Fri | Nov 27, 2020

Listen Mi Caribbean for Sesame Street’s 50th

Published:Thursday | October 3, 2019 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Kenia Mattis and the Listen Mi team preparing their pitch at KingsTOON 2019.

As a happy result of this year’s KingsTOON Animation Festival, Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary season will take a bite out of Jamaican culture. From the animation and design studio, Listen Mi Caribbean, the beloved children’s show, starring the Muppets, will feature a short musical film about the fourth letter of the alphabet, and the activity Jamaicans relish, whether for church, funeral or party – dressing up.

In a video shared by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Kenia Mattis, co-founder of Listen Mi Caribbean, explained how the collaboration came into being. “The Sesame Street project came to use through an amazing confluence of activities,” she said. “We were selected to attend KingsTOON, where we were nominated in a few categories. A part of that was an opportunity to pitch for them a concept for ‘D is for dress up’. That’s all Sesame Street told us.”

A short film

From that basic idea, the Listen Mi Caribbean team, including Leo Rhule (creative director) and Donald ‘Icon’ Medder (sound designer), conceptualised a musical short film, and they got a nod from the standard-bearing show to produce it.

“It was very exciting for me. We’re seeing the fruits of the programme,” KingsTOON conceptualiser and animation specialist Robert Reid told The Gleaner.

Mattis added, “Just by being there, they were able to land a deal. That’s big news for the industry. The fact that we were able to introduce our culture into a musically inspired short film that’s going be a part of the Sesame [ Street] 50th anniversary celebration is a big deal. I hope more people will be encouraged to continue to pitch their ideas, because the sky is really the limit.”

Icon stated that his desire is for them “to realise we’re more than just dancehall and reggae; that we can do other things outside of that, like TV and movie scores. We have the talent to stand up with the big boys out there.”

Listen Mi Caribbean is an animation and design studio based in Kingston. Getting this enterprise off the ground required support from government-sponsored programmes. It is co-sponsored by The World Bank, the Government of Jamaica, through the Office of the Prime Minister, and JAMPRO.