ABC2 welcomes The Furchester family with furry arms as the doors open for business at The Furchester Hotel.
The Furchester Hotel is a series for 3-6 year olds set in an -almost' world-class hotel run by a close-knit family of cheerfully chaotic monsters. The series introduces brand new characters and also welcomes the beloved Elmo and Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. It's set to launch in Australia on ABC Kids on April 13th at 7.30am and 4.30pm, and will be available anytime on ABC iview and ABC KIDS iview.
As guests arrive at the hotel, they're greeted by monster owner Funella Furchester, her loving husband, Furgus Fuzz, and their daughter, the unflappable Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz. Elmo, Phoebe's cousin who is on an extended visit and Cookie Monster, who has landed his dream job as room service and dining room waiter, join the Furchester family at the hotel. Completing the ensemble is Isabel, a furry bell monster - guests won't get any attention until she dings to announce their arrival!
The family bends over backwards and forwards and sideways (only occasionally tripping over) to be sure that the needs of every guest are met, whether animal, vegetable, mineral or monster. This atmosphere of multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-fuzziness presents unique challenges for them. How do you disguise a pony who checks in for a quiet break? Where is the perfect place to put a very fussy plant? What happens when Super Rock appears and needs a new super hero cape? How can they stop Cookie Monster from eating the giant cookie guest Mr. Crumb? The Furchesters approach every problem with determination and resolve in order to keep their guests happy. They put their furry heads together (clonk!) and with some exceptional thinking, devise a solution. Even when they think they've exhausted all possibilities, their perseverance prevails because their family motto is, 'A Furchester never gives up!"
Kay Benbow, Controller of CBeebies, the BBC's pre-school children's channel, who co-produced the series with Sesame Workshop, the educational organisation behind Sesame Street, says, 'The Furchester Hotel is the result of four or five years of hard work – this is a true partnership with Sesame Workshop and we've worked hard together to develop an incredibly strong, ambitious series that we're all really proud of. I can't wait to see the reaction of our young Australian viewers when they hit the screens."
'After four years in the works, it truly is thrilling to have The Furchester Hotel make its debut in Australia, following an incredibly successful launch in the UK," adds Terry Fitzpatrick, Chief Content and Distribution Officer, Sesame Workshop. 'We hope that Elmo, Cookie Monster and the whole Furchester Family will be helping children solve problems creatively for many years to come."
Top UK puppeteers including Louise Gold (Funella), Andrew James Spooner (Furgus) and Sarah Burgess (Phoebe) joined forces with Sesame Street puppeteers David Rudman (Cookie Monster) and Ryan Dillon (Elmo) to bring all the characters to life in The Furchester Hotel. Puppet captain was Mak Wilson who also performs resident guest Harvey P Dull.
The Furchester Hotel is co-produced by Sesame Workshop and CBeebies. Tony Reed and Alison Stewart are the executive producers for CBeebies and Carol-Lynn Parente is the executive producer for Sesame Workshop. Producers are David Collier for CBeebies and Dionne Nosek for Sesame Workshop; Belinda Ward is head writer for the series. It will air on ABC KIDS daily at 7.30am and 4.30pm from April 13th.
Synopsis Episodes 1-4
The Furchester family want to make a video promoting the hotel. A director comes to shoot the video but thinks the family have so many problems with the hotel and their guests that it will deter potential visitors. He learns to appreciate, however, that the Furchester's creatively solve all the problems and have a hotel full of happy guests: and this is what he films for the video, which the family love.
The Furchester Hotel has run out of cookies, leaving Cookie Monster hungry. When a giant cookie checks in, the Furchester family has to stop Cookie Monster from eating him!
When a porcupine checks into The Furchester his sharp quills scare the other guests. The family has to use some major furry thinking so they can get up close to him and make him feel welcome in the hotel.
When the front desk phone breaks, Furgus needs to relay guest messages upstairs. Coincidentally, a professional yodeller has checked into the hotel and offers to teach everyone how to yodel. The problem is how to make sure your yodel reaches the right guest.
