This is going to be one of those “show it to people you know” articles. Because if you’re reading this, you probably own at least one Sesame Street DVD, at least one Sesame Street book, and at least one furry thing with a tag attached to it that bears the Sesame Street logo.
So you already know this simple fact of life: The Sesame Street characters are Muppets. I mean the puppet characters, by the way. I shouldn’t have to say that, but I can already see one of you wiseguys commenting on Facebook to say “The Sesame Street characters are Muppets? Gee, I never knew Mr. Hooper and Maria and Chris were Muppets! HAW HAW!”
Anyway, I bring this up because every once in a while I’ll see someone on the internet who appears to be uncertain on this subject. “What’s the difference between Sesame Street and Muppets?” they’ll ask. Sometimes they’re confident enough to declare “Sesame Street guys are not Muppets.” I’ve even seen the question “Who would win in a fight between Sesame Street and the Muppets?” Which is pretty alarming, because so many of the Sesame Street characters are children and because having Miss Piggy on your team would always be an unfair advantage.
Maybe you know some people who are similarly uncertain. If not, you just might encounter some someday. They’re the Confused Casual Fans, and they’re seeking the answers we have. The basic answer to all their questions is, of course: The Sesame Street characters are Muppets. They’re a different group of Muppets than the ones who starred on The Muppet Show, but they are still Muppets. They just are. WHY DON’T PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT? Whoops, sorry. I’m really hoping to avoid getting aggressive in my fandom in this article. But yes, they are Muppets. And here are a few pieces of evidence to back that up.
If you want to sound smart, you can simply tell your Confused Casual Fan friends that the evidence can be found in Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis. For example, here’s an except from page 150 of the hardcover edition (emphasis mine):
“It was Cooney who negotiated the first deal Henson made with CTW. His compensation request was modest by show-business standards, perhaps an accommodation made to a fledgling nonprofit enterprise. But Henson not only made sure that the trademark for any Muppets created for the show would remain with his company, he also insisted that any future revenues generated by the licensing and merchandising of those characters would be split between him and CTW.”
There’s a bunch of other sentences in the book that have the word “Muppets” in them, too. COME ON, CONFUSED CASUAL FANS. READ A FREAKIN’ BOOK, WHY DON’T YOU? Oh, whoops. I’m getting aggressive, aren’t I? I’ll try to watch that.
You might also point them to Brian Jay Jones’s 2013 Jim Henson: The Biography, a book all about the man everyone knows created the Muppets, which has a sixth chapter called “Sesame Street” that includes the line “…the Muppets would come to practically define the overall look and feel of Sesame Street.”
So there it is! In a book! And another book!
But who cares about books? Who has time to read all those words? “What else you got?” your Confused Casual Fan friend might ask.
They’re Called Muppets in the Credits of the Show
This is the best way to shut up those few stubborn souls who insist Bert and Grover and the Count aren’t Muppets: Look at the credits from the show itself!
Here’s a shot from the first season credits (back when a turtle was one of the main human cast members):
Here’s one from the end credits sequence that was used for several seasons in the 80s, which lots of us remember because it features Barkley running around a park with kids, at one point becoming perplexed when all the kids disappear behind the same tree:
Here’s one from the half-animated end credits sequence that was used for a whole bunch of seasons starting in the 90s, certainly best known for the dancing Statue of Liberty that Deborah Norville once told Elmo was her favorite part of the show:
See? SEE?! IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE SHOW! DUH! WHAT COULD BE CLEARER THAN THAT?! Hmm. That may have been a little aggressive, eh? Yeah, okay. I won’t do it again.
As a side note, it’s interesting to see how the collective credit has changed over the years. It started as “puppets by the Muppets,” then it was the familiar “Jim Henson’s Muppets,” and in the post-Disney sale years (more on that later) it flipped from “Muppets of Sesame Street” to “Sesame Street Muppet Performers.” Maybe next time they change the credits sequence it’ll be “Performers of Muppets of the Street Called Sesame.”
There. That’s enough to convince anyone of the point at hand, a point no one in their right mind would choose to argue about in the first place. But I feel the need to be really obnoxious and keep going.
The Official Sesame Website Has a Muppets Page
Go to SesameStreet.org. You’ll see a button like this:That’ll take you to a page spotlighting the characters. See? It’s on the internet, so it must be true!
There that should do it. That should help inform the stupid — oh, uh, I mean, the unfortunately misinformed Confused Casual Fans. But one more thing…
Most Confused Casual Fans over a certain age have at least a vague memory of the 1987 TV special A Muppet Family Christmas. That special features characters from Sesame Street hanging out, eating cookies, and singing secular Christmas carols with the stars of The Muppet Show. How could Ernie and Cookie Monster and Oscar appear in a special called A Muppet Family Christmas if they weren’t Muppets? Quite simply, they couldn’t.
And there you have it. Bookmark this article, and link to it any time you see a Confused Casual Fan misspeak on the internet. Also, memorize the URL so you can repeat it to any Confused Casual Fans you happen to overhear talking about “Muppets vs. Sesame Street“ the next time you’re at Applebees.
Yeah, okay, I know what you, the Sophisticated Knowledgeable Fan, are thinking. Sesame Street characters are Muppets because in 1969 all whimsical puppet characters created by Jim Henson and his collaborators were called Muppets. Today they’re still called Muppets, but only because of a special arrangement with Disney, who owns the word “Muppet” now. The Sesame Street Muppets are still built by the Jim Henson Company, but as a general rule, they’re the only Jim Henson Company puppets who can officially be called Muppets now.
You could get into all that with your Confused Casual Fan friends if you really want to. But it’ll probably just confuse them even more. People who don’t watch Sesame Street regularly confuse easily. Those fools! THOSE IGNORANT FOOLS!
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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com