Sesame Street is an American children's television show co-created by Joan Ganz Cooney and produced by the non-profit Sesame Workshop (formerly known as Children's Television Workshop). The series, which debuted in November 1969, is known for educational content and images communicated through the use of puppetry, animation, short films, humor, and cultural references. It has aired on public television stations owned by PBS since its debut, with first-run airings of episodes moving to premium cable channel HBO in 2016.
Sesame Street was the first children's television show to use educational goals and a curriculum to shape its content and the first show to study its educational effects on children. The program was intended to teach preschool children such things as letters and numbers, socialization and cooperation; but through the use of its humor, cultural references, celebrity guest appearances, and Jim Henson's Muppets, the show was also able to have a strong appeal to parents. Sesame Street has been part of the childhoods of over 77 million Americans, spawned twenty international versions, and holds the record for the most Emmy Awards won by a children's television series.
History with the Macy's Parade
Sesame Street has featured floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1974, with six unique floats based on the series. These have generally featured the vast majority of the show's Muppet and human characters singing songs of their own (mostly from Sesame Street itself), sometimes accompanied in recent years by popular musicians. The original float appeared in 1974, featuring two buildings: the "123 Sesame Street" brownstone, and Hooper's Store. Also featured were a streetlight with the Sesame Street sign located at the front of the float, and a ramshackle fence at the back, decorated with numbers and letters. Big Bird was perched on the roof, Cookie Monster and other Muppet characters stuck their heads out of the windows, and human cast members Mr. Hooper, Gordon, and Bob stood in front. This float was retired after the 1978 Macy's Parade and replaced by a new float celebrating the show's 10th anniversary, This version is taller than the 1st version, and uses only one building, with Big Bird sitting in a nest atop the building and the cast members and kids appearing in front. These character placements would be the layout for all of the floats to come out of the show.
The Sesame Street float was altered in 1981 to promote the new Sesame Street Live show, including walk-around characters, then was retired for over a decade after 1982. While the Sesame Street float was absent from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Sesame Street Muppets (and a couple of walkarounds) appeared in The Rocket Car in 1984, and Ernie and Bert appeared in walkaround form in 1988 and 1990. In 1990, respectively, they appeared atop The Watering Can float, performing "Do You Like Me?". Of note, this would be the last time Jim Henson's vocals were used in the Parade.
The Sesame Street float returned in 1994, with an abstract design of the street, with most attention paid to the Furry Arms Hotel, made from books based on the show's current literacy curriculum. Toy manufacturer Applause Inc. sponsored the float for its first year, but by 1995, Children's Television Workshop would sponsor it. Parts of the float still survive today, including one of the pencils and the street sign, which are on display at the Parade Studio.
In 1998, the previous float was replaced by a new float where the street is represented as a pop-up crayon drawing, with doors and windows opening and closing like in a lift-and-peek book. According to a drawing located on the front of the float, it was drawn and colored by Big Bird.
In 2002, the Sesame Street float was decorated to feature painted faces of many children from around the world, as a message about peace and universal goodwill. The American cast was joined by a group of internationalm Sesame Muppets. The international Muppets included Filfil and Nimnim from Egypt's Alam Simsim, Hu Hu Zhu from China's Zhima Jie, Rumpel and Samson from Germany's Sesamstrasse, Kareem, Dafi and Haneen from the Palestinian Shara'a Simsim, Abelardo and Lola from Mexico's Plaza Sésamo, Zeliboba and Businka from the Russian Ulitsa Sezam, and Moishe Oofnik from the Israeli Rechov Sumsum and Shalom Sesame. That year, the cast sang "We Are All Earthlings". It would later be repainted in 2003, now including only the cast of the regular Sesame Street television program.