THE CHARACTERS Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz Age: 7 Who is she? Daughter of Furgus and Funella and Elmo's cousin. Role within the hotel: Likes to do anything to help around the hotel and often works out the solution to the creative problems that arise in every episode. Likes/dislikes: She has a real fondness for Elmo. Most treasured possession: Her skeleton key necklace. Most likely to say: Fuzzawubba! That gives me a monster idea! Description of Phoebe An unflappable, independent 7-year old monster who often helps run the hotel when her parents are occupied with such important tasks as checking in the amoeba guests or singing lullabies to noisy wolves who can't sleep. With an authority befitting her vast experience, Phoebe looks out for her young cousin Elmo. Phoebe's quick and creative mind is always working to come up with solutions to problems. When Phoebe has a particularly inspirational idea, she and Elmo rush to put the plan into action - although they don't always think through the repercussions. While things don't always work out quite the way Phoebe envisioned, she has the bright-eyed enthusiasm and charm of a monster who's only 7. Elmo Age: 3 ½ Who is he? He's related to the Furchester-Fuzz family, he's Phoebe's cousin Role within the hotel: He's on an extended holiday and like to help his cousin Phoebe Likes: The Furchester family and super heroes Dislikes: Sitting still! Catchphrase: An infectious giggle! Description of Elmo The 3 1⁄2 year-old exuberant monster cousin who is on an extended visit to The Furchester Hotel. Elmo is gobsmacked by the hotel and all it has to offer: lift buttons to push, rooms to explore, phones to be answered, lots of new friends to make. Elmo adores his cousin Phoebe and they make a great team of problem solvers. Elmo can get frustrated at times – he is very worried when the chicken guests go walkabout in the hotel and when the goat guest starts to nibble the furniture – but more often his irrepressible optimism makes him a resilient and happy monster. Funella Furchester Who is she? Wife to Furgus, mum to Phoebe and owner of The Furchester Hotel Role within the hotel: Runs the hotel with her husband Furgus Likes/dislikes: Her family is the most important thing; she also wants all her guests to enjoy their stay at the hotel. Most likely to say: 'We welcome you with furry arms." Description of Funella Warm-hearted, welcoming monster owner of The Furchester Hotel who adores her husband and daughter and her warm family feeling extends to her dear nephew, Elmo. She will do anything to make her guests feel at home. Funella is supremely proud of the Furchester Hotel and its ½ star rating, although she's always striving for the other ½ star, continually thinking of ways to improve the service. It was her idea to hire a group of singing vegetables to make everyone happy and to have a parrot-sitting service. Funella is inconsolable when a guest decides to check out early and she will do everything in her power to prevent that from occurring. Every episode ends with her and Furgus singing a plea to -Don't Check Out'! Furgus Fuzz Who is he? Husband to Funella, dad to Phoebe Role within the hotel: Jack of all trades Likes/dislikes: Likes to keep everyone happy Most likely to say: I can fix it! Description of Furgus Funella's eager and hard-working husband and the hotel's Mr Fix-It. Furgus often displays creative thinking in problem-solving. Furgus hires a yodelling instructor when the hotel phones break down and he puts honey on a dance floor when the guests complain that it's too slippery. Furgus is also a brilliant dancer and teaches Elmo some great moves! And he can sing, too, cheering up a shy flower. Furgus is proud to have married into the distinguished Furchester dynasty and, like Funella, strives to maintain its cherished 1/2 star rating. His love for his wife and daughter as well as for Elmo is always on display. Cookie Monster Who is he? A monster with an unbridled obsession for cookies Role within the hotel: Delivers room service and dining room waiter Likes: Cookies! Dislikes: When they run out of cookies at the hotel Most likely to say: 'Me love cookies!" Description of Cookie Monster Cookie Monster has landed his dream job at the Furchester Hotel as room service and dining room waiter. There is plenty of opportunity for cookie advancement. Guests often wonder why they receive a plate of cookies, which the waiter then eats, rather than the soup they ordered! Cookie Monster is primarily concerned with finding and devouring cookies but he always supports the Family when needed: delivering leaves to a caterpillar guest, wearing rolling skates to make the service speedy and even dressing up as a duck for a TV show. Isabel Who is she? Small furry monster has a bell on top Role within the hotel: Announces arrival of guests Likes: Dinging Dislikes: When she has the ding-ups and can't ding properly Most likely to say: Ding Description of Isabel Isabel is a bell. This small, furry monster has a bell on top (think front desk bell with pink fuzziness). She gives each guest a friendly ding when they arrive, and can also provide an alert system: she dings when the dinosaur from Room 223 wanders