How do you create an animated Arabic version of "Sesame Street"? Circuitously.
Philadelphian Paul Fierlinger, a Czech emigre, is animating "Letterman," a character who teaches Arab youngsters the basics of spelling and pronunciation. He writes scripts in Czech, then translates to English. They're taken to Children's TV Workshop in N.Y.C. (the producer). From there, they're Telexed to Amman, Jordan, production HQ for the series, where they're rewritten and translated into Arabic. Then, because Arabic can't be Telexed in the Roman alphabet, the revised scripts are translated back into English and sent back to N.Y.C., then via overnight mail to Philly.
Fierlinger's Kuwaiti assistant reworks the scripts into Arabic, then reads them over the phone to a Jordanian employee of the U.N., who acts as a "Sesame Street" consultant. The Kuwaiti records the script for timing purposes, Fierlinger lays down another track phonetically, complete with sound effects, and the track is sent to Jordan, where actors overdub everything.
"They tell me it sounds fine," said Fierlinger, "but we have a joke around here--that it will eventually wind up in Czech."