Movie Sleuth Originals: A is for Animators: Talents Behind Some of Sesame Street’s Segments

“Onetwothree-FOUR-five, sixseveneight-NINE-ten, eleven TWELVE!”

If you heard the Pointer Sisters singing the numbers in your head just now, this article is for you.

There is no question that Sesame Street, as a prominent institution in the lives of many children, is and always has been a wellspring of cultural diversity. Featuring a cast of multi-racial human beings, a plethora of different Muppets, educational short films shot all over the world, and various styles of animated content, Sesame Street has introduced American children to countless kinds of simple concepts, from the alphabet to common manners and basic good health practices in ways that keep them engaged and entertained.

There have been hundreds of animated interstitial films included in the series over the decades, and it might surprise the average adult viewer looking back on the episodes watched as children to discover that many of these segments were in fact produced by artists they would recognize for other works. Here, we will examine some of the many talented animators and directors who brought some of the most well-remembered and beloved cartoon short films to life on Sesame Street.

Those who grew up with Sesame Street throughout its fifty years on the air will no doubt have their favorite animated memories. The popular “Pinball Number Count” is just one of so many clever, fun, and even experimental segments designed to teach children a vast array of subjects – and keep their parents interested as well, so they would be encouraged to join their children as they watched television. But so many of the animations that were produced specifically to air on the show went uncredited for many years, most fans wouldn’t know who may have made their personal favorites. Sporadically across the internet, Muppet message boards, Wikis and websites, and even YouTube comments sections have solved the mysteries of some of them – indeed, creators themselves come out of the woodwork to say “Hey, I made this back in the seventies, and forgot all about having done it!”

Children raised on a diet of Sesame were fed so much cultural and artistic literacy, between its introduction of diverse music, its parodying of both classic and contemporary media, and its reverence for inclusivity and diversity – all in the name of early education and family entertainment. In this article, you may find some surprising names have contributed to its legacy, even though the focus on the interstitial shorts has pulled back quite a bit since the 1990s. The “variety show” aspect of Sesame Street may not be exactly what it used to be, but there is no doubt that much of its earlier content definitely has had lasting impact. Anyone who still remembers the words to “We All Live in a Capital I” or the “Teeny Little Super Guy” theme song can testify to that.

Unfortunately, information about many of these animated films is sporadically available and verifiable, particularly those from the early days. Many of them don’t have official titles, so must be identified by phrases used to identify or describe them. This is by no means any kind of definitive list, so you may find some of your favorite artists or short films missing from it, but this is at least an attempt to collectively celebrate some of the fantastic animators and directors who entertained and educated us as we found our way to Sesame Street. As this is not a ranking list, the animators and directors will be listed by alphabetical order.

We did, after all, learn our ABCs from Sesame Street.

A jack of many trades, Aison – who studied dance, architecture, fine art and animation – is known for her simple yet beautiful animated segments for Sesame Street, including the infamous “Geometry of Circles” series with music commissioned from Philip Glass. Aison is also responsible for a lovely, lyrical animation depicting the stages of a frog’s life cycle, featuring a trumpet arrangement from Charles Gross. Her other shorts for Sesame Street varied in style, featuring much more cartoonish styles, a couple of them featuring the voices of her children.
Some Sesame Segments: “Geometry of Circles” series, “Life Cycle of the Frog” (“Heyyyy, Keeeer-miiiiit!”), “Tuna Sandwich for Lunch”, “Making Juice Popsicles”, “Duckling Puts on Coat and Boots” (“…and I did it aaaaall myself!”)