past, unseen by the rest of the Family – who are inconveniently looking in the other direction… THE PUPPETEERS Ryan Dillon is Elmo Ryan Dillon has been puppeteering since he could hold his arm up. Inspired by the Muppets™ since childhood and encouraged by his family and teachers, Dillon built and performed his own characters, performing shows wherever he could. In his senior year of high school, he was asked to join the cast of Sesame Street, and has been performing with the 'longest street in the world" for the past 10 years. In addition to performing Elmo, Dillon has played numerous chickens, birds, frogs, monsters, foods and other colorful characters. Dillon has done national commercials, short films, and other television series, lending his voice and arm to other worlds of puppet characters. When he is not on 'the Street," he writes, directs and performs in his own web-based puppet content. Q&A with Ryan Dillon - Performer of Elmo What made you decide you would like to become a puppeteer? I love that puppetry has no limits. One day I may be playing a monster, the next day it's Cinderella, and the day after that I'm a tap-dancing cheese. I would never get cast as any of those things as a stage actor. I love the places it can take you - so many characters! How did you get started? I've been puppeteering since I could walk and talk so it was a natural thing for me. I loved Sesame Street and The Muppet Show as a kid, puppets were always a part of my life. My parents were very supportive and taught me how to sew and make puppets. I also liked that it was live animation. I began puppeteering for Sesame Street when I was 17 and I've been there ever since. What was your first role? I played a chicken with a feather stuck in her throat"just another day at Sesame Street! How would you describe Elmo? Elmo is lovely. He is a sweet kid, who is genuinely interested in people and life. He is a giver and wants everyone to feel important. He's sweet, sassy, and lovely. What is the best part of being around Elmo? The way children react to meeting Elmo is really special to me…it's magical. There's electricity in that connection, and I can always feel the energy in the room change. It's marvellous. Is it easy to switch between being Ryan and Elmo? We tend to keep the characters we play very separate. I think people have this idea that we launch into their voices when we order lunch at a restaurant, but that's just not the case. The Furchester Hotel had a raised set – how did you find that? We almost always work with a raised set in the States (one big exception being the "Street" itself at Sesame). It's the best way to shoot a puppet series as it allows for lots of mobility for the performers. The Furchester Hotel set was very comfortable for us as puppeteers. What kind of things does Elmo get up to at The Furchester Hotel? Elmo is an apprentice at the hotel, Phoebe teaches him mundane everyday things like making a bed and delivering toast and Elmo loves it! I had fun with that - Elmo finds these routine chores fascinating because they are new experiences for him. What was a funny moment during filming? Muppet sets tend to be funny places. We ad-lib between takes to find our characters, and that's some of the funniest stuff. We always try to make each other laugh, there's a very familial feeling around the performers. David Rudman is Cookie Monster David Rudman has been a Sesame Street puppeteer since 1985 -- currently performing Baby Bear, Cookie Monster and Two-Headed Monster. He has received four Emmy nominations as Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series for his work on Sesame Street. Rudman has also directed several web videos for Sesame Street such as 'Cookie Monster Auditions for Saturday Night Live" and 'Conversations with Bert." He has performed in numerous television shows and specials including Saturday Night Live, The Colbert Report and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. With The Muppets™, Rudman has been performing Scooter and Janice since 2007. In addition to his work on Sesame Street and The Muppets, Rudman also has a long list of film credits and is co-owner of Spiffy Pictures. Q&A with David Rudman - Performer of Cookie Monster What made you decide you would like to become a puppeteer? I was a very creative kid - I loved art, music, comedy, film and television. When I saw the Muppets, it was everything I loved combined together"funny, musical, beautifully built sculptures appearing on television. I grew up watching everything the Muppets did and was a big fan of Jim Henson. How did you get started? I taught myself how to build puppets when I was around 8 years old from things I found around the house. I gradually got better and better. Then, after I graduated from high school, I was offered a summer job building puppets for The Muppets. What was your first role? My first puppeteering job was with a TV special called, 'I Love Liberty." My first role on Sesame Street was a dentist singing, 'Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood" with Bob. How long have you been Cookie's puppeteer? It's been a wonderful 15 years. How would you describe Cookie Monster? He's a lovable blue monster who happens to