Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away…
For 50 years now, kids have been on their way to a magical place where the air is sweet. It’s a place populated by friendly neighbors and furry Muppets who teach young children about the alphabet, numbers and how to face problems.
The show was sunny and bright, just like the personality of one of its most recognizable DENIZENS, a brightly plumed, 8-foot-2-inch-tall bird! There were other Muppets there, too, and four human actors—Gordon, Susan, Bob, and Mr. Hooper. Gordon starts the first show by showing a child around and explaining that she had “never seen a street like Sesame Street.”
Connecting Kids Around the World!
Sesame Street invited kids to visit for the first time when it premiered in November 1969. Following the success of this groundbreaking show, Vila Sésamo hit the airwaves in Brazil and Plaza Sésamo first aired in Mexico in 1972. Then Sesamstrasse premiered in Germany in 1973.
Today, Sesame Street is an international sensation—there are over 30 international versions of the show created around the world and broadcast in over 150 countries and 70 languages. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, half of all preschool-age kids in the United States watch Sesame Street.
Over 50 years, how many cookies has Cookie Monster gobbled? How many times has Grover (and his alter ego Super Grover) crashed? How many times has Ernie sung to his Rubber Duckie? How many songs have gotten kids to dance, sing along and learn something? Probably only Count Von Count could count that high! Ah, ha, ha, ha! Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Celebration kicks off Season 50 with a primetime special airing on Nov. 9 on HBO and Nov. 16 on PBS stations and PBS Kids. Sesame Street began airing on HBO in 2016, with episodes appearing on PBS a few months later.
Sesame Street is a place where a number of famous actors, athletes, musicians and more have visited. The 50th Celebration is chock full of special guest stars and returning cast members. Original neighbors Gordon, Susan and Bob will be at the party. So will Maria, Luis, Linda, Gina, Leela, and Miles. Rarely seen Muppets Roosevelt Franklin and Kermit the Frog will be there, too.
The Man Behind the Muppets!
Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo are all creations of legendary puppeteer Jim Henson. Henson combined marionettes and puppets to form his ICONIC Muppets.
Henson’s Muppets had appeared on television in shows and commercials in the late 1950s and 60s, but they exploded in popularity when they became regulars on Sesame Street. The original Kermit the Frog and other Henson creations were donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2010.
But, did you know that one of the most loved and most recognized Muppets wasn’t a big name at first? In fact, he didn’t even have a name! Today, Elmo is a Sesame Street superstar, but he did not have a name before 1984. That was the year he first appeared as “Elmo.” Before that, he was an unnamed, furry red monster in the background.
When Bear Essential asked folks to weigh in on who their Sesame Street favorites were, it was not even close! Two Muppets—one red, one blue—ran away with the vote. Out of 130 surveyed who named a favorite character, over 75 percent chose either Elmo or Cookie Monster. They each GARNERED 49 votes each.
A Mission to Help Kids Grow in Kindness!
In 1966, Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett asked, could television help kids get ready for school? Cooney and Morrisett gathered educational specialists and founded the Children’s Television Workshop, now Sesame Workshop, to create Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop has a mission to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.
Over the years, the show has introduced kids to more than the letter of the day. Sesame Street has helped kids deal with difficult real-world issues. The show has won 193 Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award, and in December it will be the first television show to receive the Kennedy Center Honor. The show has never shied away from tackling tough issues in a gentle and age-appropriate manner.
When Will Lee, the actor who portrayed Mr. Hooper, died in 1983, the show’s writers did not invent an excuse for his absence. They gently but matter-of-factly talked to kids about death. The show has also addressed natural and man-made disasters and has always celebrated people’s differences.
In recent years, the first Sesame Street Muppet with autism, Julia, joined the show, as did a homeless Muppet named Lily. This season kids will meet Elmo’s friend, Karli, who is in foster care.
“We can’t wait to share this season with families and fans of all ages,” according to Ben Lehmann, executive producer of Sesame Street. “Even as we take time to look back and honor our history, we keep innovating to bring today’s preschool kids something that’s tailored just for them—holding on to all the fundamentals that make Sesame Street so magical.”
This year, a child actor will join the cast for the first time in over 20 years. Violet Tinnirello will play Charlie, a military kid who moves to the neighborhood with her family. The theme of Season 50, “Oops and Aha!: Embracing the Power of Possibilities” will encourage viewers to embrace positive thinking, self-confidence, and perseverance.