Can you dig it? Gopher show features SF landmarks

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Two gopher brothers running around San Francisco is not a daily occurrence, but this cinematography duo was created for an online show to educate and entertain elementary-age children.

“Wilson and Ditch: Digging America” airs on the Public Broadcasting Station website in 3-minute snippets. San Francisco’s stop on the nationwide tour begins airing Aug. 7.

Jim Henson Company CEO Lisa Henson said the gopher brothers are from an unknown European nation and are here to explore some of the world’s most famous locations.

“We couldn’t promise to fill the map with every major city,” she said. “But we have a mix of urban and rural areas and a special focus of national parks.”

The duo — which are a modern twist on the Henson company’s well-known Muppets — visit San Francisco for the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island. They have also visited Glacier National Park in Great Falls, Mont., the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Times Square in New York City since January. They will visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona in the fall.

Henson said Angel Island is featured from San Francisco because it is a not-so-well-known national park despite being just a ferry ride from The City.

Viewers will also learn about the history of San Francisco and the population boom around the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, all because the brothers’ van breaks down in Chinatown.

“They also mistakenly call the Golden Gate Bridge the ‘Golden Gopher Bridget,’” Henson said. “It’s entertaining for kids while they learn how long it took to actually build the bridge.”

According to PBS, the brothers travel in their green-powered van to places many of their viewers may have never been.

“Not every child has the opportunity to physically explore the United States,” said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president for children’s media at PBS. “Wilson and Ditch are funny guides who take early-elementary school kids on an adventure to see parts of the country that they might have never known existed.”

Henson said producers try to focus on locations that would be family-oriented and encourage them to potentially take a vacation.

PBSkids.org receives an average of 9 million unique visitors per month and the PBS Kids Go! video player delivers an average of 1.3 million streams per week.

Watch and learn

What:
“Wilson and Ditch: Digging America”
Length of episodes: 3 minutes
When: San Francisco visit begins Aug. 7
Where: www.PBSkids.org

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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