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Sesamstraat - logo (Dutch)

Sesamstraat Show Open

The show's opening from seasons 28-30.


Pino, Tommie, Purk and Ieniemienie


Title card in 1976


Title card in 1988-89

Sesamstraat is the Sesame Street co-production that airs in the Netherlands. It has been produced by NTR since 2010; it was originally produced by NOS from the show's debut in 1976 until it was moved to NPS from 1995 to 2010. It was also co-produced by BRT until 1983. In 2019, it was announced that NTR would not produce new episodes of the show for the next two years, though the network will continue to broadcast reruns.[1]

The Dutch Muppet characters are Pino (the Dutch Big Bird), Tommie, Ieniemienie, and Purk. Troel, a white female puppet with similar looks as Tommie, was only featured during the second season, while Angsthaas and Stuntkip were introduced in 2007. The human actors portray abstracted roles of typical caretakers, such as a working mother, modern father, grandmother, grandfather, big sister, et cetera.

Like most of the American Sesame Street characters, the Dutch Muppet characters went through major changes through the years, with Pino and Tommie's physical designs changing drastically. The first Pino started out as a plump, messy-looking bird with smaller eyes. Over the years, he lost a little weight, his white tummy became blue like the rest of his body, his legs grew, and his eyes switched from realistic to cartoonlike. For Tommie, he evolved from a 'teddy bear' kind of creature to a more doglike animal, and is occasionally referred to as a dog. The characters also had more traditional "animal-like" behaviors; Pino originally slept in a nest and Ieniemienie acted more like a traditional mouse looking for cheese. Gradually, all three characters behaved more like human children.

Each episode is centered around a certain theme, like "Animals", "Fear", "Traffic", "Death/Sad", etc. There is also a bit more freedom about subjects like 'going to the bathroom' or 'saying dirty words'. Sesamstraat doesn't focus primarily around letters and numbers, like the American Sesame Street does, but rather around social values. Unlike the original target group in America, all the children in the Netherlands get to learn letters and numbers in school. Some of the cognitive items are adjusted to fit in the Dutch education; letters of the alphabet, for instance, are pronounced phonetically (the letter M is pronounced "m" instead of "em") so that children know how to use them when learning how to read.

A regular Sesamstraat episode starts with a street sequence, and usually ends with one of the actors reading a story to the Muppets or children visiting the set. Fifty percent of the show consists of dubbed American inserts, the other 50 percent is original Dutch material.

The Dutch material consists of street scenes (including recurring scenes), "music videos" (both live action and cartoons), performances by mime artists, clowns and puppeteers (like Hakim and Lejo) and live action scenes on location with kids.

A new quantity of American clips is dubbed for each season, whereas clips from earlier seasons still remain a big part of the series as well. Edited episodes of Elmo's World have been featured since the new 25 minute format change, as well as Global Grover. Two of the most popular American characters are Bert and Ernie, thanks to their voice artists who are allowed to write their own material for audio recordings. Big Bird and the American human cast don't appear on Sesamstraat (aside from imported American videos dubbed into Dutch).



The Sesamstraat cast of 1976

Sesamstraat 1984Cast

The Sesamstraat cast (1980s)


The Sesamstraat cast (1990s)


Group dancing (2000s)

Sesamstraat cast 2011

The Sesamstraat cast (2010s)


Ernie, Bert and Elmo with Pino, Tommie, Ieniemenie and Purk.


A shot from the show's sixth season opening sequence in 1982.

On June 11, 1972, an episode from the original American production was broadcast and partially dubbed on the channel VARA as a test to see if Sesame Street could be adapted for the Netherlands. The program was presented by Ruud Jans who also showed a clip from the series' Mexican co-production. After a local pilot episode entitled Sesamplein (Sesame Square) was produced in 1974 (also starring Ruud Jans), Sesamstraat began broadcasting in 1976.

It started as a Dutch/Belgian coproduction, with only one thirty-minute episode a week. These episodes had only 12 minutes allotted for the Dutch cast. At this time there were only two Muppets and three live actors, Piet Hendriks, Sien Diels, and Annet van Heusden. Piet, who owned a hobby and crafts workshop and a camper which he would drive around The Netherlands and Belgium for live trips. Sien, who owned a grocery store, where the exchange of knowledge and happenings were as important as the selling of products. And Annet, who played a kindergarten teacher. In 1978, Sesamstraat's format changed to a daily 15 minute show that aired in the evening, around dinnertime. Starting in September 2006, Sesamstraat expanded to 30 minutes and airs three times a day.

