Sesame Street is an American educational children's television series and a pioneer of the contemporary educational television standard, combining both education and entertainment. Sesame Street is well known for its Muppet characters created by Jim Henson. It premiered on November 10, 1969, and is the longest running children's program on American television. The show is produced in the United States by the non-profit organization Sesame Workshop, formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW), founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and Ralph Rogers.
As a result of its positive influence, Sesame Street is one of the most highly regarded educational shows for children in the world. No other television series has matched its level of international recognition and success. The original series has been televised in more than 120 countries, and 25 independent versions have been produced. As of 2006, the series has received 109 Emmy Awards, more than any other television series. An estimated 77 million Americans watched the series as children; shown in 120 countries, it is the most viewed children's program in the world.
Sesame Street uses combinations of animation and live actors to stimulate young children's minds, improve their letter and word recognition, basic arithmetic, geometric forms, classification, simple problem solving, and socialization by showing children or people in their everyday lives. Since the show's inception, other instructional goals have been basic life skills, such as how to cross the street safely, proper hygiene, healthy eating habits, and social skills.
The show displays a subtle sense of humor that has appealed to older viewers since it first premiered; this was devised as a means to encourage parents and older siblings to watch the series with younger children, thus becoming involved in the learning process, rather than having Sesame Street act as a babysitter. A number of parodies of popular culture appear, especially ones aimed at the Public Broadcasting Service, the network that broadcasts the show.
The series has made many published lists, including greatest all-time show compilations by TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. A 1996 survey found that 95% of American preschoolers have watched the show by the time they are three years old.
CTW aired the program for test groups to determine if the revolutionary new format was likely to succeed. Results showed that test watchers were entranced when the ad-like segments aired, especially those with the jovial puppets, but were remarkably less interested in the street scenes. Psychologists warned CTW against a mixture of fantasy and reality elements, but producers soon decided to mix the elements. A simple dose of cartoon-like characters lets the humans deliver messages without causing viewers to lose interest. Prior to its national debut, a week of test episodes were seen in July 1969 on Philadelphia educational station WUHY-TV (now WYBE).
Since season 33, a variety of miniature programs have come and gone from Sesame Street, inspired by the immense popularity of Elmo's World, which debuted in 1998. Unlike previous recurring sketches, such as Monsterpiece Theatre and Sesame Street News Flash, these segments were in every episode of at least one season, though some appeared sporadically before or after their primary run. Previous miniature programs were Journey to Ernie, Global Grover, Healthy Habits for Life, Hero Guy, The Letter of the Day, Monster Clubhouse, The Number of the Day, The Spanish Word of the Day, and The Adventures of Trash Gordon.
The current regular segments of the show are Murry Has a Little Lamb, Bert & Ernie's Great Adventures, and Word on the Street. Elmo's World was created by producers, after it was identified that the average age of Sesame Street viewers was heading downwards. Created with 3-year-olds in mind, the segment brought a predictable regularity to the show, which ran contrary to its normal, varied assortment of segments. Because of its predictability, length, and young target audience, the segment has been derided by some critics and older fans, despite its success. The segment's low-skewing age was decided on after producers found the show was attracting that age bracket, even though it wasn't intended for it.
Sesame Street has operated with a rigorous research standard since its foundation, to ensure that programming addresses its viewers' needs. The Education and Research (E&R) department of Sesame Workshop, which started with Sam Ball, then employed at Teachers College Columbia University and editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology. E&R is currently headed by Rosemarie T. Truglio, Ph.D. and Jeanette Betancourt, Ed. D. Truglio states that the level of interaction between E&R, Content, and Production is "intimately hand-in-hand. They are not creating anything without our knowledge, our guidance and our review. We are involved in content development across all media platforms." This close-knit organizational structure has been an integral part of Sesame Workshop since it began.
Writers create plots for Sesame Street scenes and segments, and the content is reviewed by the E&R team, which has authority to reject a script and force rewrites if the content is not acceptable. When a script is factually correct, but includes gray areas that may not be comprehensible to children, the writers and E&R work together to tweak everything. "A balance between content and humor" is always pursued, according to Truglio.
