Street gang: an entertaining and moving doco explains how Big Bird came into our lives
REVIEW: It’s the show that gave the world songs as memorable as be green, People in your neighborhood and Rubbie Duck.
This not only made Gordon, Luis, Maria, Bert, Ernie and Grover household names, but also close friends and – at times – even confidants. It has not only entertained generations of children in New Zealand and around the world, but has helped educate them in everything from Spanish to numeracy to grief.
As detailed in the illuminating and highly enjoyable documentary feature Street gang: how we got to Sesame Street (now available to rent), key to the show’s longevity – it’s now in its 52nd season – has been its ability to connect with kids and adults alike.
“Children learn more when adults watch with them,” says an interviewee in Marilyn Agrelo (2005’s Crazy hot ballroom) fascinating and sometimes hilarious look at the series’ first quarter-century.
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When they first conceived sesame street In the late 1960s, creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett wanted to create something that harnessed the addictive power of television, but prepared children for school. A show that could “love people”, rather than just “trying to sell people”.
Writer and director Jon Stone, a man described as “the soul of sesame streetwas determined to create something that “wouldn’t speak to kids or have parents running out the door” and decided to enlist talented puppeteer Jim Henson to bring his unique perspective to the proceedings. The latter needed a bit of persuasion, as he was more interested in using his “Muppets” in adult variety shows and late-night comedy, rather than children’s entertainment.
Inspired by Michael Davis’ 2008 book Street gangAgrelo’s story explores – and takes a critical look – at the inner workings of the beloved series than 2011’s Being Elmo or 2015 I am a big bird.
The first, which only arrived in 1980, is mostly absent, while the genesis of the second as a figure for four-year-olds around the world and some of the challenges created by the costume are lovingly detailed. . There are glimpses and moments with the man inside the suit – Caroll Spinney – but the bird is the one that’s central to perhaps the two most powerful moments on display here. The off-screen death of the beloved sesame street storekeeper Mr. Hooper on a 1983 show (“saying he retired and went to Florida wasn’t an option,” says producer of proposed solution to actor’s death Will Lee) and singing be green at Henson’s funeral in 1990. Even decades after they first appeared, it’s hard to watch either scene without being reduced to tears.
But as much as Henson, Frank Oz, and the other puppeteers are rightly praised for their intricate fabric creations (and it shows how hard they had to work to bring their hushed, fuzzy characters to life, essentially unable to see what They did), Street gang also celebrates the contribution of the human inhabitants of the street, from Luis by Emilio Delgado to Maria by Sonia Manzano and Bob by Bob McGrath, as well as the incredible number of celebrity guests (all from Johnny Cash to the Harlem Globetrotters and Harry Belafonte).
Unafraid of the conflicts between Oz and Henson (“they lived completely different lives”), the frank assessment that Stone “could be a sensitive and difficult man”, and the controversies surrounding characters like the short-lived Roosevelt Franklin, Street gang will be a wonderful trip down memory lane for many and a fascinating insight for even more. It even features Muppet outings – who could resist that?
Street gang: how we got to Sesame Street is now available to stream on AroVideo, Academy OnDemand, GooglePlay and iTunes. Episodes of the 52nd season of Sesame Street are available on TVNZ OnDemand from April 1.