Tag Archives: Sesame Street

Queens kids appear in Sesame Street episode on diversity


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

A scene from the Sesame Street song "beautiful skin song" featuring a child from Fresh Meadows.

When the children’s show Sesame Street is doing an episode about racial and cultural diversity, where do they turn? Queens.

Sesame Street filmed an episode that celebrates diversity, and they filmed part of it in a Fresh Meadows children’s athletic center, My Gym. But the film crew used more than just the gym’s child-friendly space; they also asked the gym’s director, Meredith Coleman, if they could film the students for their athletics and aesthetic.

“And they asked that I make sure that the kids are as diverse as possible. We’ve always been diverse. That’s part of living in Queens,” Coleman said.

The Sesame Street episode, “Proud to Be Me,” aired on Sept. 17, and the bulk of it came from filming the 60 kids from My Gym, including the “beautiful skin song” in the episode.

When the film crew first started recording the children, ages 1 through 12, on June 16, they were shy.

“They had a camera literally in their face so it was awkward at first,” Coleman said. “But soon the kids got used to it and some of them were even fighting for the camera’s attention. We try to build up the confidence of our kids and this helped perfectly, especially that it was an episode about being proud of who you are.”

Coleman believes that the nonprofit education show chose My Gym, an international franchise, because they have always been very active in the community and have performed in Hershey Park and alongside the singer Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas. In December, a group of the older children will perform at halftime for the Harlem Globe Trotters in the Barclays Center.

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Voice of Dora the Explorer, Queens native talks new show


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bonnie Osborne/Nickelodeon

Even though Dora the Explorer is getting older and making a move to a big city, the Queens native and voice behind the popular cartoon is not going anywhere. 

Fátima Ptacek has been the voice of Nickelodeon’s 7-year-old “Dora the Explorer” since 2010 and will now also be the one behind 10-year-old Dora in “Dora and Friends: Into the City!”


L-R: Alana, Emma, Dora, Kate, Naiya, Pablo in Dora and Friends: Into the City! (Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon)

“She’s stunning, I’m so excited,” said Ptacek about the older Dora who will premiere on Monday, Aug. 18 on Nickelodeon. “Now that she’s in the city, she can identify with city kids.”

The 13-year-old actress says growing up and still living in Queens helps her understand her new role more because she can identify with being a city kid.

“I’m very proud to be living in Queens, it’s one of the coolest places I know,” Ptacek said. “I know it like the back of my hands. I make sure to brag about it to anyone.”

She said she loves living in the borough because of its diversity and food options.

“I’m a total foodie,” Ptacek said. “What’s great is right where I live. We basically have every nationality’s cuisine.”

In “Dora and Friends: Into the City!”, Dora moves to a city named “Playa Verde” and finds a new group of friends who embark on explorations with her including riding the subway, and going to school and parties. There is also a lot more music in this series, with a “pop-feel to it,” according to Ptacek.

Along with the new show, the Emmy-award winning series “Dora the Explorer” will also still air.

“I’ve really loved growing up with Dora and I am so lucky to be the first voice of this [new] show,” said Ptacek, who hopes both shows continue on for a long time. “I want my kids to be able to watch the show just how I did.”

Along with being the voice behind Dora, Ptacek has also performed on stage and starred in films, such as “The Rebound” with Catherine Zeta-Jones, and television shows such as “Saturday Night Light” and “Sesame Street,” where she was able to work alongside Michelle Obama.

She also serves as an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, youth ambassador for the Latino Commission on AIDS and volunteers for foundations such as the SAG Foundation BookPALS program.

“Dora and Friends: Into the City!” premieres on Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon.

 

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Kaufman Astoria Studios opens NYC’s first outdoor film set


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Queens is on its way to becoming the next Hollywood.

Kaufman Astoria representatives, local and state elected officials, community leaders and the beloved Grover from Sesame Street gathered on Tuesday to cut the ribbon on New York City’s first outdoor film set at the Kaufman Astoria Studios on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenue.

“Today is the celebration of a vision coming true, it is why I’m smiling,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “The backlot is an exciting new development for the film and television industry in New York as well as for this area of Astoria.”

