Big Bird stars in Chinese 'Sesame Street' spin-off

Sesame Street's Big Bird is returning to Chinese television after a nine-year absence as the star of his own Mandarin-language spin-off series set to premiere in Shanghai next week.

The eight-foot-tall yellow bird is the host of "Sesame Street's Big Bird Looks at the World", a daily 11-minute programme set to debut on Shanghai Media Group's Ha Ha Children's Channel on December 22, the producers said.

"Sesame Workshop has had a proud history of serving the needs of children globally since 1969 and in China since 1983 when Big Bird first visited," Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the non-profit Sesame Workshop, said in a statement.

Big Bird first came to China to film sequences for "Sesame Street" 27 years ago and again from 1998 to 2001. Sesame Workshop at that time partnered with Shanghai television to produce Zhima Jie, a Chinese version of the legendary educational children's programme.

But the show did not last beyond 130 episodes in a tough regulatory environment that favours domestic fare over imported programmes.

"Through the continued efforts of those in the industry, the children's media landscape in China has made big strides in the last few years," said Ye Chao, deputy general manager of Toonmax, the Shanghai Media Group unit in charge of Ha Ha.

Big Bird's co-stars on the show will be Elmo and a new character named Lily, a martial arts-loving tiger, the producers said.

Each of the 52 episodes will focus on a question raised by one of the characters such as "Where does the sun go at night?" or "What are seashells?", the producers said.

Health care products company MSD China, a subsidiary of Merck & Co, which works with Sesame Workshop around the world, is helping fund the programme.

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