Since 1998 Sesame Workshop has provided additional content on its website and others such as Random House. The content is targeted at parents and children ranging in age from birth to school-age, and includes information on dozens of topics, such as appropriate parenting techniques, dealing with children's fears, development of literacy, and maintenance of good health.
Research is funded by government grants, corporate and private donations (including, recently, The Prudential Foundation for the Sesame Beginnings program), and the profits gained from the sale of Sesame Workshop merchandise.
Health content has existed on Sesame Street for years, but to a limited extent. In one instance press kits for a project were made available, news wires latched onto the story, and many major newspapers incorrectly reported that Cookie Monster was "going on a diet. In actuality there was no change to Cookie Monster's character. The new season featured a new segment with musician Wyclef Jean singing the praises of fruits and vegetables, similar to segments in the 1990s which featured Cookie doing nearly the same.
According to people from Sesame Workshop,
Health has always been a part of our Sesame Street curriculum, therefore we will always be committed to ensuring kids are given information and messages that will help them become healthy and happy in their development. For season 36, we have turned up the dial in health, but it will always be part of our curriculum.
The Workshop formed an Advisory Board consisting of experts such as Woodie Kessel, M.D., M.P.H., the Assistant Surgeon General of the United States. This board examines the research of other organizations, and also conducts pilot studies to determine which areas of research should be expanded, based on social, ethnic and socio-economic sections of the population.
Characters Elmo and Rosita filmed public service announcements with various U.S. Governors in 2006.
In recent seasons, on-location Muppet segments has increased, primarily through segments like Word on the Street?. Episodes and specials have taken characters to Central Park, the ABC News studios, and the Metropoltian Museum of Modern Art.
As the show spread internationally, live segments featuring children of other cultures were filmed, or intermixed with clips of world youth. The Global Grover segment from recent seasons featured world segments on a daily basis. Special episodes of the series have been filmed on location in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, and specials were produced in China and Japan.
The series' music has appeared on music charts around the world, including Ernie's "Rubber Duckie" song, which made #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970; the song achieved an even higher position in Germany. In 1992, British band Smart E's released Sesame's Treet, a techno dance track which sampled the "classic" version of the Sesame Street theme. It reached #2 on the UK singles chart. Sesame Street has won 11** Grammy Awards, most recently for 2001 release Elmo and the Orchestra. The closing theme that was used during the full credits is titled "Funky Chimes. This song, along with various samples of the Cookie Monster would be used in the MF DOOM song "Kookies."
Much of the currently billed cast, both appearing as humans or performing Muppets, has remained with the production for a decade or more, thanks to the longevity of the program.
Non-Muppet characters on the series age as their performers do. Actresses such as Sonia Manzano (who plays Maria) and Alison Bartlett O'Reilly (who plays Gina) have gone from being teens when introduced, 1971 and 1987 respectively, to motherly figures in more recent seasons. When Will Lee passed in 1982, his character of Mr. Hooper was written out of the program. Other actors to be on the series for over a decade include Desiree Casado (Gabi, since 1993), Emilio Delgado (Luis, 1971), Bill Irwin (Mr. Noodle, 1998), Loretta Long (Susan, 1969), Bob McGrath (Bob, 1969), Alan Muraoka (Alan, 1998), and Roscoe Orman (Gordon, 1974).
Currently credited actors that haven't met the decade mark are Olamide Faison (Miles, since 2003), Christopher Lawrence Knowings (Chris, 2007), and Nitya Vidyasagar (Leela, 2008). Linda Bove (Linda, 1972 to 2003) is the only actor to be on the show for more than a decade, and yet written out.
Over two hundred notable personalities have made guest appearances on the show, beginning with Carol Burnett on the first episode, and ranging from performers like James Brown, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Johnny Cash, to political figures such as Laura Bush and Kofi Annan. (See List of celebrity guest stars on Sesame Street.) By making a show that not only educates and entertains kids, but also keeps parents entertained and involved in the educational process, the producers hope to inspire discussion about the concepts on the show.