be obsessed with eating COOKIES…and anything he can get his furry hands on!!! As long as he has a cookie nearby, he's a happy monster! Is it easy to switch between being David and Cookie? Yes! Wait, me not sure?! Yes! Can you describe the set of The Furchester Hotel The Furchester Hotel was a raised set which is always nice because it allows the performers to have much more freedom to move around when we're blocking a scene or choreographing a musical number. What kind of things does Cookie Monster get up to at The Furchester Hotel? He works as a waiter in the dining room and also brings room service to the guests - or at least attempts to bring room service to the guests! The food doesn't always make it to the room...or to the table in the dining room! Which episode is your favourite? I loved the Mr. Crumb episode – it was so well written and very silly! Sarah Burgess is Phoebe Sarah Burgess is a puppeteer, actress and vocal artist whose roles include Trixie on the television series Lazytown, the voice of Stingy for the UK version of Lazytown, Brassy in the CBeebies series Space Pirates, puppeteer on the West End production of Doctor Dolittle and performing as an actress and puppeteer in many productions for the Little Angel Puppet Theatre in the UK. Her most recent role has been as animatronic operator for the T-Rex on the hit European tour of Walking With Dinosaurs. Q&A with Sarah Burgess – performer of Phoebe What made you decide you would like to become a puppeteer? I was working as a prop assistant on 'Wizadora' and the puppeteers were such a great bunch. They had so much fun that I decided to give it a go and I got a bit obsessed with it after that! What was your first role? My first ever role was the Tortoise in the production of the Little Angel's 'Talkative Tortoise', one of their touring productions. Later, my first TV puppet role was as Trixie in Lazytown, filmed in Iceland and was hugely exciting! How long have you been a puppeteer? About 17 years. Every job has been so different and I've loved them all. How would you describe the character you play in The Furchester Hotel? I play Phoebe who is a very cool character to play. She's fun loving and essentially a child but she has a great ability to be calm in a crisis and to figure out the solutions to a lot of the problems the family face. She has a special fondness for her cousin Elmo and they have a great time together in the hotel. What is your character like to work with? The puppet itself is beautiful. It's wonderfully made by the Jim Henson workshop and is a dream to perform with. Phoebe's character is so much fun and I love being her. Is it easy to switch between being you and the character? Oh, yes, of course. Personality-wise she is actually quite different to me and in real life I'm less of a monster! Tell me about the set of The Furchester Hotel – how did you find the raised set? The set was just incredible. I've never worked on a set that's so detailed. The hotel lift has proper brass lift buttons and the garden has topiary bushes trimmed in the shape of monsters. Even the wallpaper in the hotel had a unique pattern, designed especially for the show, made up of monster faces. The raised set made the puppeteer's job so much easier enabling the characters to fully interact with the set and made working with such a large cast possible. What kind of things do The Furchester Fuzz family get up to at The Furchester Hotel? They have all kinds of crazy events that they put on at the hotel. My favourite was the day the hotel was turned into a bobsleigh course, starting in the bedrooms and ending in the lobby. It looked amazing. Andrew Spooner is Furgus Andrew trained as an actor at the Guildford School of Acting graduating in 1994. His first professional puppetry job was on Spitting Image. Soon after he was a core puppeteer on Muppets Treasure Island and has performed on many projects for the Jim Henson Company. He played a character called Dog on Sky Living for more than 7 years. He recently worked on Muppets Most Wanted and the BBC/Henson project That Puppet Game Show. He also works as an actor appearing in TV shows including Inspector Morse, The Knock and The Bill. Andrew also lends his voice to video games and the odd cartoon as a voice over artist. Q&A with Andrew Spooner – performer of Furgus Fuzz What made you decide you would like to become a puppeteer? Lots of things. I was a kid growing up in the 70's so I was surrounded by Muppets, Star Wars and Doctor Who. I was fascinated by the filmmaking process and when the film "The Dark Crystal" was released I was blown away by it. There was a segment about it on Blue Peter and there were all these people operating the puppets. I suddenly realised that you might be able to do this as a job and I was hooked. How did you get started? I had no idea how you became a puppeteer. I went to drama school for 3 years but at the end of my 3 years I felt completely lost and wasn't sure being around actors was for me. Out of the blue I wrote a letter to the Jim Henson Creature Shop in Camden and to my surprise they wrote back because they were holding auditions! I went along and went through a sort of puppet boot camp for two weeks, which was an