The current "123 Sesame Street" float, introduced in 2004, measures 32 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 2 stories tall, and represents the show's history with the classic brownstone while also being what its designer, Louis Henry Mitchell, called "modern and visually exciting." In 2006, the float collided with an NYPD cruiser, damaging the car in the process, with no dicernible damage to the float. In 2009, the float gained a new sponsor: the National Association of Music Merchants, or NAMM. In 2012 they were replaced with online greeting card site Cardstore, but by 2013 Sesame Workshop had gained the sponsorship of the float again, and remains the sponsor of the float to this day.
To celebrate the show's 50th anniversary in the 2019 parade, the cast and Muppets, joined by the National Dance Institute, kicked off the route through Herald Square with a partially pre-taped musical number. Part of the opening was taped on the Sesame Street set at Kaufman Astoria Studios (on November 15), followed by on-location shots throughout the city. The opening featured cameos from celebrities, including Jane Krakowski, Al Roker, Darren Criss, Justin Long, Lucy Liu, and Lester Holt.
The float was scheduled to return during the 2020 Parade, but was booted off in late November, currently marking 2019 as its final Parade appearance. It's unknown if this float will re-appear in the 2021 Parade.
Several Sesame Street characters have also appeared in balloon form. Big Bird's balloon debuted in 1988 and remained in its original version until 2001 when it was replaced with a second version that appeared until 2006. A Super Grover balloon was launched in 2003 and remained until 2006; and Abby Cadabby, one of the show's newer Muppet characters, got her own balloon from 2007 to 2009. Since the parade's last Sesame Street balloon was retired, the Sesame Street float has been preceded/followed by non-Muppet characters such as Greg Heffley, Hello Kitty, Harold the Policeman, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Jett from Super Wings. Sesame Workshop also furnished a trio of novelty balloons, the ABC Bouncing Balls, which appeared from 1988 to 2003.
During most appearances of a Sesame Street float, the float would stop at Herald Square and perform a song for the NBC telecast. Below, you will find a list of characters that have appeared on or alongside the float, in addition to their NBC telecast performance numbers.
Additionally, Alan Muraoka has choreographed the float performance in the 2001, 2013, 2014 and 2015 parades.
The song performed at the 2019 Parade was nominated for "Outstanding Original Song" in the 2020 Daytime Emmy Awards.
Bold indicates the special guest performer on the floats.
|1974||Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Mr. Hooper, Gordon, Bob, Count von Count, Bert|
|1975||Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch|
|1978||Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, and Count von Count|
|1979||Big Bird, Cookie Monster, The Count, Grover, Herry Monster, Barkley, Gordon, Mr. Hooper Maria, Kermit Love|
|1980||"Keep Christmas With You"||Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster, Telly Monster, The Count, Deena, Barkley, Oscar, Bob, Maria, Mr. Hooper, Kermit Love, Ernie and Bert (walk-arounds)|
|1981||"Keep Christmas With You"||Big Bird, Grover, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, Barkley, Cookie Monster (walk-around), Bob, Gordon, Maria, Mr. Hooper, Susan, Kermit Love, Sesame Street Live characters|
|1982||Big Bird, Maria, Mr. Hooper, Gordon, Susan|
|1984||Big Bird, Oscar, The Count, Bob, Maria, Olivia, Susan, walk-around Ernie, walk-around Bert, walk-around Honkers|
|1988||"Sing"||Ernie and Bert (walk-arounds), Bob, David, Gordon, Maria, Gina, Miles
Note: Despite what Sandy Duncan mentions in her introduction to the cast, Susan was not in attendance.