Sesame Street is known for its multicultural element and is inclusive in its casting, incorporating roles for disabled people, young people, senior citizens, Hispanic actors, Black actors, Asian actors, and others. While some of the puppets look like people, others are animal or "monster" puppets of different sizes and colors. This encourages children to believe that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and that no particular physical "type" is any better than another. Jim Henson commented that "The only kids who can identify along racial lines with the Muppets have to be either green or orange."
In harmony with its multiculturalist perspective, the show pioneered the idea of occasionally inserting very basic Spanish words and phrases to help young children become acquainted with the concept of a foreign language, doing so almost three decades before Dora the Explorer made her debut on Nickelodeon. Perhaps in response to the popularity of Dora, the recently revamped format gives Rosita, the bilingual muppet who "emigrated" in 1993 from the Mexican version of the show, more time in front of viewers, and also introduced the more formalized "Spanish Word of the Day" in every episode.
Each of the puppet characters has been designed to represent a specific stage or element of early childhood, and the scripts are written so that the character reflects the development level of children of that age. This helps the show address not only the learning objectives of various age groups, but also the concerns, fears, and interests of children of different age levels.
Big Bird is an 8 ft 2-inch (250cm) tall yellow bird who lives in a large nest on an abandoned lot which is located in 123 Sesame Street's garbage heap. Big Bird is often visited by his friend Aloysius Snuffleupagus, who is a very large, brown creature, which looks very much like the prehistoric wooly mammoth, and is known more popularly by his nickname "Snuffy". Various other Snuffleupaguses have appeared on the show from time to time, most notably Snuffy's little sister Alice and his unnamed mother. Initially, Snuffy showed up when no one but Big Bird was around, leaving the rest of the neighborhood to think he was imaginary. In the mid-1980s, however, Snuffy was revealed to be "real" and incorporated into the regular cast of the show.
Oscar the Grouch lives with his pet worm Slimey and his pet elephants Fluffy, Sophie, Blitzen, and Schopenhauer in a garbage can in the heap. He is always grumpy, and loves everything that other people hate, and vice versa- he loves rainy days, but hates cute puppies and kittens. His favorite thing in the world is rubbish (trash, or garbage), hence his signature song, "I Love Trash", and consequently, he lives in a garbage can.
Bert and Ernie two of the most-recognized Muppets, are roommates who share the basement apartment of 123 Sesame Street, and regularly engage in comic routines which showcase their odd-couple personalities. Ernie's flowerbox was once a hotspot for Twiddlebugs, a colorful family of insects. Ernie is a fun-loving orange Muppet who is always ready to play a game, and is always trying, often in vain, to interest Bert in his latest idea for one. Bert usually ends up grudgingly, or in the case of the "Feelings Game", unwittingly, joining in. Ernie especially loves his Rubber Duckie, who is the subject of several of Ernie's songs. Bert's idea of having fun involves doing things which most people find boring, like playing with pigeons, and collecting paperclips and bottle caps.
The Bear family, which is identified as the bears of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, resides in Sesame Street. This family, headed by Papa Bear and Mama Bear, welcomed their second child Curly Bear, and Baby Bear became a good friend of the monsters Telly and Zoe, Mexico-born Rosita, and the furry, red preschooler Elmo. Elmo has his own segment near the end of each episode, in which viewers explore topics in Elmo's World. New to Sesame Street is Abby Cadabby, a fairy-in-training who attends Storybook Community School with Baby Bear.
Grover's regular segment, Global Grover, follows the self-described "cute, furry monster" around the world as he explores local cultures and traditions. Grover has had several notable roles over the years, often as a waiter or a superhero (Super Grover). In the waiter sketches, Grover's most frequent customer is a blue Muppet with very little hair on his head. Grover always serves him inappropriate food, and the customer eventually loses his temper. Grover has also served Count von Count and Simon Soundman at Charlie's.
