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”…
Vowel polishers in the sky. From Fred Calvert Productions. Sung by Steve Zuckerman.
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.
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.
Conceived by Maurice Sendak, and read by Ken “Word Jazz” Nordine.
By Cliff Roberts. Slowing the audio down reveals the speaker to be Gene Moss.
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…