The World According to Sesame Street

Movie review by
Teresa Talerico, Common Sense Media
The World According to Sesame Street Movie Poster Image
Serious adult docu about Muppets in developing nations.
  • NR
  • 2006
  • 107 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Promotes awareness of global issues and the importance of education.

Violence

Some scenes of rioting in Bangladesh and Kosovo; images of South Africans suffering from HIV and AIDS; burial scenes. Sobering images of poverty and flooding.

Sex
Language

A producer blurts "holy s--t" when armed guards order her to stop filming at a Serbian checkpoint. Another producer says "s--t" a couple of times in frustration over production delays and describes someone as "intimidating as hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The World According to Sesame Street is a serious documentary. It's not a collection of skits from the kids' TV series, nor is it geared toward younger Sesame Street fans. It examines how the show is produced in other countries and tackles complex issues such as poverty, war, and ethnic discrimination. Specifically, the film shows rioting in Bangladesh and Kosovo, images of South Africans suffering from HIV and AIDS, and burial scenes.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySynchronicity April 9, 2008

An eye-opening docmentary

This documentary isn't for little kids even though it's about Sesame Street. No, this documentary is about what Sesame Street is like around the world... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byberonica April 9, 2008

What's the story?

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET follows Sesame Street producers as they adapt the children's' series for broadcast in Bangladesh, Kosovo, and South Africa. The team must carefully adapt the show for kids who struggle with problems like hunger, violence, and illness on a daily basis. Along the way, they encounter challenges that range from political red tape to rioting and civil unrest. Their brainstorming sessions with local educators convince them that the program can make a difference in children's lives. Producers and their local teams work to make the show as culturally relevant as possible to each audience. In poverty-stricken Bangladesh many kids leave school as young as 5 to go to work. So the show is designed not only to educate kids, but also to address the class and gender equity issues prevalent in Bangladesh. In Kosovo, where Albanians and Serbs live in segregated communities, the Kosovo team wants to promote values of acceptance, tolerance, and peace. Locals also remind the producers that the program should include warnings about hand grenades, which kids often find while playing. In AIDS-ridden South Africa, the team develops an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami. Although Kami initially raises ire among some American conservatives, she's immediately embraced by South African children.

Is it any good?

Although it's a bit sluggish in the last half hour, the film is still a captivating look at a much-loved American phenomenon and its global outreach. It's intriguing to watch producers and their local teams work to make Sesame Street relevant to kids across many different cultures and facing different, serious issues, like AIDS and the after-effects of war.

The DVD extras of The World According to Sesame Street include a history of the show, which first aired in the United States in 1969 and is now seen in more than 120 countries. The show's originator, Joan Ganz Cooney, is interviewed and likens her producers to missionaries spreading a message of learning and tolerance with these international co-productions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the countries featured in The World According to Sesame Street differ from the United States. What makes their cultures unique?

  • How do you think Sesame Street producers decide what to change when they export the show to other nations? How can something as simple as a TV show help the kids in those countries?

  • How does The World According to Sesame Street promote curiosity and empathy? What about compassion and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

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