Sesame Street and The Letter People crossover (VERY RARE!)

SkyeFan

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Many of you, who grew up watching Sesame Street, probably also remember another show on PBS called The Letter People. Those of you who had grown up watching both shows at the same time may have also wondered what if any of the Sesame Street characters crossed over with the characters of The Letter People. That would be pretty neat to imagine, wouldn’t it? It would be a lot more exciting to know if that had EVER happened at all.
Well, guess what? IT HAD HAPPENED! Apparently, there had been some special occasion at the KETC-TV studio (PBS affiliate in St. Louis, Missouri, where The Letter People was taped) where a special guest from Sesame Street had stopped by.

-PLEASE READ THIS FIRST-

Our very own Bob McGrath appears with a quartet of the Letter People puppets (appropriately spelling out the station’s name). I suppose with Bob’s brilliant vocal talent, he and the Letter People are performing a song together. This MAY HAVE been a special appearance for KETC’s on-air auction, but who knows. Here is a picture below as actual proof. It just looks SO strange seeing Bob with a group of puppets from another TV show who aren’t the Muppets.

Lo and behold...



Let's just hope that there is at least some existing videotape footage of this stored somewhere within the vaults of KETC, just for the sake of knowing that there was more to this particular event. That is, IF this was taped for one of the studio's broadcasted pledge drives, which I'm pretty sure it was. Nevertheless, it's just SO interesting to see a crossover of two somewhat similar PBS programs together.
 
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SkyeFan

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You know, I never could help but notice that it seems as though the producers of "The Letter People" were VERY much inspired by "Sesame Street" in many ways. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to accuse the show of plagiarism in any way at all, but I just think it would be interesting to take note of various aspects of "The Letter People" that were inspired by characters or segments seen on "Sesame Street", besides the fact that both shows use colorful puppets, and teach letters of the alphabet.

First off, it's quite obvious that the Letter Person, Mr. M, was GREATLY inspired by Cookie Monster. You can tell by the way he's designed and built similar to Cookie Monster (both live-hands puppets, have no elbows, have black mouths with opening in back to "swallow" foods), and in his debut episode, Mr. M goes to a market where he devours melons and a bag of marshmallows, very much how Cookie Monster feeds himself cookies, or any other items.

There's an animated segment in that same show where a painter is told by his boss to paint an M. Somehow, this segment to me reminds me of one similar to this on "Sesame Street" from the early 70s with a grouchy, gruff-voiced boss questions a carpenter on how a brush is used for putting up wallpaper.

In Mr. T's first episode, there's a live-action film segment with children (similar to ones we've seen several times on SS) whose names begin with the letter T, and play musical instruments that start with the same letter. Well, anyway, the children keep coming out one at a time from behind a tree standing in the center of a field. Then while the children play their music together, the tree actually COMES TO LIFE! I can only say that someone from "The Letter People" may have liked the idea of a talking tree puppet as seen on SS in the first "Here is Your Life" segment with Guy Smiley, and wanted to use one on their show.

There was also an animated segment in this same episode that involved red sand forming a capital T and a lowercase t. This may just be a coincidence, because I believe those "sand letter" segments from SS may not have been used on the show yet by the time this episode of TLP was in production (possibly 1973).

In Mr. F's episode, there is an animated segment with yellow dots illustrated words that begin with the letter F (follow, fat, five, footprints, etc.) that looks quite like any of those various segments on SS featuring dots forming patterns that link between other segments, as seen in the first episode. Also, in another segment following this one, Mr. F talks about the difference between a capital F and a lowercase f, not very soon before a monster shows up and throws a Frisbee. This kind of feels like an imitation of one of Kermit the Frog's letter lectures when a monster interrupts.

An animation in Mr. H's episode has two boys at a zoo with balloons each with an H on them. I'm almost beginning to think that there was a similar segment like this on SS, but I'm not quite sure, though.

A couple of interesting things I've noticed in Mr. N's episode. There's a segment where a librarian reads a story titled "Nancy the Nannygoat", and sure enough, there was a cartoon on SS with a character of the same exact name.

In the same show, there's some strange fuzzy, green monster (same from Mr. F's episode) called "the Nasty", who looks and sounds very much like
Oscar The Grouch. The scene includes Mr. N and some Humphrey Bogart-type of detective named Nardo (who regularly appears in other episodes). This particular scene takes place in an alley at night, one that looks very much like the set for that "Golden AN" segment on SS.

