‘Sesame Street’ Introduces First Chinese Character to Series

Sesame Street is launching their first muppet of Asian descent.

The series debuted a new muppet on Monday: Yi-Young, a friendly Chinese girl who has a penchant for gardening and dressing up in Chinese folk costumes.

Yi-Young is called “Sesame Street” in Chinese.

“Yi-Young has been a longtime dream of ours,” said Neil Goldman, co-executive producer of the series, said in a statement. “We were thrilled to welcome Sesame Street’s first Asian American muppet onto our stage and develop her with an amazing team of writers, producers and animators.”

The 29-year-old South Korean girl was created through an attempt to utilize the show’s funding for diversity. The funds are federally designated for helping children and their families use media to better understand their communities.

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This was the first time the funds had been used for cultural programming. The funding was approved by Congress in 2009.

Yi-Young is introduced in the segment “Childhood Home” with Elmo and Big Bird in spring 2019.

The segment reveals new details of the muppet’s backstory. The series first revealed information about the muppet’s family at the end of last year.

This is an example of a first-generation Asian American that was created through inclusive means and is used to not just animate but also to educate and increase awareness and understanding of a new culture, artist Lori Fan, who worked on the Sesame Street project, told The Associated Press.

While Jimmy Fallon and Trevor Noah took on some of the help Yi-Young goons (which will be watching their backs), another muppet played the role of jittery Chinese father.

“We just let the characters play and hope the audience doesn’t take on the real world stereotypes of China,” said Andy Warhol, a producer for Sesame Street, in an interview with Huanet TV.

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Fan said that Sesame Street hopes that Yi-Young will bring diversity, voice and optimism to childhood.

Fan said Ji-Young is “a marvel of pure energy with kind eyes and a smile that says, ‘I’m me. I make my mistakes and I am strong.'”

Other new characters in the first-ever multicultural makeup include Brown Bear, who was introduced in November, and Cookie Monster and Hamlet, characters of the Danish folktale.

A segment in the storybook “Hollywood” begins with Brown Bear running through a dusty alleyway, Chinese characters scooting along him. A little boy escorts Brown Bear, who is about to lose his shirt. The boy touches him and the shirt magically falls off.

Then, as the brown bear moves through a larger alleyway, Chinese characters scurry alongside him, before Brown Bear jumps into the sea of paper toys floating on waves.

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Fan explained that the concept is “to recreate cultural events where stereotypes are broken down.”

“This kind of happens in the world where there are many cultures and many languages, so that any child can relate and the stories are what speaks to them,” she said.

Copyright Associated Press

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