The grand opening also revealed a brand new gated entrance, designed by David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group, located at 35th Avenue.

The 40-foot high steel gate, which can be used as a catwalk for productions, serves as an identifiable iconic symbol in the community and also welcomes visitors into the block-long 34,800-square-foot outdoor lot.

“As the first dedicated backlot in the five boroughs, film and television productions are now more likely to yell ‘action’ and choose Kaufman Astoria Studios and New York City as a location for filming,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “It’s great to say that Kaufman Astoria Studios is now ready for its close up. We’re rolling out the red carpet for the studio’s brand new lot. It’s a game changer for New York. I like to see New York be number one in everything and we are getting there. Hollywood watch out.”

The brand new outdoor lot is expected to bring in more movie and TV producers because it would allow them to shoot outdoors, special effects shots, and leave up sets for extended periods of time. It is located adjacent to the sound stages, allowing access to dressing rooms, production office and set building workshops.

“The addition of New York City’s first-ever outdoor sound stage puts Astoria on the map when it comes to producing blockbuster movies in the United States,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “From a dormant industrial building, Kaufman Astoria Studios has built a world-class institution that has helped Western Queens become ‘Hollywood East.’”

Together with this new expansion, Kaufman Astoria Studios hopes to continue working on the vision George Kaufman, real estate developer and studio chairman, of growing the arts and culture in Astoria and bringing the neighborhood together.

“When I first came here in the early 1980s, I know that we had the potential to turn this neighborhood into a thriving production, arts and cultural district for the City and I am proud to see that vision is a reality today.”

Current productions at Kaufman Astoria Studios include television shows such as Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and Amazon’s “Alpha House.”

 

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Muppets coming to Museum of the Moving Image in new Jim Henson gallery


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the NYC Mayor’s Office’s Flickr

Hi-ho, the Muppets are coming to town.

On Tuesday Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials announced the late Jim Henson’s family has donated close to 400 puppets, costumes, props and other items to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. The announcement included special appearances by Miss Piggy — who got a kiss from the mayor — Oscar the Grouch and Gobo Fraggle.

The objects will go in a new gallery dedicated to Henson’s film and television achievements including “The Muppet Show,” “Sesame Street” and more.

“We are tremendously grateful to the Henson family and to the City of New York for identifying the museum as the location of a permanent New York City attraction devoted to this transformational figure,” said Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image.

The 2,200-square-foot gallery, which has received $2.75 million in city funds, will be on the second floor of the museum and is expected to open in winter 2014-2015. Along with donations from Henson’s family, the exhibit will feature character sketches, storyboards, scripts from The Jim Henson Company’s archive, film and television clips, behind-the-scenes footage and interactive activities.

“We are delighted that the Museum of the Moving Image will house this permanent collection of my father’s work,” said Cheryl Henson, daughter of the late Jim Henson. “Our fondness for this city and its institutions is deeply rooted as NYC was home for The Jim Henson Company for many years and is now for the Jim Henson Workshop in Long Island City.”

In 2012, “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, concluded its five-year national tour at the Museum of the Moving Image.

The new Henson exhibition will be accompanied by ongoing programs such as curriculum-based events for school children and live presentations by people who worked with Henson and continue to advance his unique artform.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Winds from the ENE at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the SE in the afternoon. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 72. Winds from the South at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the WNW after midnight

EVENT of the DAY: Family Karaoke Night at Manducatis Rustica

At this Long Island City restaurant’s karaoke night there are over 40,000 songs to choose from plus $5 specialty drinks for adults and gelato for kids of all ages. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Brazen thief steals 2 silver Torah crowns from Queens synogogue during evening services

Two valuable silver Torah crowns were stolen from a Queens synagogue during evening prayer services, police said Tuesday. Read more: New York Daily News

Councilman proposes emergency lane along Queens Boulevard

While traffic on Queens Boulevard can be frustrating for drivers, one official says it may be causing bigger problems. Read more: NY1