New England-based animator Karen Aqua was responsible for a few segments recognizable to those familiar with early 1990s Sesame Street. With stylized two-dimensional animal and human characters and flat stop-motion figures in masks, her work for Sesame Street is characterized by a line of odd dancing characters demonstrating counting concepts and rhythm in vivid colors – usually backed by the music of her husband, Ken Field, and his project Revolutionary Snake Ensemble.
Some Sesame Segments: “Parade of Numbers” series, “Animals on Parade”, “Imagination”, “Rhyme Time Song”

Mike Christy, under the moniker ArtistMike, made some of the segments of latter-day Sesame Street – in many cases working under the direction of Bruce Cayard, who appears later in this list. Using Deluxe Paint, a basic digital animation program for the Amiga 1000 PC, his segments for Sesame Street have a wobbly, wonky sort of quality reminiscent of SquiggleVision. Perhaps most recognizable are his “Zork” series, starring a bug-eyed alien experiencing various Earth places and customs, but the shorts from ArtistMike widely varied in content, from the importance of the oceans, to uses for old mayonnaise jars and how a letter gets from one place to another across the globe.
Some Sesame Segments: “Zork” series, “Oceans”, “Uses for an Old Mayonnaise Jar”, “Dear Ling Lu”, “The Cat Who Hated Rain”, “Getting Angry”, “The Wasteroon Song” (“Are YOU a Wasteroon?”)

Mostly known for his Nickelodeon series Hey Arnold, Bartlett provided some of his unique relief-style clay animation for Sesame Street, similar in style to his “Penny” segments on Pee Wee’s Playhouse and other projects he worked on with Will Vinton in the 1980s. In fact, an early concept for the character of Arnold appeared in a segment on Sesame Street as a flat clay figure, a young boy with his head in the clouds and a big imagination. Bartlett also created a character for Sesame named Lillian, a little girl who appeared in two segments – one about feeling pride, the other about becoming a big sister. He would continue to work with the Jim Henson Company well into the new millennium, eventually creating Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train and serving as its executive producer.
Some Sesame Segments: “Arnold’s Imagination”, “Lillian Feels Proud”, “Lillian is a Big Sister”

Named for its founder, Buzz Potamkin, Buzzco Associates Inc. provided animated segments for Sesame Street from 1988 to 1992, and then again in 2005. Primarily a commercial studio, Buzzco also did some short segments for Square One TV. Segments for SS were collaborative efforts between Candy Kugel and Vincent Cafarelli, some of which featured the familiar voice of Jim Thurman and fun, catchy rhyming songs. The best known of these is probably the series starring Edgar Turtle, who sang folk songs and nursery rhymes with the aid of his banjo and his nephews.
Some Sesame Segments:  “Edgar Turtle” series, “Colonel Travel” series,  “Hip to Be a Square”, “Animals in the Elevator”, “Mother Brown’s 15 Farm”, “Calcutta Joe”,  “I Eat the Colors of the Rainbow”, “Captain Brown”, “Jake the Snake”

Fred Calvert’s studios were responsible for many popular titles in the 1960s, including George of the Jungle and Roger Ramjet.  Together with Ken Snyder and Fred Crippen, Calvert produced the first animated films to be created specifically for Sesame Street, and many of them are highly recognizable – particularly the ones featuring voice talents as famous as Gary Owen, Joan Gerber, and Bob Arbogast. Some of the most memorable of these early shorts were rhyming poems featuring letters of the alphabet, including a letter J film that appeared in the pilot. With quirky humor, Calvert’s animations were endearingly off model and sassy, unafraid to sneak a little sophistication into their lessons.
Some Sesame Segments: “Alice Braithwaite Goodyshoes” series, “R is for Rooster”, “We All Live in a Capital I”, “Lowercase N”, “Many Words that Begin with I”, “A is for Ant”, “L is for Leopard”, “1-20 Raga”, “Q is a Funny Looking Thing”, “Elevator Going Up”, “B is for Basket”, “Ten Little Greeblies”, “Erasing Numbers”, many of the “Speech Balloon” letter series

