On the death of actor Will Lee, who played neighborhood grocer Mr. Harold Hooper, the production staff decided not to replace him with another actor instead they wrote a special episode dealing with the loss of a loved one ("Goodbye, Mr. Hooper"). In a scene where the other cast members are talking to Big Bird about the death of someone one loves, they were apparently still grieving the loss of Will Lee, since they were visibly near tears. A child psychologist was brought in to help the writers. The show where his character's death was announced was scheduled for a public holiday and was publicized in many newspapers (so parents could be present to answer any questions their children might have). It was also seen as important not to say that Mr. Hooper died in a hospital as it was seen as potentially making children scared of going to a hospital. In a poll this episode was voted by fans as being the most moving and memorable moment.
Unfortunately, some classic Muppets have been canned over the years for interesting reasons. Don Music, the piano player who would bang his head against the piano in frustration, had to be discontinued when kids at home started doing the same thing. Harvey Kneeslapper was discontinued because his signature laugh was too much of a strain on Frank Oz's vocal cords. Roosevelt Franklin, arguably one of the first breakthrough Sesame Street Muppets, had to go as he was considered to be a negative cultural stereotype (he was the only African American Muppet at the time and was seen mostly in detention after school). Professor Hastings, a teacher whose lectures were so dull that he'd put himself to sleep while he was giving them, was discontinued - because he was too dull. Some of these banned segments continued to air on the Canadian version for some time after they were removed from the US show.
After the untimely death of Jim Henson in 1990, Kermit the Frog was retired from the show. Kermit appeared only in reruns of old sketches until 1998, when he popped up to do one more Sesame Street News Flash when Oscar the Grouch's pet worm Slimy went into space. Kermit was voiced by Steve Whitmire, who has also assumed the role of Ernie since Henson's passing.
Gordon never had a last name until 1991 when he became a teacher. Since it would have been inappropriate for students to call him by his first name, Roscoe Orman suggested his last name should be Robinson, after Matt Robinson, the first actor to play Gordon in the show.
The character of Oscar the Grouch was inspired by two people. His attitude comes from a nasty waiter that served Jim Henson and former director Jon Stone at a restaurant called Oscar's Tavern in Manhattan. The voice was inspired by a cab-driver that used to drive Caroll Spinney to the set every day during the first season.
It was decided to allow others besides Big Bird to see Snuffleupagus due to the "Children should be seen, heard and believed" campaign where, if a child were to report something, particularly criminal abuse of their bodies, then adults would believe them.
To answer the immortal question, here is how to get to Sesame Street: Take the "R" or "V" train to Steinway Street. Stay on back of train. Walk west on 34th Avenue, three blocks to 36th Street. Turn left on 36th Street. The entrance to Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens is mid-block (between 34th & 35th Avenues).
In 1990, "Sesame Street" songwriter Christopher Cerf told radio interviewer Terry Gross that the show was once sued for 5.5 million dollars over the song "Letter B," a parody of The Beatles' song "Let It Be." The plaintiffs were not the Beatles (who by that time no longer owned the rights to their original song and who in fact wrote a affidavit in support of the parody) but Michael Jackson's music library, which had bought the Beatles catalog. The case was settled for $500.
Possibly the only topic that has never been dealt with on the show is divorce. The producers tried in 1991 with an episode titled "Snuffy's Parents Get a Divorce". In the episode, Snuffy's parents are shown arguing and his sister, Alice, is shown reacting by hitting her teddy bear. The script was reviewed by child psychologists who suggested an emphasis on telling children that if their parents get divorced, their parents will still love them and the divorce is not their fault. The episode was tested on children in daycare centers. But the children came away with those same negative messages. The episode was never aired. In another 1991 episode, Kermit the Frog interviews a bird who sings about how her parents still love her even though they no longer live together though it is not directly stated that her parents are divorced.
It has been generally believed that Bert and Ernie were named after the police officer and taxi cab driver in It's a Wonderful Life (1946). However, series writer Jon Stone denied this, maintaining that it was only a coincidence. He commented that he and Jim Henson were studying the prototype puppets and decided that one looked like an Ernie and the other looked like a Bert.
Rosita originally appeared on Plaza Sésamo (1972), the Mexican version of Sesame Street (1969). When she joined the cast of the original American version, she became first regular bilingual Muppet on Sesame Street.
In 2004, Natalie Portman appeared as a character named Natalie. Natalie was to run Hooper's Store for three episodes while Alan (Alan E. Muraoka) was on vacation. But after taping one episode, Portman began losing her voice and was unable to continue.
Originally, the intention was that the Muppets and the human actors should be kept strictly separate in different sequences. However, the producers learned that the audiences were focusing their attention on the Muppets and ignoring the actors. In response, they had the actors and Muppets begin to interact in new scenes and created special Muppets primarily designed for actors to work with, namely Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
When creating the show, executive producer Joan Ganz Cooney, deliberately made sure that the human cast would be an ensemble with approximately equal roles, so no one person would emerge as the host or star of the show and be able to use this as a negotiating tool and threaten the show's survival when it came time for contracts to be renewed, as Robert Keeshan had been able to do as the star of the Captain Kangaroo (1955) show.
In 2002, producers of a South African version of "Sesame Street" (which became Takalani Sesame (2000)) announced that they were adding an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami to the series to address the growing number of people (including children) with the virus in that part of the world. The producers of the original US series indicated they were considering doing the same thing.
In 1993, the original set was expanded to include new areas located just around the corner from Big Bird's nest, which had previously marked the end of Sesame Street's world. Among these areas was a store initially run by a character played by Ruth Buzzi. The series format was intended to simulate the commercial-filled world of TV to which American children are exposed, with a main plot line being interrupted by frequent commercials hawking educational concepts instead of products and simulated TV programs. The show also made extensive use of the reruns concept by replaying popular segments over and over, intermixed with new material. As a result, children viewing the show in 2002 will still see the occasional segment that was originally created for the series when their parents were still children! Many songs written for the series are now considered standards. These include "Sing," "Being Green," "Rubber Duckie," and "C is for Cookie," as well as the show's theme song. However, when the show changed formats in 2000, this concept is less frequently used than before.
Hooper's Store had gone through a few redesigns over the years: from 1969-1998, the building was green with its trademark yellow and black checkered design below the window looking out front with an old-fashioned Bell Telephone System logo on the left side, and a green- and white-striped awning overlooking the front window, various murals have been painted on the building throughout those years. Later in 1998, when Alan took over, the entire front of the building was repainted a bright blue color and a new red vinyl awning stretching over the front window, and also around the corner of the building to a new side window (that was added that same year) with white letters reading "Hooper's Store" on both sides (no murals on the side of the store now due to the new side window, and the checkered design was dropped). In 2002, the building was repainted again, this time it was repainted with in a pale orange color. Starting in season 39, Hooper's got a complete overhaul, interior, and exterior. It was more "modernized" to keep up with the modern children. It got a new exterior color (back to blue) and a new tan and red striped awning. The Bell Telephone System sign is not hanging off of the left side, but it is hanging on the brick wall above awning that faces the arbor. The interior is no longer an old-time soda shop, yet more of a convenience store. It is clad with refrigeration, and magazines and newspapers on a special shelf. The interior is now a light green and the "first dollar" of the business is hanging on the wall.
Many of the early collaborators on Sesame Street had previously worked on Captain Kangaroo (1955). These included writer and composer Jeff Moss, producer Sam Gibbon, executive producer Dave Connell, and writer Jon Stone.