According to Sesame Workshop, Takalani Sesame is a "uniquely South African interpretation of the Sesame model, engaging children and their parents and promoting basic school readiness, literacy, numeracy, and health and hygiene." The series also has a special focus on HIV/AIDS awareness and seeks to introduce HIV/AIDS safety while promoting tolerance and reducing stigma.
Like other international versions of the show, Takalani features dubbed scenes from the American version that only feature Muppet characters. Since some people in South Africa do not have access to televison, Takalani is also broadcast as a radio show. Both versions of the show incorporate all of South Africa's 11 national languages note .
The Muppet characters created for this series inlude:
- Moshe, a large, yellow-beige coloured meerkat and this show's analogue to Big Bird. Moshe loves the environment and is constantly finding homes for lost plants, including weeds, and is very careful about where and how he walks.
- Zikwe, a blue monster who tends to be impatient and often acts on impulse, but is eager to help others.
- Neno, who's essentially just Elmo given an Adaptation Name Change. See here for Elmo's character sheet.
- Zuzu, a six-year-old purple monster. She's described as a perfectionist with a strong sense of drama, who loves exploring the world around her.
- Kami, a cheerful, wise and energetic girl who just so happens to be HIV-positive. The creation of her character was intended to reduce stigma concerning the disease, in a country where an estimated 19% of South Africa's population aged 1549 have HIV/AIDS. Kami's purpose, however, was widely misreported by American right-wing politicians and Moral Guardians, who believed that the character was intended for the American version of the show. Despite this, Kami remains one of the show's most popular characters.
This series provides examples of...
- Adaptation Name Change: Elmo is renamed Neno for this series.
- In Sesame Square, a fellow African co-production based in Nigeria, Kami and Zikwe are main characters, although the latter is renamed to Zobi.
- The Alleged Car: Zikwe "drives" a taxi that has no wheels.
- Drama Queen: Zuzu can act this way sometimes.
- Friend to All Children: All the Muppet characters count, but especially Neno.
- Gentle Giant: Moshe definitely counts.
- Happily Adopted: Kami lives with the street's resident mother figure and her husband, and in later seasons, their adult son.
- Seldom-Seen Species: Moshe is a meerkat, and a rather large one at that.
- Loyal Animal Companion: Moshe has a pet worm called Kupukeji.
- Show Within a Show: Some episodes feature truncated episodes of Elmo's World, dubbed over by Neno's Muppet performer and some South African kids. Certain segments of Elmo's World, such as those featuring the Noodle family, are typically edited out.
- Tragic AIDS Story: Averted with Kami. She's HIV-positive, but otherwise perfectly healthy.