Principally recognized as a renowned author and animation historian who wrote some of the most definitive books on the Walt Disney animators, John Canemaker is an award-winning animator who worked under direction from Bruce Cayard and Derek Lamb to create some very fondly remembered Sesame Street shorts. With a comical, but neat, cartoonish style he also provided content for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Captain Kangaroo, and he won an Oscar in 2006 for The Moon and the Son. A few of the shorts listed under Bruce Cayard were actually mainly animated by Canemaker, under Cayard’s direction, such as “Me and My M” and “Don’t Be a Snerd When You Sneeze”.
Some Sesame Segments: “Mad Goat Song”, “Scary Thing”,” Wash Your Hands”, “Hummingbird”

Many classic Sesame Street animated films were animated and directed in Bruce Cayard’s distinctive style, with its pencil-drawn aesthetic and sparse, messy lines and coloring. Cayard’s animated short segments were featured in The Electric Company and on Captain Kangaroo as well, but he continued to provide content for Sesame Street steadily from the 1970s all the way up through 1999. Primarily serving as a director and collaborator with other animators, Cayard employed fun songs (which he mostly wrote himself) and silly, nonsensical humor to teach about various subjects – ranging from letters of the alphabet, to great inventors, to the human body and beyond. There are almost too many Cayard favorites to list.
Some Sesame Segments: “Snacks on Parade” series (“Carrots”, “Peanut Butter”, “The Raisin”), “Dr. Annie Eyeball” series, “These Shoes (Big, Bigger, Biggest)”, “The Noble Ostrich”, “Wanda’s Fat Knees”, “O for Orange”, “Flea’s Camping Trip”, “Guess Who I Met Today?”, “Mouse E”, “Kent Gets a Kick out of K”, “Me and My M”, “If You’ve Lost Your L”, “Little L, a Poem by Louise”, “How the Bear Got Her Grin”, “A Cold in my Nose”, “Everything to Know About Cats”, “My Dog Pete”, “Don’t Be a Snerd When You Sneeze”, “Eight Little Spiders”

The first African American animator to found his own studio in New York, Tee Collins was one of Sesame Street’s earliest creators of animated content. The very first episode, airing November 10, 1969, featured his “Wanda the Witch” segment, a wonderfully wacky whimsy that follows the design of advertisements – as Collins was well familiar with the concept of “selling” a letter or number to children, as he primarily had worked on commercials before making his cartoons for Sesame Street.  With a stark, yet highly detailed style, he also animated “Nancy the Nannygoat” and “X for Xylophone” segments – Collins being determined to find a “happy word” for the letter X.
Some Sesame Segments: “Wanda the Witch”, “Nancy the Nannygoat”, “X for Xylophone”

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Vince Collins provided several beautifully trippy segments for Sesame Street, favoring a dynamism of objects and shapes morphing and shifting quickly into other things and formations and creating a distinct visual style. One of the most recognizable Collins segments for the Street begins with a piggy bank, which, through a peppy steel-drum backed tune about changing perspectives based upon where an object is viewed, morphs into a series of other objects in quick succession, ending as itself again.
Some Sesame Segments: “Jazz Alphabet”, “Piggy Bank Perspective Song”, “Bird to Airplane”

Known primarily for his award-winning National Film Board of Canada films, which include the Oscar-nominated The Big Snit (1985), Getting Started (1978), The Apprentice/L’Apprenti (1991) and Cordell Barker’s The Cat Came Back (1988, for which he provided voices and produced), Richard Condie provided a few animated segments for both Sesame Street and its Canadian counterpart in 1974 and 1975. Lush with dark, saturated colors, one of his Sesame films is a beautiful environmental fable, starring a young flute player who tries to help a decimated forest grow.
Some Sesame Segments: “Old Man Tries to Sleep”, “The Flute and the Forest”

