our blog

‘Just tell them if it’s true': Maurice Sendak and Sesame Street

By Susan Tofte


Sesame Workshop Founder Joan Ganz Cooney with Maurice Sendak

Susan Tofte is Sesame Worskhop’s Archivist.

“I don’t believe in children.  I don’t believe in childhood.  I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation.  ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that.  You mustn’t tell them that.’  You tell them anything you want.  Just tell them if it’s true.  If it’s true you tell them.”   – Maurice Sendak.

In June 1968, the staff of Children’s Television Workshop (CTW, now known as Sesame Workshop) gathered in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a group of educators, scholars, child psychiatrists, television producers, authors, illustrators, composers, and puppeteers to determine what Sesame Street should attempt to teach in the show’s first year.  The seminars were designed to bring a diverse group of thinkers together to tackle a problem that no participant had tried to solve.  The challenge: find a way for the creative intuition needed to create a television show to work along side a deliberate objective curriculum.  The first seminar covered social, moral and affective development of children.  Among the 20 participants was writer and artist Maurice Sendak.  Instead of taking notes, Sendak doodled as the discussion of what four-year-olds understand conceptually drifted through his unconscious.  He doodled about sibling rivalry, children challenging their parents’ authority and violence on TV.  The sketches are classic Sendak – irreverent, subversive and witty.

After the seminars, Sendak’s involvement with Street continued.  He was an early member of the National Board of Advisors for CTW and consulted with Workshop founder Joan Ganz Cooney and producers on early storyboards and outlines for the show.  Some of the doodles from the seminars were used in the first promotional brochure for the Workshop.  The cover image of the booklet features a drawing of a child with a television for a head holding a Children’s Television Workshop banner.  Sendak also drew the first logo that appeared on early CTW stationary and press releases.

In addition to his work behind the scenes, Sendak contributed two animations that aired during Sesame Street’s second season.  He collaborated with Jim Henson on two animated films – writing and designing stories full of mayhem and ruckus.  “Seven Monsters,” a subversive story about a group of seven monsters wrecking havoc on a village, was turned into a storybook in 1977.  “Bumble Ardy #9”, Sendak’s best known short, is a tale of nine pigs showing up to celebrate a boy’s 9th birthday, eating birthday cake and drinking wine. The animated short was the basis for a book that was published in 2011.  It was the first book in 30 years that Sendak both wrote and illustrated and was the last book he published before his death.

It is unknown what circumstances led to Maurice Sendak’s invitation to participate in the early seminars for Sesame Street but there is no doubt that Sendak’s influence was felt during the early development of Sesame Street.  Both Sendak and the creators of Sesame Street believed that children understand a great deal more than most adults believe; that when creating content for children, one must take children seriously as children.

 

share this +
printprint
divider

May 24, 2013

Tags
share this +

Herry Me!

By Joe Hennes


We have some die-hard fans of Arrested Development here in the Sesame Workshop offices, so we’re incredibly excited about the show’s return this weekend.  Our infatuation makes a lot of sense, since Tobias shares our love of blue things, Bert and Ernie know all about the Banana Stand, and everyone knows that what comes first is family (unless you’re talking about the things you eat, then it’s breakfast).

The connections between both shows don’t end there.  Several cast members from Arrested Development have ridden the stair car to Sesame Street.  The clearest connection is Will Arnett, who plays GOB Bluth, when he appeared on Sesame Street as Max the Magician.  He’s a natural, since GOB is known for his magic tricks (sorry, “illusions”).  GOB and Max even use similar-sounding theme songs.  They’re also not very good magicians.  Of course, the Sesame gang figures out Max’s illusions pretty quickly, which might threaten his membership in the Magicians Alliance.

Jason Bateman, who plays Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, brought his signature snark to Sesame Street to help explain the word “comfort”.  Getting cooperation from a penguin, a squirrel, and Elmo isn’t nearly as tough as wrangling the members of the Bluth family, but the end result is still just as satisfying.

 

Ron Howard, who serves as Arrested Development’s narrator and Executive Producer, and Henry Winkler, who plays the Bluth family lawyer Barry Zuckercorn, have been working together since their time on Happy Days as Richie Cunningham and the Fonz.  Richie and Fonzie appeared together on Sesame Street to teach body parts, on and off (with the help of Fonz’s trademark jab at the jukebox), and the letter “Ayyyyyy!”  He’s very good.

Several recurring actors on Arrested Development have popped up on Sesame Street over the years, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played blind District Attorney Maggie Lizer, when she portrayed TV reporter Kathie Lee Kathie in the Sesame Street’s All-Star 25th Birthday special.  Amy Poehler, who played GOB’s nameless wife, taught Elmo the word “challenge” in a Word on the Street segment.  Dave Thomas, who made for a very threatening British man, played a slightly less threatening carnival owner in Sesame Street’s first feature film Follow That Bird.

