Longtime children’s TV producer, Sesame Street actor, Aart Staartjes killed in car crash

Pieke Dassen, Aart Staartjes (middle) and Jennifer Willems in Dutch children's show De film van Ome Willem in 1981
Pieke Dassen, Aart Staartjes (middle) and Jennifer Willems in Dutch children's show De film van Ome Willem in 1981VARAWikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

Producer and actor Aart Staartjes died at the age of 81 from injuries he sustained in a car accident in Leeuwarden on Friday. Staartjes was rushed to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. The police are investigating the causes of the accident, NOS reports.

Friends and colleagues of Staartjes describe the man as the founder of Dutch children's television, according to NU.nl. In the seventies, Staartjes created and acted in taboo-breaking children's programs including De Stratemakeropzeeshow, De film van Ome Willem, and J.J. De Bom Voorheen de Kindervriend. He played roles in Het Klokhuis, and for many years was the reporter at the national arrival of Sinterklaas. He was best known for the role of grumpy Mr. Aart in the program Sesamstraat, the Dutch Sesame Street. 

On social media, many called Staartjes' death the end of an era. Prime Minister Mark Rutte called him "an icon from our childhood" in a reaction on Twitter. "What sad news: Aart Staartjes passed away. Like so many others, I grew up with him. An icon from our childhood. And always a striking person. I wish his loved ones much strength with this big loss."

Bert Plagman, who worked with Staartjes on Sesamstraat, told NOS that he is devastated. "It was very nice to work with him. He was a pleasant person. Over the years we also had a lot of personal contact." He and Staartjes had the same reason for working in children's television, he said. "You can't change much in adults. With children, you can plant seeds in their heads. And hope that the world will change a bit."

Bram van der Vlught, who played Sinterklaas at the national arrival from 1986 to 2010, stressed that Staartjes always chose the children's side. "He also taught Sinterklaas that."

NTR, the broadcaster of Sesamstraat and Het Klokhuis, said in a reaction that Staartjes helped children's television grow into adulthood. "With him we lose a successful program maker, editor-in-chief and presenter, but above all, a very skilled actor."

Television company NEP The Netherlands wished the family of "MR Aart" strength with this loss. "In our studios, Aart and his colleagues made many episodes of Sesamstraat and many other legendary TV programs," the company said on Facebook.