Cookie Monster is a character who, as his name would suggest, loves cookies, but doesn't seem to mind eating anything, edible or not. He currently has a segment of the show in which he fights with his conscience daily during Letter of the Day, as he tries to control his urges to eat the letters, shown as icing on cookies. Prairie Dawn often attempts to help Cookie Monster refrain from eating the letters, but never succeeds and always leaves frazzled.
Count von Count has fewer problems during the Number of the Day segment, where he indulges in counting until the mystery number is revealed by his pipe organ. He is usually known simply as "The Count". He has more songs than most of the other characters. They are usually catchy songs, such as "The Batty Bat", and "The First Day of School", in which he tells the story of how he soon settled in at school, because he enjoyed counting his fellow pupils.
Humphrey and Ingrid are a married couple who have a baby named Natasha, and they are the proprietors of the hotel known as The Furry Arms, which is located near the Sesame Street Subway station. The hotel's bellhop, Benny Rabbit, tends to be easily irritated, but begrudgingly helps out. His sketch usually includes someone mistakenly referring to him as Bunny, which makes him very angry.
The Two-Headed Monster sounded out words coming together, and the Yip-Yip aliens, furry blue monsters with long, curly antennae, named after the only word in their vocabulary, discovered telephones and typewriters. For two seasons, Googel, Narf, Mel and Phoebe hung out in the Monster's Clubhouse.
Kermit the Frog hosted the segment Sesame Street News Flash. The newsflashes were often takes on popular fairy tales, although there was also one about the first ever day at school, in which Kermit assists the inexperienced caveman teacher, Mr. James, in his lesson about the letter "N". In other segments, Kermit would play straight man to the wacky antics of other Muppets.
Incidental characters include television personality Guy Smiley, who presented various game shows, such as "Beat The Time", and "Mystery Guest", construction workers Sully and Biff, the large Herry Monster (who does not know his own strength), and The Big Bad Wolf, who is not a terror to the Street. Forgetful Jones, a cowboy with a short-term memory disorder, rode his trusty Buster the Horse with his girlfriend Clementine, and Rodeo Rosie was an early cowgirl. The Amazing Mumford tries his hardest to amaze with his magic, but his tricks always end up backfiring. "Sherlock Hemlock", was the self-proclaimed World's Greatest Detective, although he was actually rather hapless, and it was usually someone else, often his dog Watson, who solved the mystery. Whenever he discovered a clue, he would say "Egad!". He had only one song, "X Marks The Spot".
Don Music wrote songs such as "Yankee Doodle" and "Mary had a Bicycle". He always banged his head on the piano every time he forgot a word to each song. His favourite catchphrase is "Oh I will never get the word to my song,Never Never NEVER"!. Kermit always helped him every time he entered the studio.
A slate of live actors pull the zaniness of the Muppets back to reality. They were not always meant to serve this purpose. The show lost test viewers' attention during the Street Scenes, meaning Muppets needed to be added, to hide the fact it was educational.
Music teacher Bob has been on Sesame Street since its inception. He dated Linda the local New York Library librarian, who was the first regular deaf character on television. Linda owns Barkley, a Muppet dog. The Robinson family are an African-American family that includes schoolteacher Gordon, nurse Susan, and adopted son Miles. The Puerto Rican Rodriguez Family include Maria and Luis, who ran the Fix-It Shop, which was turned into the Mail-It Shop; Maria gave birth to daughter Gabby in 1989, and her pregnancy was covered on the show. Luis is the longest-running Hispanic character in TV history.
General store and restaurant operator Harold Hooper, played by actor Will Lee, was a mainstay at Mr. Hooper's Store. When Lee died in 1982, the producers opted to help their young viewers deal with the death of someone they loved rather than cast a new actor in the role, and the character's death was discussed in a landmark 1983 episode. Afterwards, Hooper's apprentice David took over, followed by later owners Gina, Mr. Handford, and Alan. Gina stopped running the store in the 1990s, to earn a PhD and became a veterinarian.
