Date: July 13, 2005

Grover, the furry blue Muppet, is using his superhero alter-ego to help children and their parents understand healthy nutrition and hygiene habits when the Sesame Street Live performance “Super Grover! Ready for Action” debuts Aug. 25.

The live performance at La Crosse (Wis.) Center will be the first stop in a yearlong tour that will crisscross the country promoting healthy choices for American children in a performance featuring Sesame Street characters.

“The genesis for this is the high obesity rate in children,” said Dayna Deutsch, senior vice president for sales and marketing for VEE Corp., the exclusive licensee that produces and promotes the Sesame Street Live productions.

The theme, first introduced on the Sesame Street TV shows, is part of the Healthy Habits for Life initiative created by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street. The initiative is a multiyear plan aimed at helping preschoolers and their parents live healthier lives. A coalition of partners and an advisory board of health, nutrition, fitness and education experts are developing content for home videos, books and shows.

“It isn't about hitting kids over the head with the information. It's about educating through entertainment,” Deutsch said about the Super Grover live stage show. “It is a great storyline loaded with lessons for kids that they can digest well and understand. It has lots of humor, puns and irony that is natural to Sesame Street.”

Rehearsals begin Aug. 1 and sets are already in production, Deutsch said. The show will be promoted city by city through direct mail, e-mail, broadcast, TV and print advertising.

Without giving away too much of the plot, Deutsch said the show begins with Super Grover discovering he is losing his super powers and slowly realizing why – his unhealthy lifestyle choices. “He learns lessons in all the categories – health, hygiene, nutrition exercise and sleep,” she said.

The storyline lends itself to fresh angles, Deutsch said. Characters like the Cookie Monster, with his compulsive chocolate cookie eating disorder, learns that cookies are a “sometimes food.” Oscar the Grouch, who lives in a garbage can, has to face his personal hygiene issues. “Each character is so distinctively written that it creates interesting scenarios,” she said.

Sesame Street Live in entering its 26th season of performances. Deutsch said the productions, which currently number four, are the longest running family entertainment property for children.

The healthy habits theme is also producing some unique partnership opportunities for companies who want to jump on the healthy initiative bandwagon. Sesame Street Workshop is working with PBS Kids, Parenting Magazine, The Ad Council and others to promote the healthy initiative. Hain-Celestial Group natural food products has created a line of co-branded snacks under the Earth's Best label. The products will include organic, low-fast breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal, cereal bars, crackers and cookies.

The Earth's Best products are not sold through VEE at shows, however. VEE has the rights at some venues to sell cotton candy and snow-cones, but venues must contract directly with Hain-Celestial to sell their cookies. “It is something we are looking into for down the road,” said Melissa Kreinces, the Promotion Pipeline for Hain-Celestial.

Peter van Roden, vice president of Themed Entertainment for Sesame Workshop, said the Healthy Habits for Life initiative is “going incredibly well. People recognize that this issue needs to be talked about.” Sesame Street characters are a natural for reaching the preschool audience and their parents, he said. “We are a trusted brand that people look to for information and advice.”

Interviewed for this story: Dayna Deutsch (612) 375-9670; Peter van Roden (212) 875-6651; Melissa Kreinces, (631) 243-3996