After we wrapped up our tour of Jim Henson’s NYC Creature Shop, we were taken over to Kaufman Astoria Studios to visit the set of Sesame Street. It was the first day of shooting the new season, which starts Nov. 18. If you happen to catch the episode where Elmo, Rosita and Zoe build an adorable train out of cardboard boxes, that’s the one we got to see!
It was absolutely surreal to step through the TV screen onto a “street” I’ve known by heart since childhood.
Of course, a lot’s changed since I was a kid. Big Bird’s nest is no longer hidden by a plain board fence. Now he has a fantastical tree filled with treasures!
Among those treasures is Big Bird’s drawing of Mr. Hooper (by Caroll Spinney).
Big Bird’s nest is around the side of the iconic Sesame Street stoop. Even the wall is decorated!
In back is Abby Cadabby’s gorgeous garden. The set dressing is stunning!
On the far side of the garden is the new community center.
Looking back toward the garden…
Looking from the garden toward Hooper’s Store…
The store has a fancy new neon sign—looks like gentrification has hit Sesame Street too!
There’s a nice al fresco dining area, perfect for sipping kombucha while reviewing your script pages…
A loaf of bread, a stick of butter and a container of milk!
I think this wall of colorful fake groceries might have been my favorite part of the set. Some of the product names were hilarious!
We were allowed to stay on-set pretty much as long as we wanted, so we spent a lot of time sitting in Hooper’s Store watching through the window as they shot the sequence with Elmo, Zoe, Rosita and Oscar.
In movies about making movies, it always seems that when cameras are rolling, everyone on set freezes and focuses on the action. I’ve only been on a couple of sets in real life, but I’m always amazed at how much continuous set activity there is while cameras are rolling—to the point where sometimes you don’t even know if they are. Nobody booms “And… ACTION!” over a megaphone. The union guys are sitting just a few feet away chatting and looking at their phones. The puppet wranglers are behind the camera prepping and grooming the puppets for the next shot. Friends of friends are trying to keep their toddlers quiet as they wait for a chance to meet Elmo between takes. And Patrick and I are gingerly picking our way through a tangle of lighting cables, snapping photos and trying to stay out of frame. Christian Bale woulda been FURIOUS!
I almost forgot—the coolest part of the visit was one I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of. On our way out, they took us through the other sound stage, used for insert shots and some storage. It’s where Mr. Snuffleupagus lives (in the rafters!), and they have a huge closet/crate where Big Bird lives when he’s not in his nest. It just happened to be open, and we got to see Big Bird! They can’t let you take a photo when no puppeteer is inside him, but still! Big Bird!!!
Next up…. We go next door for an exhaustive photo tour of The Museum of the Moving Image’s Jim Henson Exhibition!