(Republished with permission. As originally published on Sprout…..I had to share it with you!)
A large yellow feather is on display in my living room right now amidst the scarecrows and pumpkins. No, it’s not one of my holiday decorations or evidence of a good pillow fight, but rather a reminder to me of a day I’ll never forget.
The yellow feather – a souvenir from Big Bird!
Thanks to Sprout and Sesame Workshop, I traveled from Texas to New York to spend time at Sesame Street. THE Sesame Street…..the street where Elmo lives behind Mr. Hooper’s store, where Snuffy and Big Bird hang out together, and where that famous trash can sits (with a certain green Grouch inside). Yes, I saw it all!
On October 20th, I arrived with several other mommy/daddy/auntie bloggers at Kaufman Astoria Studios, the location of Sesame Street and other favorites like the 80’s sitcom, The Cosby Show. I was among the first group of bloggers to ever tour Sesame Street as they don’t allow public tours….what a treat. We were escorted past security and I started keeping my eye out for furry little monsters. I was excited and that wouldn’t change during the next 2 and 1/2 hours spent there.
After some introductions, we were taken to Stage J. Filming was underway, so we had to be extra quiet on set and make sure we turned the flashes off our cameras. Stepping on the set of Sesame Street was incredible….furry little monsters with their puppeteers, television cameras and crew, and landmarks we all recognize from childhood. I felt like I was four years old again. I was star-struck, or should I say “monster-struck”.
I have to admit the set was a lot smaller than I had imagined it to be – oh, the magic of television. Don’t you think of Sesame Street as the longest street in the neighborhood too? I watched in awe as they taped several scenes for Season 41 involving Baby Bear and Telly (the much anticipated Season 40 kicks off Nov 10th). They did stop filming long enough to wow us with a personal welcome….the monsters, that is. The puppeteers behind the monsters aren’t just clever and funny while on camera. Off-camera they stayed in-character too, so much so that I actually forgot the puppeteers were there. Silly, huh? Despite there being an actual live puppeteer right there, I hardly looked at them. I focused my attention and talked directly to the monsters (they’re sooo cute)!
Just as with “non-monster” actors, Baby Bear and Telly had to do their scenes over and over until perfect. One thing that really surprised me was how much laughter was involved. The puppeteers, director, and camera crew had numerous takes, but after each one they seemed to laugh at the script and at themselves. What an enjoyable job! In between scenes I snuck over to the side stage and visited what I’ll call “monster makeup”, where hair, fur, or feathers are styled and monsters are dressed (or mended). It was there that I learned one of the cardinal rules, “Never Brush a Monster”! Never!
My first glimpse of Elmo in “monster makeup”….shocking. I’ve seen Elmo hundreds of times on tv and wasn’t really prepared for what I saw. Elmo looked “roughed up”. It’s really not as bad as I’m making it sound. It’s just that Elmo looks cute and furry on Sesame Street (and in my living room). The Elmo in “monster makeup” looked as though he’d been my toy 30-some years ago. His fur was all messed up and they certainly weren’t about to brush it (remember the cardinal rule). It was explained to us that they actually do rough-up the fur for filming as the camera softens the look. Sesame Street works really hard at maintaining the monsters and some of the ones still seen today are the originals (from 40 years ago).
Fun doesn’t even begin to describe the time I had. I stared and gawked at just about everything, including Big Bird’s nest. That huge nest! We were allowed to sneak in the extremely tiny space for just a minute and view it, but the child in me wanted more (I mean this was a once in a lifetime trip). I asked if I could actually SIT in Big Bird’s nest. They said YES!
While walking the famous street was unbelievable, and the filming was impressive, I have to confess my most favorite memory of all…..hanging out with Abby Cadabby, Sesame Street’s 3 year old Fairy-in-Training. Now, I didn’t grow up with Abby Cadabby, as she’s a recent character added during the 37th season, but I have fallen in love with her through the eyes of my 2-year old daughter. So, when I looked over my shoulder and saw that Abby Cadabby, along with her puppeteer Leslie Carrara, would be hanging out with us during our visit, I jumped up and down (on the inside of course as I was in public). As I got to know Leslie Carrara (as a person, not just as Abby Cadabby), I saw just how much Sesame Street meant to her. As tears came to her eyes she said, “it’s forty years of family”.
Sesame Workshop is so excited about the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. Not only can you watch the much anticipated season, filled with celebrity guests, here on Sprout, but you can also look forward to some new surprises, like Abby’s Flying Fairy School, in a brand new animated format.
As I write this, it’s only been a week since I walked on that street, but I’m still taking it all in. Part of me feels it was just a dream, a rather quick one. I could have spent so much more time there. After all, there are plenty more monsters to meet…..Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster…!
(As originally published in Fall 2009 for Sprout. As one of Sprout’s Band of Bloggers, I was afforded this amazing opportunity. Complimentary trip was provided to this event. All opinions are my own.)