The first season was shot on location in a half Dutch, half Belgian town. It was broadcast every Sunday for a half-hour in the afternoon. It was also the only season to be filmed instead of videotaped as in later seasons. For the second season, a realistic town square was built inside the studio, which slowly evolved into a more abstract, colorful town, featuring Pino's nest, Sien's store, a workshop, two houses, an apartment building, a trailer and a treehouse. The insides of the house sets could be decorated in different ways, so that the viewers would never be certain about who lived where.

For the 2005/2006 season, Sesamstraat moved into new scenery. The set became completely abstract, with toy block-like buildings, broccoli for trees, and a tower with a giant light-up clock. The scenery was introduced with a TV special. Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, and Elmo flew over to the Netherlands for this special occasion. It was the first time the American characters visited the Dutch street.

Other special Sesamstraat episodes include the 2500th episode, and a yearly special episode focused on Sinterklaas.

The 25th Anniversary series in which Dutch celebrities made guest appearances on the street. On January 7th, 2000, Prime Minister Wim Kok read the daily story "Er staat een olifantje in het gras..." (There is a little elephant standing in the grass) for the Muppet residence before they went to sleep. Wim Kok is one of the many prominent guests who read a story to them. (Normally this was done by Frank, Gerda or Paula). Other celebrities that have made guest appearances are: Freek de Jonge (Comedian), Remco Campert (Writer), Ruud Gullit (Professional soccer player), André van Duin (Comedian), Mary Dresselhuys (Actress), Hans Dagelet (Actor), Kees van Kooten (Writer), Brigitte Kaandorp (Comedian), Sonja Barend (Show host) and Janine Kastelijn (Youth Winner for Reading in 2000) and Wim T. Schippers (dutch voice actor for Ernie & Kermit).

In 1992, a 30 minute film, Sesamstraat en Melkweg, was produced for the Artis Zoo Planetarium in Amsterdam.


Pino protests for the preservation of NPS

In 2005 the show saw some schedule trouble. The government decided to halt the funding and broadcasts of NPS. After this news, a large protest from all of the programs and actors was held on September 5, 2005 in Den Haag (The Hague), including characters from Sesamstraat. Since the show had just moved into the new set, Pino loudly expressed himself by saying, "NPS must stay! We just moved and I don't feel like packing my toy pets again". With these words, the big Sesamstraat-bird showed what he thought about the government and the public network's plans.

At "het Plein" in Den Haag, Pino and comedian/TV host Jörgen Raymann presented 93,000 signatures supporting NPS to the cabinet representatives. During the day, several NPS artists protested on two stages. Among them were Wieteke van Dort (Klokhuis), the band Relax and from Metropole Orkest's "The Bigband". This protest was also featured on television with an interview done by Aart Staartjes, with Bert and Ernie.

The final debate took place on September 12th, 2005 in the Tweede Kamer. It was decided that NPS could continue making programs, but it had to make a several changes to fit into modern television. A new broadcast schedule was put in place, which meant that Tommie, Pino, Ieniemienie and all the other characters on Sesamstraat had to move to a new time… again! This was the fourth time that the broadcast time for the NPS children’s program had changed in the previous five years.

Not only did Sesamstraat move broadcast times, but channels as well. It moved from Nederland 3 to Nederland 1. A spokesman said they weren’t happy about the change. "It's positive for Sesamstraat to move to Nederland 1 (the expanded family network). But we can't deny the problems all this shifting causes. With every shift we're loosing viewers."

In 2008, for season 33, the show received 15 minutes of extra broadcast time a day. This left room for two new Muppets: Angsthaas and Stuntkip. Another addition was a live-action segment Kleddertap (Staining tap). The 22 segments were performed by dancer Suzanna Pezo, who tapped a number or letter with paint.

In 2009, the show saw more schedule trouble. Because NPS wanted to make some trail shows regarding a multi-cultural show, it was decided to move Sesamstraat from 17:30h to 17:00h. The program makers and many fans protested against the time change. It was even brought before parliament, but was thrown out because the government may not get involved in decisions of the NPS Board of Directors. This was the fifth time in just a few years that the show had moved times. This was a controversial change, opponents argued that many children in the Netherlands have two working parents, and that they wouldn't at home at this time of day to watch the show.