Mr. Noodle and his brother and sister (sister played by Kristin Chenoweth), who appear only in Elmo's World are meant to provide a vaudevillian perspective on subjects, contrary to most of the show's current human characters (though reminiscent of such earlier insert characters as Buddy and Jim, Larry and Phyllis, and The Mad Painter).
Famous guest stars and various children from New York schools and day-care centers are a constantly changing part of the cast, including children who would later become celebrities, like actor Tyler James Williams, actress Tatyana M. Ali and rapper GM Grimm.
A format change helped the show's ratings, boosting them up 31% in February 2002 among children age 2–5, in comparison to its ratings in 2001. As of 2005, Sesame Street and three other PBS shows are in the top 10 shows for children ages 2 to 5. As of season 36 in 2005, there were 8 million viewers daily.
In a letter to the Boston Globe, Boston University professor of education Frank Garfunkel commented "If what people want is for their children to memorize numbers and letters without regard to their meaning or use—without regard to the differences between children, then Sesame Street is truly responsive. To give a child 30 seconds of one thing and then to switch it and give him 30 seconds of another is to nurture irrelevance."
In the magazine Childhood Education, Minnie P. Berson of SUNY Fredonia asked "Why debase the art form of teaching with phony pedagogy, vulgar sideshows, bad acting, and layers of smoke and fog to clog the eager minds of small children?"
For an animation on the letter "J", the writers included "a day in jail." This drew criticism from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Terrence O'Flaherty, despite executive producer David Connell's assertion that kids are familiar with the word through shows like Batman and Superman, and that "when you're trying to come up with a lot of words starting with J, you soon run short" of words they are already familiar with.
The series also met with criticism in its attempts to help the underprivileged. Educator Sister Mary Mel O'Dowd worried that the show might start to replace "personalized experiences". "If Sesame Street is the only thing ghetto kids have, I don't think it's going to do much good. It never hurts a child to be able to count to 10 or recognize the 26 letters of the alphabet. But without the guidance of a teacher, he'll be like one of our preschoolers who was able to write 'CAUTION' on the blackboard after seeing it on the back of so many buses, and told me 'That says STOP.'"
Sesame Street has long had to contend with those who disagree with its social content. Gerald S. Lesser comments in his book Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street that the show faced hostility in the southern United States when it first aired because it portrayed people of various races mingling peacefully. At first the Commission for Educational Television in Mississippi refused to air the show. However, the commission had no choice but to allow their local public television stations to air the show when commercial stations in Mississippi said they would air the program themselves.
When Sesame Street premiered in Australia on the ABC in 1973 it replaced the long-running and popular Australian children's series Adventure Island. Australian TV historians Tony Harrison and Albert Moran record that the cancellation of Adventure Island and its replacement with an American-made program caused a controversy and that questions were asked in federal parliament about the detrimental effects of the ABC's decision on local TV production.
It has widely been suggested that Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, as they are apparently adult human males portrayed sharing a bedroom, though with separate beds. A 1980 collection of humorous essays by Kurt Andersen, titled The Real Thing, made light of the growing rumor. "Bert and Ernie conduct themselves in the same loving, discreet way that millions of gay men, women and hand puppets do. They do their jobs well and live a splendidly settled life together in an impeccably decorated cabinet. The rumor was promulgated repeatedly, so much so that by 1993, Sesame Workshop had a prepared statement to send out to people inquiring on the topic. In a 1994 effort to get the characters banned, Rev. Joseph Chambers stated on his radio show: "Bert and Ernie are two grown men sharing a house and a bedroom. They share clothes, eat and cook together and have blatantly effeminate characteristics. In one show, Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another, they tend plants together. If this isn't meant to represent a homosexual union, I can't imagine what it's supposed to represent. Both Steve Whitmire as Ernie and Eric Jacobson as Bert have stated publicly that the characters are not gay. The alleged relationship has been parodied on the animated series Family Guy and by Ernest & Bertram. The latter, a 2002 short film that ran at the Sundance Film Festival, was the subject of a cease and desist order from the legal department of Sesame Workshop. The Broadway musical Avenue Q includes two characters similar to Bert and Ernie, named Rod and Nicky, one of which is gay.
