Sesame Street: First Animated Muppets Made with Autodesk Softimage
November 20, 2009

Sesame Street: First Animated Muppets Made with Autodesk Softimage

San Rafael, Calif. - For the first time, a 3D animated series is part of the "Sesame Street" television program. The program's 40th anniversary season debuted, including computer-generated (CG) segments delivered by SpeakeasyFX and made with Autodesk Softimage software from Autodesk Inc. The series features a digital version of the favorite Muppet fairy-in-training, Abby Cadabby. "Sesame Street" is the longest running children's program on television.
SpeakeasyFX, an animation studio in New Jersey, worked on 13 nine-minute
segments of "Abby's Flying Fairy School." These fully CG segments were
created to foster preschoolers' critical thinking and problem solving
skills. Abby Cadabby, along with an eclectic gang of new friends, attends
Fairy School with Mrs. Sparklenose. Abby and her friends solve problems
using rhyme, reason and cooperation.

"Until now, Sesame Street used exclusively hand-driven Muppets. We went the
CG route with 'Abby's Flying Fairy School' so that we could bring to life
all the wonderful physical action our writers envisaged Ø such as
underwater scenes," explained Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer at
Sesame Workshop. "As well, the CG format allowed us to produce many online
game options for, extending the broadcast experience."

SpeakeasyFX used Autodesk Softimage to model, animate, render and composite
"Abby's Flying Fairy School." "We've been using Softimage since we opened
our doors," said Scott Stewart, executive director at SpeakeasyFX. "Our
mandate was to bring movie-quality animation to 'Sesame Street.' Of course,
we needed to do it quickly, easily and on budget. Softimage was key to
achieving these goals, because we were able to do everything we needed to
in the software. It was essentially a single software workflow Ø we love
Softimage for its versatility."

SpeakeasyFX created over 500 new props and characters for the series. The
team's greatest challenge was the development of digital characters that
behaved like real-world Muppets. This required advanced fur and cloth
simulations, and complex rigging. Stewart said, "To preserve the creative
vision, we decided to build our digital Muppet models as if a hand was
manipulating them from inside. This was a breakthrough modification to our
workflow and was critically important in helping us find the right balance
between CG and traditional Muppet performances."

SpeakeasyFX relied on Softimage software's Interactive Creative Environment
(ICE) to quickly generate magic effects. ICE was used to simulate
particles, bubbles, a genie in a bottle and even a macaroni twister.
Stewart added, "ICE gave us the bandwidth to include a lot of effects and
magic, allowing us to deliver a level of quality that exceeded initial
expectations. After building our ICE trees and toolsets we were able to
easily customize and add effects and magic to shots in an extremely
labor-efficient way."

"We feel fortunate to have collaborated with SpeakeasyFX on 'Abby's Flying
Fairy School'," added Sesame Workshop's Parente. "They developed the
digital characters with fantastic furry detail. Doing the series in CG,
using Softimage software, provided the freedom to showcase different types
of storytelling, while preserving what viewers of all ages love about
'Sesame Street'."

Stewart concluded, "Two of the big success factors for this project were
great people and great technology. The Sesame Workshop staff clearly
communicated their design ideas and vision with us. Miranda Barry and
Carol-Lynn Parente were excellent at helping the project stay true to the
Sesame heritage."

To view a clip of "Abby's Flying Fairy School" visit