The wildly colorful, loopy, wibbly-wobbly style of Sally Cruikshank has been a part of Sesame Street’s animated canon since 1989. Known for her work in mixed-media motion pictures and for her bizarre short films (Quasi at the Quackadero, Face of a Frog, and others), Cruikshank provided many clever segments to Sesame Street, all of them backed by catchy upbeat rhyming musical numbers. If the songs didn’t stick in your head, the hyper-whimsical art-deco animation certainly would, with its delightfully semi-abstract animal characters and strange, constantly shifting backgrounds. Her work was featured on Sesame Street regularly until about the year 2000, but a lot of it can be found on YouTube.
Some Sesame Segments: “Above It All”, “In and Out Crowd”, “Beginning, Middle, End”, “I’m Curious”, “From Your Head”, “Island of Emotion”, “Abstract Charcter Count” (numbers 13 through 19 only were produced)

Perhaps the most unique of the animated segments on Sesame Street – or, certainly, at least some of the strangest – were created by Swiss animator Etienne Delessert. He provided ten segments to the show in 1973, each one in a different style and none of them being particularly conventionally educational (in that they don’t teach any explicit lessons about something concrete; it could be argued that they are meant to be representative of more esoteric concepts). A few of these – most notably “The Fox and the Crow” and “Caterpillar and Bird” – were animated in a gorgeous decoupage style with cutouts of paper, reminiscent of Eric Carle illustrations.
Some Sesame Segments: “Giant Rabbit Chases Kids”, “Trees on Ogre Head”, “Nose Morphing” (two different segments, one with a man and one with a woman), “Caterpillar and Bird”, “The Fox and the Crow”, “Boastful Frog”

Most popularly known for his Cartoon Network series Courage the Cowardly Dog, John Dilworth also created some widely bizarre cartoon shorts which were showcased by Spike and Mike’s Animation Festival – and he also created “Noodles & Nedd” for Sesame Street. Typically very strange, as is Dilworth’s hallmark, these shorts featured a weird little man and his cat (who, of course, was generally more intelligent than him). Later additions to Sesame Street, these animations began appearing around 1997 and were generally just fun, silly little interludes.
Some Sesame Segments: “Noodles and Nedd” series

Like many of the animators and directors on this list, Ray Favata began work in advertising, animating commercials. He was recruited by Terrytoons eventually, where he worked alongside Cliff Roberts (mentioned later on in this list). Favata’s main contribution to Sesame Street was a series of mini-mysteries, starring a young boy called Billy Joe Jive, teaching critical thinking skills to young viewers. Favata’s style is easily recognizable, with simple, rounded character designs and streamlined animation.
Some Sesame Segments: “Billy Joe Jive” series, “The Toothpaste March”, “Crossing the Street”

Stark-lined, like hasty pencil sketches come to life and haphazardly colored in, the Fierlingers’ work is instantly recognizable – even before the voice of Jim Thurman, who collaborated on most of their segments for Sesame Street – is heard. “Teeny Little Super Guy”, animated with cels attached to paper cups which could be rotated to make the characters appear to move even in their live-action settings, is one of the most popular Fierlinger series, though there were many other shorts they provided throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Fierlinger animations for the Street relied on jazzy music and gentle humor, and many of them are classic favorites.
Some Sesame Segments: “Teeny Little Super Guy” series, “Alice Kadeezenberry” series, “M – My Music”, “7 Sweet Sopranos”, “Dinner for 9”, “6 Soccer Socks”, “Small b / Small d”, “H for Hot Dog”, “H for Hat – Hose – Hook”, “V for Van”, “What Do We Do Before We Eat?”, “Sneezing Song”, “City and Country Alphabets”

Some very cleverly animated segments came from artist Steven Finkin, all of them focusing on American Sign Language and featuring animated, Technicolor hands demonstrating signs for things.  Finkin’s ASL alphabet film, with hands morphing into the letters they represent, is of particular note for its use of the vocal stylings of Joan La Barbara – whose voice, enunciating each letter and providing its sound is heard with electronic amplifications and distortions, creating a truly unique soundscape for a simple alphabet displayed in two languages. The other two films Finkin produced for SS are much simpler, animating the signs for the times of day and for “I love you” alongside a child’s voiceover.
Some Sesame Segments: “Sign Language Alphabet”, “I Love You”, “Times of Day”

