Who would had ever thought that the world’s most pressing issues could be addressed by muppets? For over fifty years that is exactly what Sesame Street and its creators have and continue to do to this day. Documentarian Marilyn Agrelo’s new film Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street is based on the book Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by author Michael Davis and covers the very beginnings of the ground breaking children’s show. We are given a peek behind the curtain with archival footage during the early stages of the show pieced together along with the stories of those involved from stage hands, creators, actors and puppeteers.
Sesame Street has been watched through multiple generations and it is easy to forget what an impact the show initially made in its debut. The film is focused more on the creative geniuses involved behind the process such as Jon Stone, Joan Ganz Cooney, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Joe Raposo and Carroll Spinney; although some names may not be familiar they are all in their own right a strong pillar in the foundation and heart of Sesame Street. We also hear from former cast members and/or the children of those involved. Debuting in 1969, the show’s main focus was to inner city youth who did not have access to the best education system. Creator’s Stone and Cooney were also adamant in this not being a show to sell products to children unlike the strain of children’s programming in years prior. This was a show meant to depict inclusivity towards the black/Latino communities where they could be shown in non-stereotypical roles and feel welcomed. We are then introduced to the impressive duo of Henson/Oz whom were able to bring these characters to life making them their own altogether alongside puppeteer Spinney who operated Big Bird/Oscar the Grouch and musical composer Raposo who wrote hit after hit. All these elements when put together were something purely magical.
This film serves as appreciation and absolute admiration for all these individuals involved because they continually put out vital messages that need to be heard by not only children but adults as well. The love that is put into making this show a reality comes out tenfold in each viewer it reaches. This show has not only become a staple in pop culture but also consistently made references to relevant topics of the time making it easier for children to understand such as death and racism. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Sesame Street for opening new doors for children and forever changing the landscape of not only television but education as well.
4 out of 5
Film is Now Playing in theaters & will be available on VOD Friday May 7th
The book the film was based from “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street” by Michael Davis is available HERE
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