The pair's relationship bears similarity to that of Laurel and Hardy, who were also occasionally shown sleeping together; this became such a comedy staple as to be adopted by Morecambe and Wise in the 1970s, all of whom were similarly asexual. The Odd Couple is another, more apposite, contemporary comparison. Some adult viewers are upset by the assertions, as in their view, Ernie and Bert act like children, teenagers at the oldest, and are no more different than brothers or cousins who share a room.
In 1990, puppeteer Jim Henson's death spurred rumors that Ernie would be "killed off" in the show, much the way the character of Mr. Hooper was after actor Will Lee's passing some years earlier. Rumor said that he would be either killed by a vehicle, AIDS, or cancer. There was no legitimacy to this rumor, but because producers took their time recasting a puppeteer for Ernie, the delay allowed the claims to burgeon. A spokesperson for the series was quoted as saying "Ernie is not dying of AIDS, Ernie is not dying of leukemia. Ernie is a puppet.
In 2002, Sesame Workshop announced that a character with HIV would be introduced to Takalani Sesame, the South African version of the show. Many conservatives and religious groups wrongly presumed that the American version would be getting a "gay Muppet." This concern came about presumably because of a perceived connection between homosexuality and HIV in the United States, but the character with HIV is only present on this international version of the show. The character, Kami, contracted HIV from a blood transfusion as an infant.
In the United Kingdom its introduction was controversial. The ITV network company London Weekend Television first showed the series in the London region in the early 1970s to much criticism (generally regarding its Americanism). In time the show was subsequently broadcast by other ITV regions in the early 1980s, after which it moved to Channel 4, where it was a lunch-time fixture for many years through to the early 2000s. Later broadcasts of the show featured the hour-long episodes in a format of 2½-hour episodes. 120 countries have aired the show, many of which partnered with Sesame Workshop to create local versions.
In recent years Sesame Street has made what area educators consider to be critical advances in its international versions. In the late 1990s versions appeared in China and Russia as these countries shifted away from communism. There is also a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian project, called Sesame Stories, which was created with the goal of promoting greater cultural understanding.The show along with 123 Sesame Street and Sesame Street Unpaved aired on the half Sesame Workshop/Viacom Noggin until 2005.
Jennifer Monier-Williams, Vice President, Worldwide Television Distribution at Sesame Workshop commented "The expansion of the Sesame brand through wonderfully interactive shows like Play With Me Sesame and Elmo's World give children around the globe new ways to experience fun and learning in the way Sesame does it best.
A series of Sesame Street telefilms have featured the characters on day trips or in foreign countries. Don't Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983) saw the cast locked in the gallery overnight; Big Bird and Snuffy help a cursed boy pharaoh. NBC's Big Bird in China (1983) followed Big Bird, Barkley, and their new friend Xiao Foo traveling through China to find Feng Huang, the phoenix bird. In Big Bird in Japan (1988), the titular character gets lost. Out to Lunch (1974) features the cast of Sesame Street and The Electric Company taking over ABC News. Big Bird turned six in Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake (1991), despite being referred to as four years old previously. CinderElmo (1999) was a FOX special, with Keri Russell as the princess looking for her match in the kingdom. Telly fears what the New Year will bring in Sesame Street Stays Up Late! (1993, DVD in 2004).
Various strictly musical programs have been made. Julie Andrews and Perry Como performed with the Muppets on Julie on Sesame Street (1974). Special episodes of the PBS series Evening at Pops variety show have featured Sesame Street characters. The Sesame Street Special (1988) also included many guest performances.
