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How Sesame Street Changed Puppetry

Jim Henson probably never saw the future when he began working on Sesame Street decades ago. Who would have known that it would turn out one of America’s most popular and influential TV shows among children and adults alike? Despite his death in 1990, his legacy lives on in the present sprout of puppeteers including Jacobson, who breathe life into Sesame Street’s wonderful creatures. Sesame Street greatly changed puppetry and influenced how Americans learn and were entertained.

How It Started

Jim, who created the Muppets (coined from marionette and puppets), in partnership with his wife, Jane Nebel created a huge franchise from this small idea, while many would think that this idea would not take off he made it a huge success. The Muppets soon became well known in both TV and movie, with various animated characters and those characters became well-loved and popular all around the world. Although a large part of the Muppet entertainment was focused on adult humor, Jim made his strongest impact by developing his characters for the ever popular series of Sesame Street aimed at preschoolers.

Child Education

Sesame Street was first shown in 1969 and it was the creation of the Children’s Television Workshop aimed at fostering learning, especially among the deprived youths of the inner cities. Empirical evidence revealed that the initiative was a success. It was popular, entertaining and greatly impacted the literacy skills of preschool children. It was this work that made the biggest impact on the world, their efforts to create an education show that was not only fun but truly effective was what set them apart. In this way they paved the way for future child educational shows.

They also brought popularity to the idea of puppets, they had not been seen in such a fun and lighthearted way that was entertaining to both the children and the adults. It was these features that put the Muppets ahead of the rest and what made them leaders in the industry.

The concept of the show was pretested and post-tested by its creators. Formal classroom presentations were done and the ‘street’ setting served to create a smooth and appealing merger of puppets and human characters. The Muppets served as attention grabbers and keepers because it was discovered that kids were distracted by a human-dominated screen. This was a way for them to stay focused on what was being shown and therefore to be educated further than they were with other shows of the time.

In addition to his great contributions to early childhood education, Jim’s Muppet characters soon transcended the simple set of Sesame Street and were already accepted by a large adult audience at the time of his death. A hit TV show and other highly self-referencing movies focused largely on adult audiences emerged. He has succeeded in reviving a moribund art form, puppetry. He truly was a successful and talented man, creating one of the most well-known shows all around the world. He made a huge impact on child education shows and on how puppets were viewed in the entertainment industry.