When B.C. film director Mark Ratzlaff first visited the New York set of Sesame Street, he became a kid again.
“Sesame Street was a big part of my childhood,” says Ratzlaff.
“It was like getting that dose of magic that came with Christmas morning.”
All of a sudden, he was in the middle of Big Bird’s nest and Oscar’s trash can.
The 35-year-old pitched a show to the producers back in 2017. H is for Hair focused on diversity among children. The segment featured a kid with curly hair, a Sikh boy wearing a patka and a young girl going through chemotherapy.
“We really wanted to drive home the idea of inclusivity,” says Ratzlaff.
It is consistent with what the iconic children’s show is all about. Now into Season 50, Sesame Street has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to social issues and diversity.
The segment was well received, so the producers invited Ratzlaff to do another one. This time, H is for Holiday was a reflection of Ratzlaff’s upbringing in multicultural Vancouver. He remembered visiting his friends’ homes to celebrate Lunar New Year and Diwali.
“It is fun to put kids that I grew up with on the screen because a lot of times, that is still a huge issue across the film and television landscape,” says Ratzlaff.
For 2020, the filmmaker is directing a segment that will focus on where chickens come from, along with Cookie Monster.
“The idea is showing kids where food comes from,” says the filmmaker.
Ratzlaff says Sesame Street was a big part of his youth, and as a new dad, he knows his son is among the next generation of fans.
“What I’ve learned is that you have a huge responsibility when you’re making content that is being consumed by a young audience,” says Ratzlaff.
He says the creator behind Sesame Street, Jim Henson, inspired him and played a role in him pursuing film. It has come full circle for Ratzlaff now that he’s directing segments for his childhood idol’s show.