating its educational merit and whether or not it could be used in a pre-school classroom.

So when I was offered a copy to review I jumped at the chance.

The game centres around a story book ‘ Once Upon a Monster’ that Elmo and Cookie Monster jump into to embark on adventures.  As each chapter unfolds they encounter monster friends both new and familiar (Grover and Oscar) and help them to solve problems through a number of fun tasks.  The graphics and the story behind the game are captivating and we were all excited to see what would happen next.

The game is designed with drop in/ out co-operative play.  It can be played solo or with the help of an adult or sibling, if you decide to join in half way through a small monster appears in the corner of the screen and directs you to wave. This is great for young children as they often decide to wander off in the middle of a game but it doesn’t spoil the game for the other child. The game is only suitable for 2 children which means that it probably wouldn’t be suitable for use in pre-school unless you wanted to use it as an exercise in turn taking. I would like to see it adapted for 3 children, partly because I have 3 children and it would avoid one being left out and partly so that siblings could play with a parent to help if necessary.

With Kinect games I have found that my 3 year old has struggled to keep within the sensor.  There is a helpful built in feature with this game in that if the child  steps outside of the sensors limits a monster pops up and points in the direction that they need to move.

I had high hopes for this game as a controllorless game that my 3 year old would be able to use easily.  However I encountered a few problems which meant that she couldn’t play it independently.  To get inside the page of a book the monsters ask you to bring both arms together.  This worked really well when my 7 year old or myself did it but it didn’t seem to work for my 3 year old or her friend, even though they were making the correct movements. The other problem is that if you go too close to the sensor (or my one year old runs in the way) a menu pops up .  You need to wave on the back button to go back to the game.  My girls became frustrated because the sensor found it difficult to pick up which player was trying to direct it.

So far we have played the first of 6 chapters.  This centres on cheering up Marco the monster and helping him get to a birthday party.  The tasks along the way include running through the woods collecting objects and avoiding obstacles, flying to the tree tops to collect fruit with Grover, choosing outfits for Seamus the monster, drumming and my personal favourite disco dancing with Grover.

The usual response from my 7 year old when playing Kinect is to moan at her younger sister for getting in the way.  When she tried to join in yesterday my 7 year old complained and I told her that it was meant to be for 2 players.  The mood soon changed  to a lovely picture as my 3 year old watched her sister intently and copied her every move.  It is certainly fulfilling some of the games aim to foster a social and emotional curriculum in our household.

There could be a few tweaks to make it easier for young children to play but the game is engaging and  fun and my high expectations were not disappointed. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the other chapters have in store.

Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster is released on 14th October