Lloyd Morrisett, who helped launch 'Sesame Street,' dies

Streaming HUBJanuary 25, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) – Lloyd Morrissette, co-creator of the beloved children’s education TV series “Sesame Street,” which uses empathetic and fuzzy monsters like Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Cookie Monster to captivate and teach generations around the world , has died. He was 93 years old.

Morissette’s death was announced Tuesday by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit she helped found called the Children’s Television Workshop. No cause of death was given.

In a statement, Sesame Workshop hailed Morissette as an “intelligent, thoughtful and above all compassionate leader” who was “constantly thinking of new ways” to educate.

Morissette and Joan Ganz Cooney, along with developmental psychologist Gerald Lesser of Harvard University, created the show’s unique approach to teaching that now reaches 120 million children. Famed puppeteer Jim Henson supplied the critters.

“Sesame Street” has been shown in more than 150 countries, has won 193 Emmys, 10 Grammys and in 2019 received the Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, the first time a television program received the award (Big Bird walking down the aisle and basically sat on Tom Hanks’ lap).

Born in Oklahoma City in 1929, Morrisett initially trained to be a teacher with a background in psychology. He became an experimental teacher, looking for new ways to educate children from less advantaged backgrounds. Morrisett earned her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, did graduate work in psychology at UCLA, and earned her doctorate in experimental psychology at Yale University. He was an Oberlin Trustee for many years and was Chairman of the Board from 1975 to 1981.

The germ of “Sesame Street” was sown in 1966 at a dinner party where he met Connie.

“I said, ‘Joan, do you think television can be used to teach young children?’ His answer was, ‘I don’t know, but I’d like to talk about it,'” he recalled to The Guardian in 2004.

The first episode of “Sesame Street” – sponsored by W, S & E and numbers 2 and 3 – aired in the fall of 1969. It was a turbulent time in America, shaken by the Vietnam War and raw by the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the year before.

Children’s programming at the time was made up of shows such as “Captain Kangaroo,” “Romper Room” and often violent cartoon skirmishes between “Tom and Jerry.” “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was mostly about teaching social skills.

“Sesame Street” was designed by education professionals and child psychologists with one goal in mind: to help low-income and minority students ages 2-5 overcome some of their shortcomings when entering school. Social scientists have long had children who were white and from higher-income families often better prepared.

The show was set on an urban street with a multicultural cast. Diversity and inclusion were baked into the show. Demons, humans and animals all lived together peacefully.

It became the first children’s program to feature someone with Down syndrome. It featured puppets with HIV and invoked children in wheelchairs, in foster care, incarcerated parents, homelessness, women’s rights, military families and even girls loving their hair. I dealt with subjects like songs.

It introduced the bilingual Rosita – the first Latina Muppet – in 1991. Julia, a 4-year-old Muppet with autism, arrived in 2017 and the show has since offered help for children whose parents are struggling with addiction and recovery, and children suffering as a result of the Syrian civil war. Helping children after 9/11, Elmo is traumatized by a fire at Hooper’s Store, but is comforted that firefighters are there to help.

The company said at news of his death that Lloyd “has left an immense and indelible legacy among generations of children around the world with ‘Sesame Street’, the most visible tribute to a lifetime of good work and lasting impact”. Is.”

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