|1990||"Do You Like Me?"||Ernie and Bert walk-arounds|
|1994||"Walking Proud||Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Prairie Dawn Cookie Monster, Betty Lou, Roxie Marie, Oscar the Grouch, Telly, Grundgetta, The Count, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Joey and Davey Monkey, Rosita, Alice Snuffleupagus, Carlo, Gina, Celina, Bob, Susan, Maria, Gabi, Mr. Handford, Jamal, Angela|
|1995||"Believe in Yourself"||Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Betty Lou, Baby Bear, Rosita, Bert, Ernie, Grover, The Count, Humphrey, Cookie Monster, Alice Snuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch, Grundgetta, Telly, Carlo, Gina, Celina, Luis, Bob, Ruthie, Susan, Lexine|
|1996||"A Little Bit"||Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Betty Lou, Cookie Monster, Grover, The Count, Alice Snuffleupagus, Oscar the Grouch, Ernie, Bert, Rosita, Telly, Grundgetta, Roxie Marie, Joey and Davey Monkey, Carlo, Celina, Bob, Linda, Ruthie, Gina, Maria, Gordon, Susan, Gabi|
|1997||"Rubber Ducky"||Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, The Count, Grundgetta, Cookie Monster, Baby Bear, Alice Snuffleupagus, Rosita, Zoe, Prairie Dawn, Betty Lou, Grover, Oscar the Grouch|
|1998||"Sing"||Ernie, Bert, Elmo, Telly, Herry Monster, Cookie Monster, Grover, Rosita, Baby Bear, AM Monster, Maria, Gabi, Gina, Alan, Miles, Bob, Linda, Susan, Gordon
Note: Alice and Big Bird do not appear this year, as well as 1999, presumably due to weather conditions. However, Alice's performer, Judy Sladky, can be spotted on the float.
|1999||"How Do You Do?"||Ernie, Elmo, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Rosita, Grundgetta, Telly, Grover, Count von Count, Stinky, Elizabeth, AM Monsters, Bob, Susan, Luis, Alan, Gabi, Miles
Note: Despite Big Bird not being on the float, his voice can still faintly be heard in the song's audio if one listens closely.
|2000||"Reach Your Hand Up High"||Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Grover, Telly, Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Baby Bear, Lulu, Elizabeth, Rosita, Count von Count, Alice, Barkley, Oscar, Narf, Mel, Stinky, Mooba, Alan, Susan, Gordon, Miles, Gabi|
|2001||"A Little Bit"||Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Gordon, Bob, Maria, Gina, Alan, Barkley, Alice, Telly, Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Rosita, Count von Count, Baby Bear, Humphrey, Ingrid, Baby Natasha (Oscar also appears, but is not seen in the broadcasted version)|
|2002||"We Are All Earthlings||U.S. characters: Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Bert, Grover, Ernie, The Count, Oscar, Rosita, Telly, Alan, Bob, Gina, Gordon, Miles, Gabi, Luis, Maria|
International: Filfil, Nimni, Businka, Hu Hu Zhu, Rumpel, Samson, Kareem, Dafi, Haneen, Abelardo, Lola, Zeliboba, Moishe Oofnik
|2003||"Good Morning World"||Big Bird, Elmo, Grover, Herry, Mumford, Cookie Monster, Telly, Baby Bear, The Count, Zoe, Prairie Dawn, Bert, Ernie, Rosita, Oscar, Alice, Barkley, Gordon, Bob, Gina, Alan, Luis, Maria, Gabi, Miles|
|2004||"The Street We Live On"||Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, Rosita, Grover, Prairie Dawn, The Count, Herry, Karina the Ballerina, Alice, Barkley, Bob, Luis, Gabi, Miles, Alan, Gina|
|2005||"Dancing Shoes"||Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Alice, Barkley, Cookie Monster, Prairie Dawn, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Rosita, Telly, Baby Bear, Herry, The Count, Murray, Gordon, Susan, Bob, Miles, Gabi, Luis, Alan, Gina|
