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May 03, 2013

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The Longest Street in the Galaxy: Star Wars on Sesame Street

Joe Hennes works at Sesame Workshop and is the co-proprietor of Tough Pigs.

The 4th of May has become an unofficial holiday for fans of the Star Wars films.  While the date seems arbitrary, it’s a day when we can all break out the pun, “May the Fourth be with you”.  A play on words like that absolutely deserves its own holiday.

But why, you may be asking, is the Sesame Workshop blog writing about Star Wars? That’s a perfectly good question, and much easier to answer than “What’s a Midichlorian?”  You might be surprised to learn that R2-D2 and C-3PO traveled from their galaxy far, far away to visit the most famous street in the world (or perhaps the universe??).

In 1980, just a few months before the release of The Empire Strikes Back, the Star Wars Droids made two appearances on Sesame Street.  And they are just as amazing and bizarre as anything you might see at The Mos Eisley Cantina.

In the first episode (#1364, aired on January 31, 1980), Big Bird spots a flying saucer, but just like his stories about the elusive Mr. Snuffleupagus, the adults think it’s just a product of his imagination.  C-3PO and R2-D2 are on a secret mission to deliver an important mission to Oscar the Grouch.  Much like Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi, the message comes in the form of a hologram from Oscar’s alien Grouch friend Lothar.  But rather than declare that Oscar is his only hope, Lothar’s message is “Oscar the Grouch: Get lost!”

Later, Big Bird asks the Droids if robots have feelings.  As they discuss different emotions, C-3PO remembers a time when he and R2-D2 became separated in the desert, which you may remember from the first Star Wars film.  Does this mean that their appearances on Sesame Street are in Star Wars continuity??  In a universe of Wookies, Ewoks, and whatever Admiral Ackbar is, why could there not be giant birds, Grouches and monsters?

Having successfully delivered Lothar’s message, C-3PO and R2-D2 head back to their home galaxy, only to return a few months later (in episode #1396, aired on March 17, 1980), this time not by any sort of space craft, but by bus.  Their mission is much less clear here, as the Droids spend their time on Sesame Street singing the alphabet song with Bob, saying hello to Linda, and considering going to the park while it’s raining.

In the very best segment of the episode, and what may be the best segment of the entirety of Sesame Street, R2-D2 falls in love.  She’s quiet, short, has a pointed head, and lives on Sesame Street.  Oh, and she’s a fire hydrant.  Love knows no bounds…  or species or mechanics, it would seem.

R2-D2 and C-3PO made a few more appearances on Sesame Street, taking advantage of R2’s unique way of speaking.  They teach Big Bird how to count to four by counting the beeps, and Big Bird sings a song about how he says “banana” while R2-D2 says *bleep blop boop* (or something close to that).

Although that was the end of the Droids’ time on Sesame Street, it wasn’t the end of Sesame Street’s connection with the Star Wars universe.  In 2009, Oscar the Grouch appeared alongside Darth Vader in the feature film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, both of whom can be seen at the real Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.  In 2012, Elmo and Cookie Monster appeared on the Australian radio show “Fifi and Jules” where they reenacted a pivotal scene from The Empire Strikes Back.  And most recently, a certain “Darth Chicken” appeared in the “Pizza the Musical” episode of Elmo the Musical.

Both Star Wars and Sesame Street have been engrained in the public consciousness for decades, so it’s only natural that their paths should cross every so often, whether it’s in sunny days on Dagobah or a Rubber Duckie frozen in Carbonite.

Happy Star Wars Day, and May the Force Be With You!

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