And that’s not all!  Arrested Development had their fair share of celebrity cameos, like Andy Samberg, Andy Richter, Ben Stiller, Richard Belzer, and Martin Short, all of whom have appeared on Sesame Street, in Sesame Street specials, and in exclusive videos made for the Sesame Street YouTube channel.  The fact that these two shows have so many connections is as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.

So as you watch the fourth season of Arrested Development, keep an eye out for more Sesame Street connections wherever they’re hiding.  They could be in a chicken dance, in an ice cream sandwich, or even a puppet named Franklin.

share this +
printprint
divider

From the Street to the ‘Galli': A Story from Sesame Workshop India

By Sara Lederman


Sara Lederman works in the International Projects group on the Workshop’s initiatives in Israel and India. She began at Sesame 3 years ago as an intern while she was a student at Barnard College. Sara will spend next year conducting research in India on a Fulbright Scholarship.

The American Street overflows with giggling faces, neighbors congregating on city stoops, and friends playing jump rope. Sunny days and furry faces fill the Street, the symbolic artery through which so much history and learning flows.

The Indian Galli (alleyway) explodes with color and pulses with a rhythmic drumbeats. A caravan of diverse faces cheers as it zooms past smiling pink and blue storefronts and a technicolor lion kicking a soccer ball. The Galli is a familiar scene, a fantastical heaven tucked away in the dense city.

Both of these streets tell stories – stories of childhood, stories of community, and stories of culture. As an intern at Sesame Workshop and an anthropology student, I wanted to explore these stories in my senior thesis.

After working at Sesame Workshop in Global Education, Research & Outreach as an intern for a year and with the encouragement of a wise mentor, I decided to apply for funding to support a summer of original ethnographic research in India. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I traded in my ninth summer at camp in Wisconsin to explore the life of Muppets on the other side of the world.

When my rickshaw rolled up to the door of Sesame Workshop India in New Delhi, it hit me: I was experiencing, firsthand, what so many people back in the New York office described as “the longest street in the world.” Sesame Workshop India, the only wholly-owned subsidiary of Sesame Workshop in the world, is a lean machine comprised of a bold, fast, sharp team. Not only does this thirty-odd person office drive the production of Galli Galli Sim Sim (the Indian co-production of Sesame Street) radio and television shows that reach over 90% of television-owning families, but they also collaborate with national early childhood education experts to organize policy-oriented advocacy. They also just recently launched a franchise of after-schools and pre-schools called Sesame Schoolhouse, the first of their kind. And if that isn’t enough, this tiny team makes serious dents in school readiness and hygiene educational needs in India, a country where, if all the children broke off and made their own country, they would be the third largest in the world.

After a few days in the office and with the help of the supportive Sesame Workshop India team, I quickly identified a feasible research plan. In 2011 Sesame Workshop India was developing a Healthy Habits radio program intended to be distributed to a number of community radio stations. This particular series was designed in installments in a way that allowed flexibility for local adaptations. When I was in Delhi they were just beginning to roll out this initiative in a sizable migrant labor community on the periphery of Gurgaon, a major satellite city of Delhi. The community radio station, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz, took the material and tailored it to the needs of its audience, playing folk music from Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh –many of the migrant laborers’ home states – and addressing issues that were specific to the community’s needs. And, taking full advantage of radio as a flexible and communicative medium, the community radio station engaged callers in conversation surrounding education, water, employment, and safety.

As I conducted interviews with mothers, kids, teachers, and radio producers it became clear to me: everyone wants to consume high-quality media that speaks to them and, perhaps even more importantly, everyone wants to speak. The Sesame material served as an inspiration for the The Galli Galli Sim Sim community radio program, which provided a safe, educational and accessible space for some of the most marginalized families in the world.

That’s a Street of which I am proud to be a part.

share this +
printprint
divider

Sesame Workshop Announces Partnership with Teaching Strategies

By Sesame Workshop


Today Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, announced a multi-year partnership with Teaching Strategies, the educational company that publishes The Creative Curriculum and Teaching Strategies GOLD. The partnership will develop a series of educational offerings for the preschool classroom that utilizes Sesame Street’s proven content. Over the next five years, Sesame Workshop and Teaching Strategies will work together to develop new ways to educate young children both at home and in school.  Read More

share this +
printprint
divider

May 17, 2013

Tags
share this +

Sesame’s Experts Present Proven Strategies to Help Children Through Divorce

By Sesame Workshop


Dr. JoAnne Pedro-Carroll and Lynn Chwatsky.

Divorce is one of the most common transitions young children experience today, with ultimately 40 percent of all children experiencing the divorce of their parents. Join Sesame Workshop’s Lynn Chwatsky, VP of Educational Outreach Initiatives and Partners, and clinical psychologist, child specialist, and author Dr. JoAnne Pedro-Carroll on May 20 at 9 a.m. as they discuss Sesame Street’s newest educational outreach initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce. Learn how Sesame Street’s videos, storybook, caregiver guide, Sesame Street: Divorce app, and online resources can be used to help families with young children (ages 2–8) as they encounter the tough transitions that come with divorce and separation.