|2006||"Another Sunny Day"||Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Alan, Prairie Dawn, Cookie Monster, Grover, Mr. Johnson, Rosita, Herry Monster, AM Monster, Penguin, Oscar, Ernie, Bert, Telly, Hoots the Owl, Gabi, Gina, Susan, Luis, Bob, Gordon, Miles|
|2007||"It Feels Good When You Sing a Song"||Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Alan, Gina, Miles, Gabi, Luis, Maria, Hoots, Barkley, Grover, Baby Bear, Cookie Monster, Alice, Rosita, Prairie Dawn, Murray, Oscar, The Count, Bert, Ernie, Bob, Susan, Telly, Grundgetta|
|2008||"Songs"||Lang Lang, Abby Cadabby, Alice, Barkley, Big Bird, Elmo, Zoe, Alan, Bob, Herry, Telly, Baby Bear, Grover, Grundgetta, The Count, Prairie Dawn, Ernie, Bert, Murray Monster, Karina the Ballerina, Rosita, Oscar, Leela, Maria, Susan, Gina, Luis, Gordon, Gabi, Miles|
|2009||Medley: "Sing" and "What Makes Music"||Big Bird, Elmo, Abby, Zoe, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Murray, The Count, Oscar, Baby Bear, Telly, Rosita, Leela, Bob, Luis, Maria, Gordon|
|2010||"Music Deep Inside"||Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, Zoe, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Rosita, Cookie Monster, Telly, Baby Bear, Oscar, Murray, The Count, Leela, Alan, Bob, Gordon, Gina, Susan, Gabi, Maria, Luis|
|2011||"Meet Me On Sesame Street"||Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Murray, The Count, Ernie, Bert, Zoe, Abby, Rosita, Grover, Telly, Baby Bear, Oscar, Maria, Luis, Leela, Alan, Gordon, Bob, Gina, Susan|
|2012||"What I Am"||Big Bird, Elmo, Abby, Murray, Zoe, Rosita, Grover, Count von Count, Oscar, Telly, Baby Bear, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, Alan, Leela, Bob, Gordon, Gina, Luis, Susan|
|2013||"Somebody Come and Play"||Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, Big Bird, Elmo, Abby, Grover, Cookie, Oscar, The Count, Murray, Zoe, Telly, Rosita, Baby Bear, Ernie, Bert, Herry, Mando, Alan, Leela, Maria, Luis|
|2014||"Growing"||Mando, Leela, Alan, Maria, Gordon, Elmo, Abby, Grover, Big Bird, Oscar, Murray, The Count, Rosita, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, Zoe, Baby Bear, Telly, Prairie Dawn|
|2015||"Smarter, Stronger, Kinder"||Alan, Nina, Questlove, Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, Rosita, Grover, Prairie Dawn, Telly, The Count, Zoe, Baby Bear, Ovejita, Oscar|
|2016||"Try a Little Kindness"||Alan, Nina, Christopher Jackson, Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, Rosita, Grover, Prairie Dawn, Telly, The Count, Herry, Zoe, Baby Bear|
|2017||"We Come Together"||Alan, Nina, Leslie Odom Jr., Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, Grover, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, Rosita, Cookie Monster, Zoe, Telly, Prairie Dawn, Herry, Count von Count, Rudy with child dancers Kenneth Aikens, Anais and Mirabelle Lee, Sammi Erdheim, and Nate Grospe|
|2018||"Plan the Play"||Anika Noni Rose, Alan, Nina, Big Bird, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Rosita, Julia, Cookie Monster, Gonger, Rudy, Grover, Prairie Dawn, Count von Count, Zoe, Telly, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, Sheep|
|2019||"Hey, Hey, Hey, We're On Our Way"||Alan, Nina, Charlie, Big Bird, Elmo, Abby, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Oscar, Grover, Count von Count, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Gonger, Prairie Dawn, Rosita, Zoe, Telly, Julia, Rudy, Herry
Pre-taped segment: Mr. Johnson, Don Music, Penguins, Chicken, Turkey
Notes and references
- " "Floating Beauty: The 81st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Rides Down Broadway on Theatrical Moving Stages", Macy's press release, November 2007.
- Recount by the float designer, Louis Henry Mitchell