The number cartoons Owe Gustafson made for Svenska Sesam, the version of Sesame Street which airs in Sweden. Several of these, which were also produced for another Swedish preschool program,  were dubbed into English, with voiceovers from Roscoe Orman and Sonia Manzano (who played Gordon and Maria, respectively, in the 1980s). Generally less than a minute each, they would simply feature objects or animals counting up to the featured number, then a quick image of the number underscored by a musical theme (usually “Shave and a Haircut”, sometimes with a baby’s laugh at the end). Many of them featured silly sound effects, and only some of them had any narration at all. The only segments brought to American Sesame Street featured numbers 2 through 9.
Some Sesame Segments: “2 Giraffes”, “2 Barn Animals”, “3 Owls”, “3 Mice in Cheese”, “4 Dolphins”, “5 Worms on an Apple”, “5 Butterflies”, “6 Pigs”, “6 Camels”, “7 Starfish”, “8 Bats”, “8 Vest Buttons”, “9 Ants”, “9 Sheep”

If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, you definitely know the work of Jeff Hale and his Imagination Inc. studio. Hale worked on many popular animated specials and Saturday morning cartoons, from Garfield and The Flintstones to Muppet Babies and Charlie Brown and Snoopy. He also starred in Hardware Wars, and created some of the most beloved and well-remembered animated segments to appear on Sesame Street. Hale is responsible for not only the “Pinball Number Count” series, but also the “Typewriter Guy” alphabet series, “The Ringmaster” counting series, and the amazing “Madrigal Alphabet”, a delicate storybook alphabet  featuring the gorgeous music of Donald Byrd as performed by Carla Piper. (Some of the segments listed below were done by other members of Hale’s Imagination Inc., but are included due to their popularity.)
Some Sesame Segments: “Pinball Number Count” series, “Typewriter Guy” series, “Ringmaster” series, “Consonant Limerick” series, “Jazzy Spies” series (featuring Grace Slick), “There Are Chickens in the Trees”, “Big-Bigger-Biggest Balloon”, “Madrigal Alphabet”, “Yes/No Dog”, “Ape Escape”, “Simple Simon Met Some Animals”, “The Hippo and the Mouse”, “The Yo-Yo Master”, “Daddy Dear”, “Twenty Pickle Pie”, “J Family Jamboree”, “King Minus”, “J Train” (featuring Daws Butler), “Rube Goldberg Alphabet Device”

Collaborating with producer Bill Davis, activist and artist Keith Haring created a few short animated segments for the show, all in his trademark stylized aesthetic. A couple of them were breather skits, but others taught concepts such as patterns and counting. Haring’s work brought a bright, pop artist sensibility to late 1980s to early 1990s Sesame Street, even utilizing a mural he painted in New York as a backdrop for an animation about the word “EXIT”. His pieces were short, fun, and easily recognizable as definitively Haring.
Some Sesame Segments: “EXIT Mural”, “Telephone Dance”, “Television Dog”, “Dog and Baby Pattern”, “Counting Forty Pigs”

A traditional cel animator known for design work on The Simpsons and Animaniacs, and for his contributions to the Raggedy Ann and Andy feature film and classic Disney features of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Haskett provided only a few segments to Sesame Street – but one, in particular, stands out as an example of the segments that were used just for fun and humor. “Cat’s Can” is a silly little film about a cat trying to open his can of cat food while his owner gabs on the telephone, wearing himself out completely in the process.
Some Sesame Segments: “Cat’s Can”, “Shaped Keys”, “Dog and Master”