October 2009 brought a new segment for the show. Several famous Dutch singers perform duets with the Sesamstraat characters Pino, Tommie, Ieniemienie and Purk. All songs were written by Henny Vrienten. The segments air every Friday starting October 30, 2009. Among the artists are Trijntje Oosterhuis, André van Duin, Edsilia Rombley, Ernst Daniël Smid, Hind, Guus Meeuwis, Hans van Willigenburg, Huub van der Lubbe and Willeke Alberti.

All the duets were broadcast again in a special on December 25 and 28.

December 5th 2011 the NOS took air time for a broadcast about commision "de Wit". For the first time the Sinterklaas special was re-scheduled, white a lot of children where waiting in front of the television. Ajé Boschhuizen, editor from Sesame Street, was dismayed that the broadcast did not took place in that evening. "We are very sorry. We have put a lot of work in these broadcasts and it is annoying when it does not continue." The Sesame Street broadcast time was already moved because of the Sinterklaas Journal and was scheduled for 16:40 pm that day. The Temporary Committee Investigating the Financial System, also called; "Commission-de Wit", was a committee of the Dutch parliament. The committee made in response to the credit crisis investigating the (cause of) the problems in the financial system, and the measures taken by the Dutch government. It was lead by chairman Jan de Wit.

On January 2014, the show underwent a format change. Episodes were now 15 minutes instead of 25, now featuring a recurring plot throughout the show. The time was filled with a new mini-series, 10 voor, featuring inserts starring various Sesame Street characters, and Super Gezonde Monsters. The reasoning behind the change was due to budget cuts, as well as studies showing kids would pay better attention in a shorter, more focused format.[2]

Beginning in 2015, the show introduced its own version of Elmo. Already educated by Kevin Clash, Jogchem Jalink performs the character in both voice and puppetry. Jalink's Elmo started his debut on February 13, 2015, together with his new Dutch friends Tommie, Ieniemienie en Pino in the "Elmo's Quiz" segments featured on the 10 voor series.

On March 30 2018, Tommie appeared on De Wereld Draait Door with his song "Dood zijn duurt zo lang" written by Willem Wilmink. The program was to honor the Dutch writer, poet and singer.

20181215 HarryBannink 20

Tommie performing on stage

December 16 2018, the VPRO's program "Vije Geluiden" (Free Sounds), made a special about the musical compositions for Dutch theater and television by Harry Bannink. The show was filmed at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht. In this two episodes show there were a performance by Frank Groothof (with Ellen Pieters) and Tommie singing Nocturne. Tommie also sang "Dood zijn duurt zo lang". Another song was "Lepel" performed by Gerda Havertong. Afterwards Plagman brought Tommie to his own home and the production assistant appeared to get it back to the studio, because of the strict rules around the Muppets.

On June 28 2019, the NTR announced they had to economize again and decided to stop producing the following two years. Instead they will broadcast reruns. Actors and puppeteers voiced that they were afraid that this will be the end of the show. There were too many children programs to compete with and they didn't want to work for a commercial product. Still, the NTR is secure the show will live on and continue on a later time, because there are still negotiations on the license with Sesame Workshop.


Several exhibits were shown in the Netherlands regarding the show. The first one, 25 Jaar Sesamstraat, was shown in Hoorn in 2000. A second was a Sesamstraat themed exhibition located in Madurodam. And from March 2010 till February 2011 there is one exhibit called Schuif Gezellig Aan. In addition, a museum in Dieren, TV Toys, which specialized in television show toys for children, had a display dedicated to Sesamstraat. The museum lasted until 2008 and still waits for a restart.


Sesamstraat received the Cinekid Kinderkast Award in 1998. The Cinekid Kinderkast is the prize of Dutch children's television: a statue designed by famous writer/artist Jan Wolkers. Today the award is called The Golden Kinderkast and includes 7500 euro.

In 2010, Sesamstraat received the 'Gouden Stuiver' award at the annual Gouden Televizier-Ring Gala. The 'Gouden Stuiver' is awarded to the children's program that received the most votes by Dutch viewers.

