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YouTube / MonsterpieceTheatre
YouTube / MonsterpieceTheatre

"This Way to Sesame Street," 45 Years Ago Today

YouTube / MonsterpieceTheatre
YouTube / MonsterpieceTheatre

45 years ago today, Americans got their first taste of Sesame Street. A half-hour preview episode called "This Way to Sesame Street" aired on NBC (!) on Saturday, November 8, 1969 at 5pm.

The preview episode aired on network TV to introduce the concept of Sesame Street to parents, two days before regular episodes premiered on PBS. "This Way to Sesame Street" was hosted largely by Bert & Ernie, and it included early skits, animated segments, musical numbers, and appearances from Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Gordon, Mr. Hooper, Bob, Susan, and...wait for it...Carol Burnett!

Watching this episode, the main descriptor that springs to mind is "trippy." Imagine what was going on in America when this showed up on TV: Apollo 11 had landed on the moon just a few months before, and Apollo 12 would lift off in a matter of weeks. Nixon was in office. The hunt for the Zodiac killer was hot news. It feels completely appropriate that Sesame Street came to life, this explosion of creativity aimed at very young kids, in the midst of all this.

It's impressive to see how well-formed the show was even in its first episode (technically, two days prior to its first episode). It's also pretty wild to see then United States Commissioner of Education Dr. James E. Allen, Jr. closing the show by saying, in part:

"Sesame Street represents both an historic step forward by the medium of TV and an equally significant innovation in mass education. In plain words, there never has been before a nationwide TV program designed especially to prepare young children for school. Next week, there will be."

45 years on, the innovation continues. If you grew up watching Sesame Street, or you're watching it now, this is a hoot. Enjoy:

Two days later, the show began its regular run. If you're curious what that looked like, check out 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids, examining the early show through video clips. And keep in mind that just one year later, Big Bird was on the cover of Time magazine.

For more Sesame Street goodness, check out: Sesame Street International: 9 Notable Muppets From Around the World; 13 Sesame Street Muppets That Make a Difference; and Sesame Street's Star Wars Parody (and more parodies!).

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The Jim Henson Company
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entertainment
The Dark Crystal Is Coming Back to Theaters
The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

In 1982, Jim Henson and Frank Oz dared to venture into somewhat gloomier territory with the release of The Dark Crystal. Though the film, which centers on two Gelflings (a sort of creepy elf-like creature) attempting to save their species and restore peace to the world, wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, it has developed a large cult following in the more than 35 years since its release—even among those kids it scared the hell out of back in the day. Now, as Netflix preps its prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, for release later this year, Nerdist reports that the original film will make its way back into theaters next month.

As part of Fathom Events’s ongoing effort to breathe big-screen life back into classic films with limited releases across the country, The Dark Crystal will be playing in more than 500 theaters nationwide on February 25 and February 28. In addition to the original film, the screenings will also feature a brand-new introduction courtesy of Lisa Henson, Jim’s daughter and current president/CEO of The Jim Henson Company, who will talk about the making of the film and how it fit within her father's creative legacy.

To find out whether The Dark Crystal will be coming back to a theater near you, log onto Fathom’s web page for the movie and type in your ZIP code; tickets are on sale now.

[h/t: Nerdist]

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Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
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Pop Culture
See How Sesame Street Puppeteers Bring Their Characters to Life
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Elmo, Big Bird, and Mr. Snuffleupagus aren’t just puppets to fans of Sesame Street: They’re vibrant characters who are every bit as real as the beloved series' human actors. It may look effortless, but bringing foam, fur, and feathers to life is a skill that takes years to master. WIRED asked five Sesame Street puppeteers to share the secrets behind the craft in a new video.

Different puppets rely on different mechanics to function. Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus, for example, consist of puppeteers (two in Snuffy's case) wearing full-body suits, while smaller characters like Elmo and Abby Cadabby have single puppeteers with one hand inside the head moving the mouth and another controlling rods attached to the arms. Some puppets have eyelids that move up and down. For puppets without this feature, puppeteers have to come up with creative ways to express emotion. Elmo puppeteer Ryan Dillon pulls a wooden handle in Elmo’s head when he wants to give the character a puzzled look.

Translating hand movements into convincing facial expressions is tricky, but one of the biggest challenges the crew faces is space. Next time you see four or five Sesame Street puppets in the frame at once, try picturing that same number of full-grown adults rolling across the floor beneath them.

For the full interviews with the puppeteers, check out the video below.

[h/t WIRED]

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