Everybody knows that Jim Henson created the Muppets on Sesame Street, and voiced a number of them, including Kermit the Frog (before he left the Street for The Muppet Show) and one-half of the dynamic comedic duo of Ernie and Bert. But a lot of people may not realize that Henson was also responsible for some of the early interstitial films, as well – the “Numerosity” series was one of the earliest, and possibly best known for the hapless baker who would fall down a set of steps at the end of each number skit. But Henson liked working in animation, particularly if he could try new things, such as stop-motion with figures, or blending puppetry and photography with Scanimate analog computer animation. Experimental in nature, Henson’s animations (and partial animations) were intriguing and memorable (such as the “A Count of Ten” segment featuring his Limbo character), sweet and silly (“The King of Eight”, “The Queen of Six”), and just plain unusual (“Twelve Desert Rocks”).
Some Sesame Segments: “Claymation Letters” series (E, S, U, Z), “1-2-3-4-5!”, “Eleven Cheer”, “Twelve Desert Rocks”, “The Queen of Six”, “The King of Eight”, “Scanimate 4”, “A Count of Ten”, “Bumble Ardy’s Birthday Nine” (a collaboration with Fred Calvert and Maurice Sendak), “Q is for Quincy”, “An Orange Sings from Carmen”

It’s difficult to know where to start when discussing the Hubleys and their contributions to Sesame Street. From the very beginning, this prolific couple created and produced a number of truly unique shorts, many of them featuring jazz or folk type music and all of them in the easily recognizable style of a Hubley film. John Hubley, whose work has spanned studios such as Disney and UPA, is remembered for creating the character of Mr. Magoo – but it was with his wife, Faith Hubley, that he created the passionate, political, and personally relevant films that made their studio famous. For Sesame Street, they provided films teaching letters of the alphabet, but also films about subjects such as empathy, dealing with a bully, and repeating rhythms.
Some Sesame Segments: “E, e, See Me”, “The Long O Song”, “Cat and Mouse Repeating Rhythms”, “Never Invite an M to Dinner”, “Small V”, “If We Dare…”, “Penguin Repeating Rhythms”, “Bully at the Baseball Game”, “Enticing the Cat”, “DANGER!”, “Birds 1-20”, “K for Kiss”, “I Looks Like a Bone”, “V for Vitamins”

Perhaps most well-known for his film Twice Upon a Time, John Korty’s very distinctive ‘Lumage’ (luminous image) fabric/paper cutout backlit stop-motion animation appeared many times throughout the 1970s and ‘80s on Sesame Street. Slightly more stylized than Delessert’s decoupage style, Korty’s characters were more cartoonish, his films far less abstract and lyrical. Many of Korty’s short films for Sesame Street featured ad-libbed dialogue, with characters voiced by children, giving his segments in particular a genuine sweetness – particularly the ones dealing with emotions.
Some Sesame Segments: “Thelma Thumb” series, “Angry Annie”, “Pat the Pilot”, “T for Typewriter”, “What’s Inside the Street?”, “Bark in the Dark”, “Hippo Cooperation”, “Pride Day for Donald”, “My Name is Joe”, “Q for Quiet”

Working as both a director and animator, Derek Lamb is best known for his work with John Weldon for the National Film Board of Canada – but he did provide some memorable content to Sesame Street (and its Canadian version) as well. Together with Janet Perlman (who, herself, is an accomplished NFB animator who contributed a segment to Sesame Street about an elephant needing directions to the zoo, and another about bringing “four tall things”), Lamb created a studio that produced not only shorts for SS, but a series of “Sports” cartoons that aired on Nickelodeon in the 1980s as interstitials, and some additional inserts for The Electric Company.
Some Sesame Segments: “Mad Goat Song” (with John Canemaker),  “My Talking Dog Will Now Say Yes”

