I’m the epitome of the original Sesame Street generation. The show aired the year I was born, I have many memories of watching it as a child, and I had a record album with some great songs from it that I listened to a lot when I was a kid.
When my own kids were little, there were tons of other kids’ shows competing with Sesame Street, but there was a brief period where we watched it for a little while. Not surprisingly, we enjoyed the Sesame Street Old School DVDs more than the current episodes.
I believe one of the reasons that Sesame has been so loved for generations (other than the fact that Jim Henson is a genius) is that the characters are so unique and lovable.
One of my daughters went through a phase where she was very much into puppets (and very good with them), and when I was researching different styles of puppets and found these 8 adorable Sesame Street finger puppets.
Previously, when I thought of finger puppets, I picture those little rubbery plastic things, but these puppets aren’t anything like that. They are high-quality, plush, and even have legs!
Finger puppets are usually easier for little hands to use, and several characters (I mean, who wants just one?) cost less money and take up less space than hand puppets. They’re also easy to transport.
These finger puppets can be used by children themselves, or by a parent, teacher, or babysitting entertain children. Or some combination of the two!
Because I have such fond memories of Sesame Street characters, I did a little extra research about each character and included some of my favorite songs.
Cookie Monster’s origin begin in 1966 when Jim Henson drew three monster-characters for a General Mills commercial (which was never aired) who would steal and gobble up different snacks.
The blue monster known as the “wheel-stealer” in that commercial was featured the next year in an IBM training film, and then as “Arnold the Munching Monster” in a commercial for Frito-Lay potato chips. It wasn’t until the first season of Sesame Street that he became known as the Cookie Monster.
The original sketch was for “C is for Cookie” was made in 1971 and was one of the few Sesame Street sketches that was directed by Jim Henson.
“C is for Cookie” from Sesame Street
Amazingly, the character of Big Bird has been portrayed by the same actor, Caroll Spinney, since 1969 (plus some understudies). The costume was originally built for Jim Henson, but it was decided that he didn’t walk like a bird. Frank Oz (the voice of Cookie Monster, among others, was offered the role, but turned it down because he hated performing full-body characters.
This song was on a Sesame Street record album that I had when I was a kid:
“ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ” from Sesame Street
Elmo didn’t come to life until I had outgrown Sesame Street and was worrying about whether the cute guy would be near my high school school locker after Spanish class. I do, however, remember what a huge deal he was, especially in the 90’s, when I was in the in-between stage where I wasn’t a kid and didn’t have kids of my own yet.
Elmo had his own movie, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (which I never saw), and I remember when my nephew was little and “Tickle Me Elmo” was THE Christmas toy. (You can still get an original one if you’re willing to pay top dollar for it.)
However, as beloved as Elmo is, not everyone is a fan. He’s been called a “Little Red Menace” by traditionalists who claim he took over the show at the expense of other characters. I can see their point, my girls’ favorite part of Sesame Street was “Elmo’s World,” so even though he isn’t a “classic” character, I can’t help but have fondness for him.
The characters Ernie and Bert were designed with the idea that two people can be very different and still be good friends — in fact, they are said to be based somewhat on the relationship of Jim Henson and Frank Oz.
Interesting, the two of them were the only Muppets that were in the Sesame Street pilot — and the only part of the pilot that test well with screen audiences. After that, it was decided that not only would Muppet characters “star” in the show, but they would also interact with the human characters.
Ernie — “Rubber Duckie” on Sesame Street
Oscar the Grouch — who was originally orange! — was inspired by a restaurant waiter who was so rude and grouchy that Jim Henson found him kind of amusing.
The trash can that Oscar lives in must be a lot bigger than it looks — according to Oscar, it contains a swimming pool, ice-rink, bowling alley, and a piano!
Oscar the Grouch — “I Love Trash”
In his earliest form, Grover appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on Christmas Eve of 1967. At the time, he had greenish-brown fur, a red nose, and a raspier voice, and was referred to as “Gleep”, a monster in Santa’s workshop. In fact, Grover wasn’t blue, or known as “Grover,” until the second season of Sesame Street.
Frank Oz, who does Grover’s voice, says, “I like Grover because really, he’s wiry. He’s tough. He gets emotional. But also he tries very hard to help people, and do things right, to the extent that he doesn’t use contractions in his words.”
Grover — “Near and Far” on Sesame Street
Female monster Zoe came well after my time as a Sesame Street viewer (she debuted in 1993), although I do remember her a bit from when I watched Sesame Street with my children. During her first several years, she wore nothing but her barrettes, bracelets, and necklace. However, beginning in 2001, she started wearing a pink tutu and became obsessed with ballet.
Did you know that The Count’s full name is actually Count con Count? I didn’t!
Here’s something else interesting, according to WIkipedia: In the early 70’s (when I was watching Sesame Street), after The Count would finish counting, he would laugh maniacally and there would be thunder and lightning flashes. (I remember that.) He would also use hypnotic powers to temporarily stun people so that they wouldn’t interrupt his counting. (I don’t remember that.)
Anyway, a few years later that was discontinued because of the concern that it might frighten young children. The Count became friendlier, lost his hypnotic powers, and adopted a more triumphant laugh.