Now for another new tradition. I have scads of books lying around that simply need no commentary; they just need to be shared. Here is one of the most definitive ones.
The Sesame Street Dictionary is one of the most spectacularly cohesive artifacts of the era in which I grew up. Sesame Street itself, now having spanned almost 40 years, makes an excellent cultural barometer; look over the events of the past ten seasons and you’ll see how the world changed. This artifact is from halfway through its current life, and it shows a number of interesting discrepancies between Sesame Street of 1980 and Sesame Street of 2008:
- First of all: NO ELMO. He did exist at the time and was a regular character– he even had a hand in revealing Snuffle-upagus to the adults. The illustrator, Joe Matheiu, used dozens of existing Muppet characters in this one, but somehow Elmo slipped by him. That didn’t stop them from slapping Elmo and Girlmo on the cover of the 2004 reissue of the book, though.
- Many other important characters had not yet become major figures, so there’s no Telly, Rosita, or Two-Headed Monster, to say nothing of flavor-of-the-month new characters like Abby Cadabby. On the other hand, many of the characters in this book are seen infrequently if at all in recent episodes: Don Music, Little Bird, Frazzle, and especially Roosevelt Franklin, all make frequent appearances. One interesting coincidence is that there are several appearances from the Three Bears in this book, but it’s not the ones who are fixtures on today’s version of the Street.
- Joe Mathieu, not to be confused with Joe Mathlete, is very conscious of the way characters are designed on Sesame Street, specifically the Anything Muppet system. The Sesame Workshop has about fifteen puppets that are just heads and mouths with no features, equipped with a massive bank of eyes, noses, etc. that can be attached with Velcro in order to turn them into whatever’s needed for the sketch. This book not only features many characters based on the Anything Muppets (like Farley, Betty Lou, Sherlock Hemlock, etc.), but Mathieu also invents dozens of Anything combinations on his own, always using existing Anything bodies (e.g. Fat Blue, Pumpkin, Large Lavender Live Hand, etc.) I’ll bet this paragraph made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER if you didn’t dream of being a Muppeteer as a kid, like I did.
- This book is all Muppets and almost no humans, except for one appearance from Mr. Fooper, I mean Hooper.
And now, without further babble, my favorite moments from The Sesame Street Dictionary.
Next post: N through Z!