Pixar’s mascot – a desk lamp called Luxo, Jr. – starred in a few very short segments produced by John Lasseter when he was just starting to form the company, having done traditional cel animation for many years and beginning to branch out into CGI. In 1991, before Toy Story, Lasseter created four films for Sesame Street to illustrate opposite concepts, such as light and heavy. These would be the only shorts Lasseter would provide to the show, however, as Pixar would take off into the realm of feature CGI.
Some Sesame Segments: “Light and Heavy”, “Front and Back”, “Up and Down”, “Surprise”

Another name recognizable because of Pixar, Luckey created some of the most well-known and best-remembered shorts for Sesame Street as a traditional cel animator, including a series of number cartoons starring a fiddler named Donnie Budd. Luckey also voiced most of his animated segments, singing songs he wrote with lyricist Don Hadley to accompany them, which are just as fondly remembered as the films themselves. He was responsible for the music in Jeff Hale’s bizarre “Daddy Dear” segment, as well as the fantastic “Jazz Alphabet”.
Some Sesame Segments: “Donnie Budd” series (numbers 2-6), “The Alligator King”, “Penny Candy Man”, “Martian Beauty”, “Turtles on the Telephone”, “Lovely Eleven Morning”, “Ladybugs’ Picnic”, “The Old Woman Who Lived in a 9”, “That’s About the Size of It”

Responsible for some of the most astounding work to appear on Sesame Street, Patel created beautiful short segments animated with colored sand, swirling into shapes to eventually form different animals. Patel is known for his creative use of sand and beads to animate highly detailed scenes with philosophical themes, as in the films he produced for the National Film Board of Canada. Comparatively, his work for Sesame Street is much simpler – but no less beautifully animated. Patel also made a series of simple number segments, featuring supernatural beings such as wizards and genies carrying the featured numbers.
Some Sesame Segments: “Sand Animal” series (Owl, Crocodile, Squirrel, Whale, etc.), “Supernatural Numbers” series

Stephen and Timothy Quay, generally collectively known as the Brothers Quay, might seem an unusual entry on this list – their stop-motion films tending toward darker or more esoteric subjects than one would expect to find on Sesame Street. But they did, in fact, make two segments for the show – and, while they are not so much macabre as uncannily strange, they are distinctly recognizable as the work of the Quays. In one, a family farm waits for a drought to break and is rewarded by a swift rainstorm, and in another, a girl combs the beach for sea creatures in her book and is rewarded in an unexpected way.
Some Sesame Segments: “Rain Celebration on the Farm”, “Starfish, Crab, Clam…..Whale?!”

One of the founding members of Poverty Pictures, and in his own right an animator/director who provided a lot of content for Sesame Street, Cliff Roberts began work as a commercial animator in the 1960s. His simple style mainly consisted of bulbous, potato-shaped characters outlined heavily in black, with sparse uses of color. Many of the shorts he, and Poverty, would provide to SS were very short – many of them less than thirty seconds long – and would end with humorous or unexpected conclusions.
Some Sesame Segments: “Christopher Clumsy” series, “Jasper and Julius” series, “I’ve Got a Mind” series, “Z Salesman”, “Here’s to U”, “This is a T”, “K for Karen the Kangaroo”, “A Words Avalanche”, “Letter Q” (“Like an O, but with a little stem”), “Peculiar Picnic”, “Mmm Mouse”, “Harold and Howard”, “The Post Office”, “Safety Belt”

An animator at early Paramount and on Ralph Bakshi’s Spiderman, Jim Simon’s small studio produced a few shorts for Sesame Street before he ended up working for Hanna-Barbera. Simon is responsible for the “I Can Remember” cartoon, which is the source of “a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter.” Simon also created some shorts for The Electric Company and Vegetable Soup, and his work for H-B in addition to other public access film works granted him the nickname “the Black Walt Disney”. His studio, Wantu Animations, was incredibly progressive and diverse, and its output flowed with an infectious ambition.
Some Sesame Segments: “I Can Remember”, “Preparing for Snow”, “2 Train”, “I’m 6”