In Mr. B's episode, there are a few interesting things I've taken notice of, which I can't say for sure were inspired by anything from SS, or else created by Jim Henson since I really don't know for sure if anything similar to this had been seen on SS during the early seasons, and I just don't have proof of it. There's this talking bulletin board with moving eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and mustache. It also has push buttons and a blue chromakey screen. On the screen we see strange puppets with actual human heads showing different things that begin with the letter B. I can't say for sure if there had ever been a time that these kinds of puppets were ever featured in a segment on SS (if ever, they would've involved either the human cast members or else even on-screen appearances by the Muppet performers), although this does seem like something that we would see on "The Electric Company". There's also a scene where Mr. B meets a talking capital B and a lowercase b. Now I know that SS had long featured talking letter puppets from time to time, but have they ever had any like these during the first few seasons? The talking Bs on TLP were the kind with the elastic mouths controlled on very thin strings (very much like the bulletin board previously mentioned). I do remember seeing these kind of puppets on SS, but I don't know if these had been fashioned first before TLP.

There's also some animated segments in many of these early episodes of TLP involving three shapes - a square, a circle, and a triangle, that demonstrate the concepts of start, middle, and end, in order for children to learn the proper placement of letters to spell words. Weren't there animated segments with shapes similar to this on SS?

Also, the game show host character, Monty Swell, who hosts "The Catching Game", was likely inspired by none other than Guy Smiley. Both game show hosts, and both puppets built uniquely for their own character (unlike how on TLP, there are interchangeable human puppets similar to the Anything Muppets on SS, Monty Swell was used primarily for just that character alone, just like how Guy Smiley, although at first infrequently used for other characters, he seemed to only be reserved for only himself in that sort of way with non-removable features, such as his moving eyebrows).

In the first episode of "The Catching Game", Monty Swell asks his contestant to identify a fan, among three other objects in a four-square grid on a magic board after the Letter People spell the word "fan". This almost looks like a set-up for a game of "One of These Things" or "Three of These Things" from SS.

I don't know if anyone who had seen these episodes of "The Letter People", have ever noticed these similarities between this show and "Sesame Street", but I find it VERY interesting to think that the producers of "The Letter People" were likely inspired by "Sesame Street" in many ways. As I had said before, I'm not accusing anyone of plagiarism, I'm just stating that one show can be influenced greatly by the creative works of others'.
 
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LittleJerry92

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Oooh, this looks so cool! Would love to see it one day.
 

SkyeFan

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Yeah, I just HOPE that there is some video footage of that scene with Bob McGrath and the Letter People in existence at the KETC-TV studio, because I just can't imagine that Bob would only appear at the studio with those characters only for one photograph to be taken. If it WAS taped, it was very likely for one of the studio's on-air auctions. I know that Fred Rogers appeared at some local PBS stations for a special appearance for their on-air auctions to remind viewers to call up and pledge support. Just as I said, it's just so interesting to see someone from Sesame Street appearing with puppets of a local TV program, who aren't associated with the Muppets. At least Bob appeared with the Letter People once they were refined in design and construction. At least he didn't appear with them during this primitive stage -



Obviously, with the exception of Mr. T, the other puppets DID NOT appear like this on the show.
 

Bliffenstimmers

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I rather like the look of the early Miss E. It's smaller, yes, but the face more closely resembles the original artwork the puppets were based on. Plus I just really like the idea of a wee little girl having a lot of strength and energy.
 

SkyeFan

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Really, you prefer the original prototype Miss E puppet to the one seen on the show? I just find that original puppet to resemble a crudely-fashioned rag doll, as opposed to the one we're most familiar with which is VERY well-refined. I was informed that those original puppets were made by some man named Tom Tichenor (who also created the puppets for the stage production of "Carnival" with Anna Maria Alberghetti) and King Hall, who was also the head puppeteer and designed and built the sets, created many of the other puppets on the show. I guess that by Mr. Z's episode, that's when King Hall took over as the new puppet designer and builder (you may notice how the look of the show is refined by this point in the series, and the puppets that are introduced look FAR MORE appealing than many of the other ones introduced early on). Gosh, the first Monty Swell puppet was so crude-looking that they, thankfully, rebuilt him giving him more of a "natural" and "human-esque" design and definition. Although, I believe that some of the puppets introduced mid-way through the series like Mr. L, Mr. D, and Mr. G were built by Tom Tichenor during the show's early stages, and were later refurbished by King Hall.

Judging by that picture of the prototype versions of the puppets, Mr. C and Mr. K look kind of similar (only in the face, that is) to the ones that we would see on the show. The Mr. C puppet seen on TV is MUCH bigger and better defined than the one in that picture. That early version of him seems rather awkward to manipulate with a large letter C over his mouth. Mr. K looks better balanced with a large, bulky football helmet on his head, than that primitive version where he looks like he's wearing a diver's cap, instead. Also, since his letter stands for "kicking", why does that early puppet of Mr. K not have ANY legs or sneaker-clad feet?! It would be interesting to see what the other Letter People puppets looked like during their original incarnations. One I'd like to see would be Miss O. How would they build a puppet with a large O framing the outside of her mouth? How about Mr. R, whose head is made from an open box filled with rubber bands? They very likely had all 26 Letter People puppets (based off the pre-TV program designs, as seen in the show's opening title, for instance) built during production of the early episodes and later decided to have if not all, many of them rebuilt for the sake of looking more "original" and appealing.