Cagey peacock ruffles Queens cops’ feathers

They can rappel down skyscrapers, rescue plane-crash survivors from an icy river, and go toe-to-toe with terrorists.But elite NYPD Emergency Service Unit cops were outsmarted yesterday by a plucky peacock that has made a Queens neighborhood his home away from home for the past week. Read more: New York Post

Busted pipe slowly turning freshwater ponds salty in Broad Channel

A busted drain pipe and valve system is slowly ruining the ecology of Jamaica Bay, driving away birds that usually breed along two freshwater ponds. Read more: New York Daily News

Sources: U.S. Open ref arrested in connection with husband’s death

Sources say that police arrested a U.S. Open tennis referee Tuesday who is a suspect in her husband’s death. Read more: NY1

NYPD: Muslim spying led to no leads, terror cases

In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday. Read more: AP

Blasting goes awry along 2nd Avenue subway; buildings, sidewalk damaged

Blasting along Manhattan’s still-under-construction 2nd Avenue subway line caused some damage Tuesday afternoon. Now, authorities want to know if human error was to blame. Read more: CBS New York

Searching for a new neighbor on ‘Sesame Street’

“Sesame Street” held its first-ever open casting call in New York this week to find its newest neighbor — a Hispanic character to reflect the long-running show’s increasingly diverse audience. Read more: Wall Street Journal 

BC/WSJ poll: Heading into conventions, Obama has four-point lead 

After Mitt Romney selected his vice presidential running mate, and just days before the political conventions kick off next week, President Barack Obama maintains his advantage in the race for the White House, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Read more: NBC news

Queens cutie cast as ‘Dora’


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesey of Nickelodeon

Queens kid Fatima Ptacek has been cast as the new voice of “Dora the Explorer” — a spunky little girl with a penchant for adventures.

For her first “Dora” audition at the Nickelodeon offices, Ptacek read a few lines and sang two songs — “Rocketeer” by Far East Movement and “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. Ptacek was unsure of the part she was auditioning for at first, but several lines into her mock dialogue, she knew it was for “Dora.” About a month after her original audition, she went back to the studio for a test run in the audio booth, reciting more lines and singing behind a microphone.

On November 8, 2010 she got the call. She was “Dora.”

“I was screaming like a madwoman and crying tears of joy,” exclaimed Ptacek. “I never imagined that this would be possible for me to get this opportunity at such a young age. I was so excited.”

Once a week for the past year, Ptacek has headed to a Manhattan sound studio where she records Dora’s dialogue and songs. Her first episode aired on Monday, January 30. Just like “Dora,” Ptacek is bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish. Her mother is Ecuadorian and her father is of European descent.

“I’m a proud Latina, and I’m not afraid to show it!” laughed Ptacek.

Aside from multilingual abilities, Ptacek feels that she and “Dora” exemplify several other similar characteristics.

“Dora is super determined and all for having adventures,” said Ptacek. “She makes sure she starts and finishes her adventures right. We’re also really positive.”

Ptacek said that her friends have been really supportive and encouraging, while many kids at her school are in disbelief.

“Some kids don’t believe it,” she said. “They’re in awe.”

Ptacek said her parents — a business owner and homemaker — have always been supportive of her budding career in the limelight, helping her run lines and prepare songs, driving her to auditions and doing anything necessary to ensure the starlet’s success.

Ptacek is no novice to the spotlight. The 11 year old is signed to Wilhelmina Models and has appeared in ads for Gap, The Children’s Place and Ralph Lauren and has won spots on “Royal Pains,” “Body of Proof” and “Sesame Street.”

Regardless of her fame, Ptacek says she’s happy staying in school and being a normal kid. She loves spending time in Queens, enjoying the borough’s diverse cuisine and spending time with her parents. Ptacek is also a level-seven gymnast and is currently learning Mandarin Chinese.

“I’m definitely still a kid and I’m definitely always going to be a kid until I have to be an adult,” said Ptacek.

The sixth-grader has been watching “Dora” for as long as she can remember, and recalls growing up with the character. She said that playing the part has yet to sink in.

“I wake up every morning and say I still can’t believe I’m ‘Dora the Explorer!’” she said.

“Dora the Explorer” airs weekdays at 10 a.m. on Nickelodeon.