Sesame Street Blog

Sesame Family Robinson – From making Muppets to Raising Moppets

Entries with tag tagnovember2009 .

Happy 40th Birthday

Number of the Day: 40

Sesame Street has been on the air for 40 years on November 10. It’s such a part of our culture; even Google has been acknowledging this milestone by putting our classic characters into its doodle artwork this week.   

We returned from Northern Ireland last night and I’m already up and off to a meeting in New York to discuss a possible new middle format. At 1 p.m., we’re going to take a break to go downstairs for a “Street Naming Ceremony.” For 24 hours, New York City is renaming the block where our offices are “Sesame Street.” A great honor, even if it’s only for 24 hours.  

What’s more of an honor is to be part of this amazing show that has been entertaining and educating for 40 years. No other television show in history has had such a continuous mission. May it continue for many more years.

Season 40 Birthday Party

Telly looking at his likeness in the Sesame Street 40th Birthday cake.

While I unpack from Northern Ireland, here's another great photo of Telly at the Sesame Street Season 40 birthday party.

The Little Helping Man

Curriculum of the Day: Help

Ever since I got pregnant with Lyra and Ripley, there’s been a little man in the house helping out when I least expect it … HandyMan. He also has his own personal sense of humor.

Steven Colbert is a Comedy Genius

Word of the Day: Irony

If you haven’t seen it, you have to watch Steven Colbert’s “tribute” to Sesame Street turning 40 years old. It is dripping with irony, and also touches on one of our more recent controversies—Pox News. Whatever your feelings may be about Fox, I think it can be said that this not-newsworthy moment is another example of people: 1) Having no sense of humor; 2) Having too much time on their hands. Also, if you actually watch the entire 15-minute storyline that contains this Pox joke, you will see the writer (Belinda Ward) also makes puns about Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather (Belinda is a master pun-dit.) We at Sesame Street are equal opportunity parodists.

So check out the Colbert Report, I think you’ll have a good laugh …

Our Irish Eyes Were Smiling (Well, My Welsh Eyes).

Word of the Day: Heritage

When I first went to Northern Ireland three years ago, I remember sitting in the airplane as it descended out of the clouds and I saw for the first time, (in this lifetime!) these incredible green fields. It really is emerald—or “40 shades of green.” As the taxi drove towards Belfast past little stone farmhouses and fields of cows and sheep I really thought, “I’m home,” which is funny because I’m not Irish. I’m Welsh (except for a few drops of French or German, depending on what year in history it is in Alsace-Lorraine.) But I AM Celtic. Marty and the girls are very Irish and Scottish. So, we were definitely home last week in the land of the Celts.

The first day of our arrival was a rest time. We needed it to all get adjusted to the time change.  It was raining, so we just relaxed, baby-proofed the hotel room, watched TV and ordered room service.

Babies crawling in a hotel room.
Lyra and Ripley getting a lay of hotel room land … and the full-length mirror.

The next day, our babysitter, Lisa, arrived right on time. We actually thought she was an hour late, until we realized we’d changed our clocks one hour too many. Instead, we had plenty of time to eat breakfast. Lisa ended up being a “kid wrangler” for film and TV in Belfast rather than someone else’s babysitter. She had worked with the Sesame Tree producers so she was able to even walk us with the babies to their offices so we didn’t get lost. The plan was for them to come everyday for lunch and a visit, then enjoy walking around Belfast. Unfortunately, it rained EVERY DAY we were in Ireland, so instead, the babies saw a lot of stores. No wonder it is so green here.

That first morning of the workshop was spent getting reacquainted. I knew three of the four writers from last season. There was a new script editor, Laura and a new main producer, Fiona. The original line producer, Leon, is still involved with the show. These women are powerhouses and are going to make this second season of Sesame Tree fabulous.

The writers, puppeteers and producers (minus the executive producer, Colin, who was on another shoot) sat together in a circle to discuss everything about last season that worked and didn’t work. It was the first time they had actually done this as a team so everyone was very happy. This is not a reflection on the production—often writers are finished and no longer staff before the puppeteers are hired back for production.

The babies showed up for lunch and we all ate together and visited. In the afternoon, the writers and I started intense breakdowns of the first four scripts of the new season and the puppeteers began working with Marty on technique. At the end of the day, we walked back to the hotel, relieved Lisa, ordered room service, and crashed hard.

It was like this for the next three days: intense work, babies visiting, walking home, room service and bed. It was fantastic. This team is so funny and smart. I only have to point them in a direction once in awhile for story structure or humor. It’s also helpful I have a large knowledge of the Sesame library and can suggest classic Muppet bits to fit into the topic of their shows. We went through all 20 of their stories for this season, plus eight outlines. On the final day, we gathered as a group again and did a table read of the second drafts of the first four shows. The puppeteers were in great form and the scripts read beautifully. There were lots of laughs and few notes. Colin, the exec, was clearly pleased.

I was going to go up to the hotel room to relieve Lisa while Marty went out with the team for some pints at the Robinsons (!) bar across the street. However, Robinsons was packed with the Friday evening crowd so instead they all came to the first floor hotel lounge, which has a nice big open area and floor rug. So, the babies came down with me and we could all spend some final time together while the babies crawled around us.

Lyra and Ripley with the Irish puppeteers and their workshop puppets. The real puppets are being fixed for the new season.
Lyra and Ripley with the Irish puppeteers and their workshop puppets. The real puppets are being fixed for the new season.

Ripley reaches out for Lisa and Hilda the Irish Hare.
Ripley reaches out for Lisa and Hilda the Irish Hare.

We were planning the next day to go to the Neolithic ruins at New Grange. However, the weather once again looked nasty and Fiona suggested we go with her and her son to see Carrickfergus Castle, which was much closer to Belfast. Marty jumped at this idea since, after a pint or two in the “old country,” he’s been known to sing a Carrickfergus song in Telly’s voice. It worked out super because we could push the girls through most of it and carry them the rest of the way up into the castle “Keep.” There were two large rugs on the top floor, which were the “boards” for an oversized chess game and ladders and serpents game. The girls got to crawl around their first chess set, as well as visit with locals dressed in medieval garb playing music and telling stories.

The Robinsons at Carrickfergus Castle along with John McGuire (Fiona’s son).
The Robinsons at Carrickfergus Castle along with John McGuire (Fiona’s son).

Afterwards, we went to Fiona’s for some tea and pasta, and then headed home to pack for an early plane home.   

Our Celtic eyes were tired, but it was a grand trip.
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Like your family we have twins, boy/girl, that turned three last month. I saw your blog entry for January and it looks like we have something in common, potty training twins. Like one of your girls, my son WILL NOT pee in the potty but his sister was doing well until she caught on to "Bubbie" not trying. I was just letting things run their course but our local pre-schools/mommy day out programs require the children to be potty trained and this mommy needs a day out. Bribery isn't working. Have you had any success?


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How often is the telly puppet renewed or replaced?

Katherine Sydney, Australia

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I read in 40 Years of Life on the Street about an incident involving Snuffy's puppet where a sombrero caused the wood frame to collapse on you and Bryant Young. Did they rebuild the puppet after that or did they just make a new one?


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I just wanted to say thanks for the blog. My daughter Kylie (who just turned two yesterday) loves to ask if we are going to see "the babies." Thank you so much to you and Marty for bringing the joy of Sesame Street into our lives every day.

Kendal and Kylie Montreal, Canada

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I've noticed that there are fewer Muppets and people in an episode now than there were twenty years ago. Does everyone show up on the set for filming days or only certain ones? Who decides who gets to play the Anything Muppets? There are some voices I hear more than others.


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