Independent animator Michael Sporn got his start working alongside giants of the medium, such as the Hubleys (who appear elsewhere on this list) and Richard Williams (perhaps best remembered for Raggedy-Ann and Andy), where his starkly-lined style brought a rough-shod whimsy to his work. With rounded geometries and a fluid, limited-palette hallmark, Sporn’s animations tend to look much like simple drawings in pencil or crayon. His work is recognizable in HBO’s 1980s interactive BrainGames, particularly his “Tales of Wrongovia” segments.
Some Sesame Segments: “Bellhop” series, “Hortense” series,  “Mouth Madrigal”,  “Adventure!”, “Ten Pins”, “5 Baby Oysters”, “Measuring’ Song”, “To Be Alive”, “Animal Alphabet Soup”, “Stranger on the Ball Field”, “Hide-and-Seek Sheep”, “Wuntafordy”

An independent animator and current art professor, Verbitsky’s work for Sesame Street is easily recognizable, with its strange, wobbly lines and color movement that makes the films look as though colored in with crayon or pastel. These beautiful films dealt with such subjects as the importance of exercise, cooperation, parts of the body, and healthful eating, but some of them were simply cute or funny. Verbitsky is responsible for the character of Fruta Manzana, a dancer with a Carmen Miranda fruit hat who sings about her love of fruits and ensuring she always throws away waste in a garbage can.
Some Sesame Segments: “Fruta Manzana” series, “Cousin Canny”, “Rabbits Cooperate”, “Beaver Exercise”, “Baby Bird Tries to Fly”, “Cat Chases Squeaks”, “Princess Twelvia”, “Bus Stop”, “The Magician’s Bad Day”, “Roses Are Red”, “Igor”, “Beach Sounds”

Best remembered for his ‘Claymation’ creations, particularly the California Raisins, various holiday specials and the feature-length film The Adventures of Mark Twain, Will Vinton’s studio created a series of segments starring an orange ball with lips named Cecille who sang about the joys of being oneself, modes of transportation, and tooth brushing, among other things, for Sesame Street. With an introductory theme sung by Christopher Cerf, who wrote and performed many of the songs on SS, the series of clay-animated shorts began airing during season 22.
Some Sesame Segments: “Cecille” series

Shorts animator and children’s author Mo Willems has done much for Sesame Street, beginning in season 24 when he became a writer for the show, as well as a creator of both interstitial and credits animation. He is known for his interstitial series “The Off-Beats” on Nickelodeon and his Cartoon Network show, Sheep in the Big City, as well as his work on Codename: Kids Next Door.   For SS, Willems created the character of Suzie Kabloozie, an imaginative little girl voiced by Ruth Buzzi, and a number of other strange and silly segments.
Some Sesame Segments: “Suzie Kabloozie” series, “Grubby Groo, the Poet”, “Families”, “Art Museum”, “Octopus on Your Head”

Known for his macabre, and often outright bizarre, works in such magazines as Playboy – yes, Playboy – Gahan Wilson provided some slightly less strange animated segments to Sesame Street, as well as illustrations to children’s books alongside his much more adult pop-art horror books.  Perhaps best remembered of these are his “Bridgekeeper” series, a trilogy of films about shapes starring the wizard-like guardian of a wooden bridge. His recognizable style of drawing animals, in particular, make his segments memorable.
Some Sesame Segments: “Bridgekeeper” series, “Escaping Animals”, “See You Later, Alligator”, “Alien Orchestra”

There are, of course, many other creators, directors, and animators that provided short animated films to Sesame Street across these last fifty years, and we couldn’t possibly list them all – but we hope you’ve enjoyed this incomplete list, nonetheless, and perhaps discovered something new about the segments you may have grown up with, or are just finding now for the first time. As we look back over this celebrated television series, it’s important to remember just how many different kinds of people created content for it, and recognize them for their outstanding contributions – often gone uncredited, particularly during the earliest years – to our childhoods, and beyond.

--Dana Culling