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May 03, 2012

By Graydon Gordian

The Story Behind Sesame Street’s Latest Spoof: The Beatles!

At Sesame Street we love spoofing cultural touchstones. It’s a great way to bring smiles to the faces of parents, and humoring parents along with children has been a goal of the show since its beginning. Recently, to help promote a new series of home videos, we’ve been spoofing classic posters and pop art. Our playful versions of iconic propaganda posters such as Rosie the Riveter and Uncle Sam for our “Bye Bye Pacifier” home video were very popular, but our art department’s most recent creation may be my favorite so far.

To celebrate the release of our “Singing with the Stars” DVD, Sesame Workshop artist Diana Leto created a parody of the cover of the Beatles iconic album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Diana and Art Director Mark Magner pulled from Sesame Street’s vast library of characters to create an intricate reimagining of the album’s cover art.

In the middle of the poster stand Oscar the Grouch, Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster and Elmo. They’re placed exactly where John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr stood, their fur color matching the color of the suit of the corresponding Beatle.

There are plenty of other winks and references throughout the piece. Near the bottom right of the original cover stands an unidentified bust from the house of John Lennon. Diana and Mark switched it out with a bust of composer Joe Raposo, who wrote the Sesame Street theme song among other classic songs from the show. To the left of the Beatles is an image of the fab four from their mop top days. In our poster, we replaced them with old school versions of Cookie, Big Bird and Oscar. Bert and Ernie take the place that the great comedic duo Laurel and Hardy took on the original cover. Just to their right, where Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, stands on the original cover, is a black and white image of a “Mad Hatter” Grover. Forgetful Jones, always donning his trusty cowboy hat, stands in place of Tom Mix, a star in many early Hollywood Westerns.

Lead Artist Diana Leto works on the poster.

Not every character on our version references the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Diana and Mark wanted to make sure as many characters as possible were included. But there are plenty of inside jokes and subtle references to the original cover that we haven’t mentioned. See how many you can find!

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