To watch a replay of the webinar, click here.

share this +
printprint
divider

May 16, 2013

Tags
share this +

Sesame Street Announces its Newest Sponsor: Party City

By Graydon Gordian


On Sesame Street, we love celebrating milestones. From a child’s first birthday to their first day at school, these are special moments that we believe are worth celebrating. That’s just one of the many reasons Party City is excited to be one of Sesame Street’s newest sponsors. Read More

share this +
printprint
divider

May 15, 2013

Tags
share this +

Encouraging Financial Literacy at a Young Age

By Graydon Gordian


On Tuesday, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s Senior Vice President, Outreach and Educational Practices, had the opportunity to participate in the Financial Literacy and Education Commission Public meeting at the Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C. During her presentation (embedded above) we were able to share some exciting information about the impact our financial literacy outreach initiative, For me, for You, for Later, is having on young children and their parents across the country.

We discovered that families using our financial literacy outreach materials experienced significantly less stress when discussing financial education as a family. Parents were equipped with strategies to introduce basic concepts of financial education to their children and were increasingly focused on financial awareness themselves. In addition, educators who used the kit were increasingly willing and able to introduce financial education into their curriculum.

For me, for You, for Later is just one of the many ways Sesame Workshop is using the power of our beloved characters to help young children achieve their highest potential. To take a look at our financial literacy outreach materials, click here. To learn more about our financial literacy outreach initiative, click here.

share this +
printprint
divider

May 10, 2013

Tags
share this +

There’s a New Neighbor on Sesame Street!

By Graydon Gordian


It’s a wonderful day, and not just cause the sun is shining on Sesame Street. It’s a wonderful day because this morning we learned a new friend was moving in to the neighborhood. Armando, or “Mando” as the gang on Sesame Street has nicknamed him, is join the cast on the upcoming 44th season.

Played by actor Ismael Cruz Córdova, Mando is part of Sesame’s increased focus on engaging with and educating children in the Hispanic community in the United States. The show is constantly evolving and has a long-standing history of modeling a diverse community.  As producers were identifying the realities of the changing American population, it was important to represent that diversity in the new addition to the cast. “Armando,” a writer from Puerto Rico, will join Maria (played by Sonia Manzano), Luis (Emilio Delgado) and Muppets™ Rosita and Ovejita (Carmen Osbahr) as part of Sesame Street’s bilingual community.

To learn more about Mando and his new home on Sesame Street, check out the video above.

share this +
printprint
divider

May 08, 2013

Tags
share this +

Solutions, Not Just Ideas: Finding Ways to Help Kids in Need

By Maura Regan


On June 6, K.I.D.S – Kids in Distressed Situations – will be honoring Maura Regan, Sesame Workshop’s Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global Consumer Products, at their annual Women in Industry Luncheon

Throughout Sesame Street’s history, we’ve seen the power that our characters have. When children interact with Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Elmo and the gang, their faces light up and even a bad day can turn around quickly. And while a gently used item can elicit the same effect, there’s  something special about a brand new toy, shirt, or similar item. Knowing that this is yours – and only, and always yours – carries a bit of extra weight.

A few years ago, a friend in my professional network introduced me to an organization called K.I.D.S. – Kids in Distressed Situations – which provides new, in package items to children in need around the globe. Even in our own backyard, we’ve seen this need pop up; for example, when Hurricane Sandy struck the Eastern Seaboard, thousands upon thousands of children found their foundations shaken. As active members of our communities, both Sesame Workshop and K.I.D.S. look for ways to help.  And like Sesame Street, K.I.D.S. goes in with solutions, not just ideas.

The nuances of the retail world result in a significant amount of product – all new, never used – which goes unsold. Sometimes those items sit in warehouses until they eventually become unusable or are otherwise destroyed. But K.I.D.S works with licensees and others in the retail supply chain to get those products into the hands of children like those affected by Sandy, and for free.  Their work is done with immediacy, and they are able to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children.

Sesame, also being an organization which is committed to empowering the lives of children, is glad to be working with K.I.D.S whenever we can. In fact, they may be honoring me, but the true honor is ours.

share this +
printprint
divider

How Sesame Street Got Its Name

By Susan Tofte


NEW! Meet the Newest Member of the Neighborhood, Armando! >>

Susan Tofte is Sesame Worskhop’s archivist.

There is a scene in the promo film for Sesame Street where ad-men type Muppets in business suits meet around a large conference table debating potential names for the show. Ridiculous titles are suggested like the Two and Two Ain’t Five Show and the Itty-Bitty, Farm-and-City, Witty-Ditty, Nitty-Gritty, Dog-and-Kitty, Pretty-Little-Kiddie Show. Rowlf the Dog fires the entire group of Muppets and Kermit the Frog eventually comes up with the name Sesame Street. “You know, like ‘Open Sesame.’ It kind of gives the idea of a street where neat stuff happens,” he suggests. Read More

share this +
printprint
divider