Sesame Street introduces Lily, the first muppet to experience homelessness

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, isn't afraid to keep it real for kids. Last year they introduced Julia, the first muppet with autism. Now they've launched an initiative called Sesame Street in Communities that, amongst other things, will bring the first muppet to experience homelessness. Her name is Lily and she was originally introduced in 2011 as a character whose family was struggling with hunger.

Unfortunately, Lily’s path is common for many children experiencing homelessness. “We know children experiencing homelessness are often caught up in a devastating cycle of trauma—the lack of affordable housing, poverty, domestic violence, or other trauma that caused them to lose their home, the trauma of actually losing their home, and the daily trauma of the uncertainty and insecurity of being homeless,” said Sherrie Westin, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. “We want to help disrupt that cycle by comforting children, empowering them, and giving them hope for the future. We want them to know that they are not alone and home is more than a house or an apartment—home is wherever the love lives.”

CNN:

"When Lily was first launched, she came out as part of the food insecurity initiative. So she's not brand new, but this seemed like a really perfect extension of her story, so that we could use her to help children identify with," Westin said. "With any of our initiatives, our hope is that we're not only reaching the children who can identify with that Muppet but that we're also helping others to have greater empathy and understanding of the issue."

Although her journey with homelessness will not appear in televised episodes of "Sesame Street" at this point, she will be in separate videos and materials in the initiative.

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Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch puppeteer Caroll Spinney announces retirement

The Sesame Workshop is reporting that long-time Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney has announced his retirement, noting that he's performed on the program since its 1969 premiere. Spinney has played the roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for nearly 50 years!

After five decades as the heart and soul of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, it’s impossible to entirely separate the man from the characters he so vibrantly brought to life. Big Bird visited China with Bob Hope in 1979. He’s danced with the Rockettes, and with prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory. He’s been feted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrated with his likeness on a U.S. postage stamp, and named a “Living Legend” in 2000 by the Library of Congress. Performing Big Bird has taken Caroll to China, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He has performed on hundreds of episodes of television, starred as his big yellow avatar in the feature film Follow That Bird, and conducted symphony orchestras throughout the United States, Australia, and Canada. Spinney even met his wife of 45 years, Debra, on the Sesame Street set in 1973.

Not to worry, Big Bird and Oscar are not going anywhere. They will be played going forward by puppeteers Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson, with Spinney's blessing.

Also, if you haven't seen the 2014 documentary about Spinney titled I Am Big Bird, I urge you to do so. It's a truly beautiful portrait of a deeply creative man who chose to live his most authentic life. Read the rest