amazing experience and I've worked for them on and off since then. How would you describe the character you play in The Furchester Hotel? Furgus loves his family and would do anything for them. He's got that lovely streak of eccentricity about him. He would think nothing of building a bob sleigh track through the corridors and rooms of the hotel. At the same time there is a sweet naive side to his personality. No job is too big that he won't give it a go, he's very enthusiastic. Furgus is the one you want if you need something fixed. When something goes awry he is always the first name on Funella's lips. What is your character like to work with? Wonderful. Always eager to help and happy to laugh at my awful jokes! Is it easy to switch between being you and the character? Yes and no. It's harder at the beginning. During rehearsals and the first few episodes you are still finding out who this character is. By the end I can switch him on and off pretty easily. He still surprises me though. He'll react to something in a way that is completely Furgus but that I hadn't necessarily planned. Tell me about the set of The Furchester Hotel – how did you find the raised set? Oh it's as good as it gets. You have complete freedom of movement. Speaking as a puppeteer that's spent many shoots scrabbling around on the floor, it was bliss. What kind of things do The Furchester Fuzz family get up to at The Furchester Hotel? All they want is for their customers to be happy. So if that means holding a fun run in the lobby then so be it. All the rooms are tailored to their clientele - twig rooms for caterpillars, hibernation sweets for bears etc. If anything goes wrong they will move mountains to solve it. In one episode Furgus has to find the perfect spot for a rather fussy plant and no matter how frustrated he gets all he wants to do is make the plant happy. Louise Gold is Funella Louise is a very experienced puppeteer having worked for many years with Jim Henson, first on -The Muppet Show' and then on many Muppet movies and -Sesame Street'. She then helped set up -Spitting Image' and performed among others The Queen, Nancy Reagan, Mary Whitehouse and Janet Street Germ! Most recently she has been working on the new Muppet Movie -Muppets Most Wanted' and as two of the leads in BBCs 'That Puppet Gameshow'. Q&A with Louise Gold – performer of Funella Furchester What made you decide you would like to be a puppeteer? I trained to be an actress at the Arts Educational School and had no intention of becoming a puppeteer. I wanted to be a dramatic actress and also trained to sing and my first jobs were all in theatre so the puppeteering was a total accident. I still combine acting and puppeteering. How did you get started? I auditioned for Jim Henson and was successful and so I started immediately during the second series of The Muppet Show, initially doing background characters and providing voices and also being right hand to Fozzie Bear, Link Hogthrob, and Rowlf the Dog among others. I then had my own character Annie Sue Pig, a very talented, beautiful young pig. I have continued to work with the Muppets and Henson Organisation ever since. I also played Roland Rat's mother and was a founding member of the Spitting Image team. How long have you been a puppeteer? I have been a puppeteer for over 30 years but always combining it with my work as an actress in TV, films, theatre and West End musicals including Mamma Mia, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins and Oliver! How would you describe the character you play in The Furchester Hotel? Funella Furchester is the owner and proprietor of the hotel which she runs with her husband and daughter and the various staff. She loves her family more than anything else in the world but her job comes a close second. She loves to make her guests happy and will go to extraordinary lengths to cater to all their different tastes. She can be loud and a little daunting in her enthusiasm but is very good hearted. She enjoys the social side of the hotel but gets very upset if anything goes wrong and tends to think that small problems are catastrophes. Tell me about the set for The Furchester Hotel- how did you find the raised set? I have been lucky enough to almost always work on a raised set and it makes the puppeteers job much easier. It is very physically demanding at the best of times so to be able to stand up while operating the puppeteers and not get into more awkward positions than absolutely necessary makes it, if not easy, slightly more comfortable. What kind of things do the Furchester Fuzz Family get up to at The Furchester Hotel? They enjoy solving the problems that arise daily at such a busy hotel that caters to a rather unusual clientele! They are always trying to improve and innovate. Funella had the wonderful and totally original idea of providing lift music. There is also a fruit ripening lounge, and various ways to make even the most surprising guest feel at home including roller skating to make service more speedy. The staff include Cookie Monster and Elmo. Cookie Monster although very well meaning is not the most reliable staff member so some time is taken up keeping him from eating any cookie/biscuit guests!