By the way, can anyone identify what episode(s) was being taped at the same time that picture was taken?
 
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SkyeFan

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I've actually thought about a few other things from "The Letter People" that were likely inspired by "Sesame Street"-

In Mr. Z's episode there is an animated story involving a mischievous character named Zach who puts zippers on everyone and everything throughout an entire village until he's stopped. This story is very similar to the "Cowboy X" cartoon from "Sesame Street". I do remember that there was another similar instance on "The Letter People" in Mr. V's episode when a vandal was marking up letter Vs on anything that starts with the letter V.

In Mr. P's episode, there's two characters known as the Purple Peekaboo Palookas (who have also appeared as different characters in a few other episodes). I'm not quite sure, but they seem as though they MIGHT HAVE been inspired by some monsters on "Sesame Street" from the show's earlier seasons, that would just pop up and surprise others. Would anyone know if there were ever such characters like this on the show? I don't know, I just get the feeling that these characters from "The Letter People" were inspired by something from "Sesame Street".

This might just be a big coincidence, but in Miss I's episode, which slightly parodies the classic movie "Casablanca", there's a piano player named "Sam" (no surprise) who I would say kind of resembles Little Chrissy from "Sesame Street", although it seems as though this character was most likely based off of either Elton John or Paul Williams (especially since they both play piano). Most likely the latter two, although during the production time of these episodes of "The Letter People", the only appearance on "Sesame Street" of Little Chrissy, so far, was "Count It Higher".

Something else I've discovered that may just be another coincidence, and if it is, it's a pretty funny coincidence. Miss O's episode features her and many of the other Letter People starring in her very own opera, requiring many of them to reluctantly dress up in silly costumes. Mr. F plays the role of a farmer named "Farley". Now, it's understandable that Mr. F would have this name in the opera to be alliterative with his letter, but what's funny is the fact that both Mr. F and a Muppet from "Sesame Street" whose name is Farley are both green and have red hair. Also, this scene from
"The Letter People" reminds me of one of Prairie Dawn's pageants from "Sesame Street", most notably the one that shows how a flower grows, especially since both Ernie and Mr. F play a farmer.

Speaking of Letter People that somehow resemble Muppet characters on "Sesame Street", I also find both Mr. V and Sherlock Hemlock to be alike in some ways - they're both green, both have brown hair and mustaches, both speak in British accents, and just like Sherlock Hemlock, Mr. V does some detective work in his first episode.

Now if these past few scenes from "The Letter People" are just coincidental, this one seems highly intentional - Mr. L, in his debut episode, encounters a strange creature known as the "Lavender Lollapalooza", who looks almost as if he was made from the lavender "live-hands" Anything Muppet from "Sesame Street". Anyone who has seen this episode of "The Letter People" must re-watch it, and then you'll understand what I mean. It's just so weird that a character who's referred to as "lavender" would just HAVE TO resemble that color Muppet from "Sesame Street". Also, just with other possible assumptions I've made, I wouldn't be surprised if there ever was a Muppet monster like this that was made from the lavender live-hands AM on "Sesame Street" within the first few years.

In Mr. C's episode, his boss at the carnival, of which he works, comes off very much like Bert's brother Bart on "Sesame Street". It's just the way he loudly tells corny jokes with bad puns, and also the way they both introduce themselves with the catchphrase - "________'s the name and _______'s the game!".

Not exactly from "Sesame Street", but this is related to the Muppets. The Letter Person Mr. Y has fluffy, feather-like orange hair and a matching mustache, making him look very much like Floyd Pepper from "The Muppet Show". Now this episode of "The Letter People" is from 1975, so I suppose someone from that show (probably puppet designer/builder King Hall) saw Floyd in the "Muppet Show" pilot, "Sex and Violence" (also from 1975), and really liked his look so much, they had a puppet made to closely resemble him. Also, there's a small red bird with a yellow beak called a "Yodel" who looks almost exactly like the bird from that "Birds' Song" from "Sex and Violence" who keeps saying "What'ya say?!".

Some other characters on "The Letter People" inspired by Muppets from "Sex and Violence" are in one of the "ING Sound" episodes. There's this hipster radio D.J. and television host, Frantic Freddie, who wears a top hat with large feathers, very similar to Dr. Teeth , and also a young girl named "Cindy", who has large purple, lashed eyelids like Janice.

This one (animated) character known as "The Silly Bull", who breaks words into parts, laughs just like Harvey Kneeslapper on "Sesame Street".

Can anyone think of any more references to "Sesame Street" on "The Letter People"?
 
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