Holiday special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978) won an Emmy Award, while another special that year, A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978), has mostly unfavourable reviews. Elmo Saves Christmas is a movie about Elmo who wishes Christmas is everyday when he receives a snow globe that lets him wish for anything when he rescues Santa Claus stuck in his chimney , Elmo must go back in time to change things, Anniversary specials include A Walking Tour of Sesame Street with James Earl Jones (1979), Sesame Street: 20 And Still Counting (1989), All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever (1994) and Sesame Street Jam: A Musical Celebration (1994), and The Street We Live On (2004). Jon Stewart is set to host a "live" retrospective on the series on ABC, but is accidentally locked in his dressing room with the tapes. Elmo attempts to salvage the show, improvised, in Elmopalooza! (1998).
In 1987 and 1992, episodes of Shalom Sesame were produced, focusing on introducing Jewish culture, customs, and language to Jewish-American children. Some international co-productions of Sesame Street have created many of their own specials as well.
The characters have made appearance on television series including Between the Lions (2001), The Electric Company (1972, 1975), Emeril Live (2005), Fanfare, The Flip Wilson Show (1970), The Frugal Gourmet (1992, 1995, 1997), Hollywood Squares, Jeopardy!, Deal or No Deal, Martha (2006), Martha Stewart Living, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1981), Soul Man (1998), The Torkelsons (1991), The Muppet Show (1976), The West Wing (2004), What's My Line?, and numerous talk shows and mornings shows, ranging from The Ed Sullivan Show to the The Today Show.
Two theatrical wide-release feature films based on the series have been made.
Co-produced with Warner Bros., the 1985 film Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird revolved around a social worker forcing Big Bird into adoption. Big Bird gets homesick and tired of his adoptive parents, and heads back to New York, when he is kidnapped by evil carnival leaders (played by Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty); the residents of Sesame Street launch a cross-country search to find him.
In the second Sesame Street theatrical film, 1999's The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, fourteen years after Follow That Bird, Elmo spends time with his favorite blanket. After Zoe accidentally tears the blanket, when Elmo refuses to share, the blanket winds up in Grouchland, ruled by the Queen of Trash (Vanessa L. Williams). Elmo ventures forth, to rescue his blanket from the villainous Huxley (Mandy Patinkin). Soon, the rest of the Sesame Street gang follow in pursuit.
Sesame Street is known for its extensive merchandising, which includes many books, magazines, video/audio media, and toys. A percentage of the money from any Sesame Workshop product goes to help fund Sesame Street or its international co-productions.
Current licensors include Fisher-Price, Nakajima USA, Build-A-Bear Workshop (Build-An-Elmo, Build-A-Cookie Monster, And Build-A-Big Bird), Hasbro (Sesame Street Monopoly), Wooly Willy, Betty Crocker (Elmo Fruit Snacks), C&D Visionary (air freshners) and Children's Apparel Network. Former licences include Applause, Child Dimension, Gibson Greetings, Gorham Fine China, Ideal Toys, Milton Bradley Company, Nintendo, Palisades Toys, Questor, Radio Shack, Tyco, and the Western Publishing Company. Creative Wonders (a partnership between ABC and Electronic Arts) produced Sesame Street software for the Macintosh, since at least 1995 and on the PC since 1996; Atari produced Sesame Street games in 1983. Before going bankrupt, Palisades Toys was to release a line of deluxe series action figures, for adults, as part of Sesame Workshop's push to expand into retro products for teens and adults.
Tickle Me Elmo was one of the fastest selling toys of the 1996 season. That product line was and still is one of the most successful products Mattel has ever launched. Both it and its most notable successor, TMX, have caused in-store fights. Elmo starred in a Christmas special that year, in which he wished every day of the year was Christmas.
After Fisher-Price recalled a large number of Sesame Street brand toys (among multiple licenses) in 2007, Sesame Workshop announced that they would independently inspect the products of all manufacturers. It went so far as to threaten withdrawing entirely from toy licensing, if it were not satisfied with the manufacturer's guarantees.
Its fiction books are published on five continents, primarily by Random House in North America. Over 18 million Sesame Street books and magazines were purchased in 2005. The books often mention that children do not have to watch the show to benefit from its publications.
