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March 15, 2014 posted by Mike Kazaleh

Sesame Street was brought to you today by…

DC-Sesame-Street600

It was the experiment that succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. You might say that The Children’s Television Workshop created a monster.

When it premiered in late 1969, Sesame Street was a different kind of a kid’s show. In fact, the original Sesame Street show is very different from the current version. When Sesame Workshop (formerly CTW) released a DVD in 2006 containing several early episodes, it was prefaced with a disclaimer that some of the material may be unsuitable for children. Ouch.

It was far and away the most popular show on National Educational Television (now PBS) and spawned a host of imitators. And really, how could they miss? With the Muppets (Frank Oz and Jim Henson were at the top of their game back then) and cartoons galore, those earliest shows contained plenty of entertainment value. Maybe more entertainment value than educational value some said. Whatever. Kids loved it.

Early promos for Sesame Street said that the commercials would be for letters and numbers and like that, and at the end of each show somebody would say something like, “Sesame Street was brought to you today by the letter n, and by the number 2.”

Here then is just a small sampling of those “commercials”…

Capital I

Vowel polishers in the sky. From Fred Calvert Productions. Sung by Steve Zuckerman.



J Junebug

Produced by Fred Crippen’s Pantomime Pictures. Fred produced a lot of wonderful work for Sesame Street, and we could fill several posts on his animation alone. Gary Owens and Bob Arbogast can be heard on the soundtrack.



O Song

One of the many amazing films for Sesame Street made by John Hubley. Hubley did a lot of great animation for The Electric Company as well. We may do more posts about his CTW films one day.



Seven Monsters

Conceived by Maurice Sendak, and read by Ken “Word Jazz” Nordine.



Karen Kangaroo

By Cliff Roberts. Slowing the audio down reveals the speaker to be Gene Moss.


Batman

From Filmation Associates. Olan Soule and Casey Kasem speak. I think Batman is very much in character here.



The Man from Alphabet

Not a cartoon, but this live action film from the Sesame Street pilot features most of the vocal cast from Roger Ramjet. Gary Owens stars with Bob Arbogast, Dave Ketchum, Gene Moss, and Jim Thurman.



Here is a fascinating and inexpensive commercial for Sesame Street’s greatest hits. This was an early piece of SS licensing. It would not be the last…


15 Comments

  • Boy, does that take me back. I remember the Capital I and O songs well even after so many years ago. And that Man From Alphabet skit certainly feels like a live-action Roger Ramjet episode.

    • Noticing one Wiki entry on the matter, I guess “The Man from Alphabet” didn’t take off with the show at all after it’s test pilot screenings despite being promoted in that comic book ad. While it did seem clever to me, I can understand why they chose to shelve it in the end.
      http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/The_Man_from_Alphabet

      Aside from Superman and Batman appearing in segments on SS, Filmation also did one of Jughead (played by Howard Morris) as he tells a quickie story with words starting with “J”…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ71pjuSXxY

      Segments like these did have quite a longevity on the show into the 80′s and 90′s I recall, though obviously newer segments came in and older ones were retried sooner later. There’s one we can sight at the top of our heads and ones we have very patchy memories of simply because they might not have played very much at all. One I never heard of until recently that was played a few times in the late 70′s was called “Cracks”, a very unusual piece involving a girl’s imaginary trip with animal friends made out of the cracks in the wall. According to one source, it only aired 11 times over a period of 4-5 years on the series.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y0ffj__R4g

      Of course there seems to be a thing now of looking back at these segments and retroactively stating how creepy, twisted and bizarre they were despite the fact we’ve seen these many times over in our childhood. Here’s one such web article from a few months back.
      http://theweek.com/article/index/254157/10-classic-sesame-street-moments-we-wouldnt-show-todays-kids

  • I should point out that Jim Henson himself worked on the “Seven Monsters” short (which I think didn’t aired). He also worked on “Bumble Ardy”, the other Marurice Sendak short (which did aired). Jim even did the voice of Bumble.

    • That was a fun one too, of course Sendak had to revisit Bumble Ardy before his death, and while the story slightly changed for the book (changing Bumble as his mom from humans to pigs for example), I still love this original version the best.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qh4xoEf9wE

  • The kid in the Man from Alphabet looks like Obama!

  • Not only did Gene Moss and Jim Thurman write for and appear on SESAME STREET, they wrote all of the hilarious ROGER RAMJET cartoons, they also wrote and appeared on Los Angeles’ legendary SHIRMPENSTEIN!, a live Soupy-Sales-with-a- monster-theme kids’ show that was not only quite subversive but also featured those extremely limited-animation MARVEL SUPERHEROES cartoons. On top of that, Moss and Thurman had a late-night talk show and even ran their own ad agency! While Thurman continued with SESAME STREET, Moss went on to become the off-camera “Voice of ABC”. SHRIMPENSTEIN was a HUGE influence on many of us aspiring cartoonists growing up in SoCal at the time.

    • viva shrimpenstein!

      what do we have to do to get a dvd collection of shrimpenstein?!!!

    • On SHRIMPENSTEIN!, Gene Moss , in his role as mad scientist/TV host “Dr. Rudolph Von Schtick” , often introduced those MARVEL SUPERHEROES cartoons by saying (in a pretty good imitation of Boris Karloff): “…And now, kiddies, here is another cartoons that set back animation 100 years…”

    • To my knowledge, only one (possibly two) kinoscopes of the live SHRIMPENSTEIN! show exist, but fortunately, it’s a good ‘un. The Big Kid Collectable Toy Mall & Retro Store carries DVDs of it and other obscure local kids shows and you can also watch it on YouTube in five parts. Well worth watching and ordering!

  • Gene Moss also wrote and performed the LP DRACULA’S GREATEST HITS, which featured some of Jack Davis’ most outstanding monster artwork.

  • The Batman/Robin segment is quintessential Filmation in that we never see the car in the soundtrack collision onscreen, avoiding the expense of animating the sole piece of potentially interesting action altogether.

    • Shame they couldn’t whip up something interesting if only for that 30 seconds alone but I guess not (I’m sure they had plenty to do that year). Here’s another lesson (if it’s as clear as could be)!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmoE5pRo6ho

  • Batman and Superman disappeared from SESAME STREET pretty fast (And had barely appeared at all in the first place). I’d read that Kermit would as well, due to infuriatingly vague (and repetitive) reports that he would be “Leaving Sesame Street for Madison Avenue”.

    • In the case of Kermit, he was still used on Sesame Street in segments like the familiar “News Flash” segments at least into the 90′s. Here’s one of my favs….
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY9O4M8DS7c

  • Well, Henson changed his mind about taking Kermit off the STREET.

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