Theme Song[]


A shot from the show's eighth season opening sequence in 1984.

Every season features a different opening and closing sequence for the Sesamstraat Tune. The first theme song for Sesamstraat was a translated version of the original Sesame Street Theme. For later seasons, an altered version was recorded, with lyrics by Hans Dorrestijn. Despite viewers' complaints about the lyrics "Laat je speelgoed staan voor Sesamstraat" (put your toys aside for Sesamstraat) indicating that watching TV was more important than playing, the theme's lyrics were not changed until 2013, when the aformentioned line was removed.

A press release[1] states another complaint concerning the theme song from 1982 to 1984. Children tried to sing along with Frank Groothof (who sang the theme from 1984 to 1991), but couldn't reach the high pitch; this led to a key change from F major to C major.

During the early 1980s, instrumental versions of the theme song were used as background music or introductions for street scenes: one of which, with percussions by drummer Sly Dunbar, was released on the CD Sly Wicked and Slick.



Early versions of Pino and Tommie in 1979


Previous puppeteers:




  • Producer: Ton Hasebos (1976-1977), Mia van't Hoff (1977-1980), George van Breemen (1979-1980), Pauline Peters (1980-1981), Irene Uneputty (1981-1982), Henny Zwanenburg (1981-1994), Kathleen Warners (1982-1985), Marjan Fluitsma (1982-1988), Annechien Braak (1994-1996), Astrid Prickaerts (2000-2009), Jessica Fesenthal (2009-now)
  • Directors: Ton Hasebos (1976-1980), Theo Bortschuyver (1976-1981), Guus van Waveren (1979-1980), Raymond Le Gué (1980-1982), Marc Jambos (1980-1981), Frank Alsema (1982-1984), John van de Rest (1982-1988), Janine van den Ende (assistant director), Egbert van Hees (1984-1990), Ruud van Gessel (1984-1986), Jop Pannekoek (1988-1990), Aart Staartjes (location director) (1988-1996), Leo van der Goot (1989-1996), Jan Keja (1990-1996), Mike Naber (1990-1996), Jan Keymeulen (1992-1996), Rita Goossens (1993-1996), Eric Blom (1993 – present), Pieter Kramer (1995-1996), Sascha van der Feer (assistant director) (2000 - 2001), Joram Lürsen (2001 - 2003), Refkele Steemers (assistant director) (2004 – 2013), Remy van Heugten (Hakim segments (understudy)(2004), Norbert ter Hall, Rita Horst, Ineke Houtman.
  • Music: Harry Bannink (original music), Harrie Geelen (song translator), Fay Lovski, Henny Vrienten (original music)
  • Cinematography: Fred Brinkman (location), Paul Staartjes (location)
  • Editing: Eric Blom (1993 – present), Ajé Boschhuizen (1999 - present), Mylou Frencken (-2002), Jeroen Pelgrom, Henny Zwanenburg
  • Final Editor: Ben Klokman (1981-1990), Aart Staartjes (1991-1994), Jan Kok (1994-1999), Ajé Boschhuizen (1999-heden)
  • Location Editor: Aart Staartjes (1988-1996)
  • Costume Design: Mariëlle Sas
  • Makeup Artist: Gerda Beumer
  • Art Department: Dorus van der Linden (Set Designer) (1977-1981), Henk Tilder, Erly Brugmans (production designer) (2004- present)
  • Lead Designer: Will Bakker
  • Sound Department: David Carmiggelt (location), Bert Koops (sound recordist), Thanissis Plialis (location)
  • Advisors: Hans Beentjes, Frea Janssen-Vos, Jan Kok, Peter Levelt, Aart Staartjes
  • Translator: Ton Hasebos (1976-1980), John Tak


See also[]



  • Sesamstraat exists as a real street in the Netherlands, notably in the cities of Almere, Nijmegen (in a neighborhood with streets named after herbs and spices) and Enschede (a private street for the company Sesame BV).
  • In 2010, Sesamstraat won de Gouden Stuiver (the Golden Penny) for best children's program. It had two previous nominations.
  • A stereotypical educators ruling was "First Sesamstraat, then go to bed," when the broadcast was 18:30. Later, when the broadcast was an hour early, the saying was dropped and ratings were significantly lowered because many parents could no longer watch the show with their child.

External links[]