Live touring show Sesame Street Live presents costumed actors and dancers as characters from the series, in original plots. In recent years, VEE has had four touring casts, each performing a unique multi-million dollar budget show. Each season, the tours reach 160 different cities across North America, reaching 2 million people annually. Since the first production of Sesame Street Live on September 17 1980, 48 million children and their parents have seen the show performed, across the world.
Langhorne, Pennsylvania, United States, is the long-time home to Sesame Street theme park Sesame Place. SeaWorld Orlando started a stage show called Elmo and the Bookaneers in 2007. Another theme park, Parque Plaza Sésamo, exists in Monterrey, Mexico, and Universal Studios Japan includes a three-dimensional movie based on the show.
The Sesame Beginnings line, launched in mid-2005, consists of apparel, health and body, home, and seasonal products. The products in this line are designed to accentuate the natural interactivity between infants and their parents. Most of the line is exclusive to a family of Canadian retailers that includes Loblaws, Fortinos, and Zehrs.
Although Sesame Street characters occasionally endorse non-educational products, they rarely appear in their puppet form, to limit the suggestion to children that the characters are formally endorsing the product. The Muppets do appear in puppet form to endorse select causes. Big Bird has promoted safe seating practices and the wearing of seatbelts, for the Ford Motor Company, while Grover promoted a new course on children's informal learning, created by Harvard University with Sesame Workshop. Elmo has appeared before the US Education Appropriations Subcommittee to urge more spending on music in schools.
Barrio Sésamo, Plaza Sésamo, Sesamstraße, Sesame English and Sesamstraat have all had merchandise of their local characters. Shalom Sesame videos and books have also been released.
Some countries have co-produced their own unique versions of Sesame Street, in which the characters and segments represent their country's cultures. Other countries simply air a dubbed version of Sesame Street, or a dubbed version of Open Sesame. Among various other countries, Australia has and still does broadcast the American version on the ABC and the UK had broadcast the American show, on Channel 4 until 2001 when it was replaced with Henson production The Hoobs.
Dubbed versions include Seesamtie in Finnish, Boneka Sesame in Indonesian, Sesam Opnist Þú in Icelandic, Sesamo Apriti in Italian, Sezame, otevři se in Czech, and Taman Sesame in Malay. In 2004, one Japanese network cancelled the dubbed American Sesame, while another created a local version. In New Zealand, locally produced segments entitled "Korero Māori" (in English: "let's speak Māori") were inserted into episodes to educate children in the Māori language. Likewise, in Canada the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation substituted locally-produced French language segments in place of the Spanish language portions of the US version. Spanish program La Cometa Blanca also includes segments from Sesame Street.
Locally produced adaptations of Sesame Street include:
Note that dates solely refer to the year production on the series began.
On Sesame Workshop's website for the program, on the games, the voices for the Muppet characters in the games are done by their respective puppeteers (for example, Fran Brill voices Zoe, Kevin Clash voices Elmo, etc).
Funding for Sesame Street is derived from a variety of public, private, and corporate sources. Beaches Family Resorts, McDonald's, Earth's Best Organic, New Balance, and American Greetings are considered "Sponsors" of the show, receiving ad-like spots before the program, when it is shown on PBS. The The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. a Ready to Learn grant, and contributions to PBS stations are also credited. Local entities can fund the series regionally.
When in 1998 Sesame Street joined the PBS standard of acknowledging underwriting, consumer advocate Ralph Nader criticized the program. Nader accused Discovery Zone's sponsorship of the program as "exploiting impressionable children." Producers defended the spots by noting that they help keep the show on air, despite cuts to PBS funding, and are aimed at parents, not kids. Later sponsorships, like McDonald's, also received condemnation through Nader's Commercial Alert non-profit organization. Being aired on a public station like PBS, Sesame Workshop replied that it is adhering to strict guidelines, and that "sponsorship messages do not show product, announce promotions or contain any call to action."