Sesame Tree is the Sesame Street television co-production for Northern Ireland. Belfast-based production company Sixteen South produced the series in association with Sesame Workshop. The show stars Potto, a furry, inventive monster-type who lives in a tree with his friend Hilda, the Irish hare. The first series consisted of twenty fifteen-minute episodes, and debuted over BBC Two Northern Ireland on April 5, 2008.
The project has been under consideration since 2004; in Sesame Workshop's presentations on their international projects, Northern Ireland was listed as a goal, with the intent of "building Sesame model for respect and understanding curriculum across sectarian divides." 
The project remained merely a goal for lack of funding. However, in early 2006, it was announced that the American Ireland Fund announced their donation of one million dollars to realize the project. Additional sponsors include the Northern Ireland Fund for Reconciliation
Sesame Workshop president Gary Knell spoke optimistically about the project:
|“||Given the positive and wide-ranging developments that have taken place over the recent years, it’s a tremendously exciting time to be working in Northern Ireland. It’s crucial to develop children’s self-esteem, love of learning, openness and natural curiosity about others to better prepare them for a brighter future. We are proud and privileged, with our production partners from Northern Ireland, to have the opportunity to contribute to these objectives.||”|
Though initially untitled, as the project developed, a decision was made to use a large hollow tree instead of a street as the setting, and Sesame Tree was finalized as the title in September 2007.
Sesame Tree was selected for a CINE Golden Eagle Award in 2008.
Characters and Content
The program features several new Muppet characters, developed by the Sixteen South production crew, designed by Ed Christie and built by the Jim Henson Company in New York, and performed by local puppeteers. Marty Robinson assisted in auditioning and training local performers.
The series focuses on Potto, a furry, inventive monster-type who lives in a tree with his friend Hilda, the Irish hare. The supporting characters include the eccentric bird Claribelle; the Bookworms who live among Potto's books; and the three Weatherberries, a group of Muppet fruit who hang from a vine inside the tree.
The episodes also include clips from the American Sesame Street and live action film inserts from in and around Northern Ireland. In some segments, Potto contacts his friends on Sesame Street through his own computer device.
Executive producer Colin Williams of Sixteen South expressed the hope that "Through the fun interaction of the muppets in studio, Sesame Street archive clips and live action films, local children will enjoy learning about themselves and others."
A bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Muppet will be moving to Sesame Tree, Northern Ireland’s very own version of Sesame Street, when the second series debuts later this year.
Archie, a three and a half year old squirrel with a love of learning, will join friends Hilda and Potto on their adventures as they encourage children to explore the world around them, promoting respect and understanding through educational messages. The trio will answer questions on many topics posed by children and introduce local mini documentaries that showcase the diversity of life in Northern Ireland. Archie is played by local puppeteer, Mike Smith.
- Paul Currie as Potto
- Lesa Gillespie as Hilda
- Mike Smith as Archie
- Helen Sloan as Weatherberry (series 1)
- Michael McNulty as Potto's arm, Weatherberry
- Alana Kerr as Claribelle, Weatherberry
- Sarah Lyle as Maisie Weatherberry and Samson Bookworm (series 2)
- Sarah Boyd Wilson as Goliath Bookworm (series 2)
- The Bookworms Move House
- Food for Thought
- Booga Granny Hare!
- The Share Necessities
- Big Hare Day
- Finders Keepers
- A Present for Claribelle
- CSI Sesame Tree
- Beezer Broccoli Birthday Cake
- Arty Party
- Turn and Turn About
- Practice Makes Perfect
- Potto's Really Rockin' Pocket Shoes
- One Wee Minute
- Hilda's Two Birthdays
- Same Difference
- Potto's Perfect Picnic
- Sad Hare Blues
- The Goldfish Tree
- A Very Special Visitor
- Tar ag Spraoi Sesame, dubbed package for Ireland
- ↑ 2004 Sesame Workshop Powerpoint presentation
- ↑ O' Driscoll, Sean. "'Sesame Street' project to promote tolerance in North." The Irish Times. January 28, 2006.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 O'Mahony, Catherine. "The North Gets Its Own Sesame Street." The Sunday Business Post. May 05, 2007
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Sesame Workshop press release. September 20, 2007.
- ↑ CINE Golden Eagle Award Recipients 2008. Fall, 2008.
- ↑ Belfast Telegraph "Ulster on way to Sesame Street" by Emily Moulton 10/10/07
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Residents of Sesame Tree Revealed. October 2007