Saturday, 25 May 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - C Is For Cartoon

C is for cereal. And C is for cartoons!

For me, watching Sesame Street was never just about Muppets. There were also those great inserts between puppetry that totally caught my eye and ears, with catchy songs and artful animation. And the great thing for parents was (and still is), they were meant to entertain both children AND adults, which seems to be a difficult balance nowadays.

Thought we'd take a look back at a few Sesame Street classics, and some of the famous cartoonists and animators behind them. You'll probably be surprised at how many of them you know, but didn't know at the time.


Craig was first known for creating the Penny cartoons on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. He later created the series Hey Arnold! for Nickelodeon. Before that show and a 2002 feature film, Arnold appeared on Sesame Street in a very similar design, only in Claymation form.

Craig's connections to The Muppets continues today, as he's the creator of Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train, which runs on PBS.


Not famous in name, but famous in content - Fred Calvert produced many of the first and most memorable segments on Sesame Street.

Calvert had his start working for Disney, but would later form his own production company. In the 1990's, he became more infamous in the animation industry for overseeing a takeover of a film called The Thief And The Cobbler, which I hope to blog about soon. But for now, we'll showcase a bit more on Mr. Calvert as he related to Sesame Street below.


Renowned for making He-Man "the most powerful man in the universe" and...well, making generally crappy cartoons, Filmation did a few segments for Sesame Street using licensed characters they were already making half-hour TV shows out of. Superman and Batman starred in a couple of shorts, as did Jughead.


Perhaps more renowned for his Warner Bros. work, Friz was also the co-creator of the animated Pink Panther, who appeared on Sesame Street in a brief 8-second sequence.


Of course Jim Henson is famous on Sesame Street for obvious reasons, but he also enjoyed using the show for other creative pursuits, as an animator and experimental filmmaker. He was quick to embrace new technologies, including a state-of-the-art (at the time) computer system called Scanimate, which he used to make a couple of films, including the piece for number 4 below.

A bit more on Henson also coming up. 


Probably the least well-known person by name, Jeff Hale has the most popular (and maybe the most in terms of quantity too) animated sequences on Sesame Street. In fact, Hale's most-popular contributions weren't even one-offs. The Pinball, Ringmaster and Typewriter Guy cartoons were all part of an ongoing series that ran for years. Probably not any more though since pinball machines were replaced by Xbox's, ringmasters came to represent animal abuse, and typewriters were...well, not really that convenient for blogging.


Hubley is an animation legend, who made his mark at the groundbreaking UPA Studios, creating Mr. Magoo and directing the original 'Gerald McBoing McBoing'. He also worked on classic Disney movies like Fantasia and Dumbo. He made 10 Sesame Street shorts between 1969 and 1972, including the classic 'E - Imagination', which is in very stark contrast to the UPA style he helped to popularize.


The newspaper circulation company lent some of their comic strip characters to select shows, including Krazy Kat, Tiger and Beetle Bailey.

Around this time, King Features was also selling a Sesame Street comic strip, which ran from 1971 to 1975.


Harvey Kurtzman was a famous illustrator, who cut his teeth as co-creator of the original "Mad Magazine". Inspired by the birth of his daughter in 1969, Kurtzman created several Sesame Street shorts, including 'Boat', which won him an international animation award. Kurtzman drew it, while Phil Kimmelman animated.


John is the man behind Pixar, and current chief creative officer for Walt Disney's animation studios. He made several shorts for Sesame Street before hitting the big time, all of which featured Pixar's first star, Luxo Jr., the lamp, teaching lessons about direction, weight, position and scaring other lamps. 


Abe Levitow worked for many years as an animator for Chuck Jones, and solo directed a lot of his later productions. Chuck Jones was a big supporter of Sesame Street and also directed shorts for The Electric Company. Through that association, it's not surprising to see Abe's involvement here. His Willie Wimple cartoons provided 3 early calls for environmentalism.


William "Bud" Luckey is currently a part-time employee of Pixar. He previously did character design, but has since retired to doing mostly voice-work as needed. You can hear him as a voice (and banjo player) in the Pixar short, 'Boundin', and as Chuckles the clown in Toy Story 3. His design work can be seen in Toy Story and most Pixar feature films up until 2008.

His work on Sesame Street included many famous musical shorts, including 'Ladybugs' Picnic #12'.


Marv received notoriety for his cult underground film, 'Bambi Meets Godzilla', which was a popular staple of animation shows. He went on to form International Rocketship Limited, an animation studio in Vancouver. Marv also worked with Will Vinton (more on him below) on the Eddie Murphy stop-motion series, The PJ's.

Here's one of his contributions to Sesame Street called 'Uncle Al's Dog'.


Sendak was an unexpectedly popular children's author, responsible for the classic "Where The Wild Things Are". Sendak participated in seminars during the initial development of Sesame Street in the 1960's. In Michael Davis' Sesame Street book, "Street Gang", Sendak is described as being bored with the extensive research process and apparently took these frustrations to paper during these meetings, in the way of questionable doodles, including one of a young child peeing on a destroyed television set. What a perfect representative for the most influential children's TV program of all time!

Maurice's work on Sesame Street included 'Bumble Ardy', which he created with Jim Henson and Fred Calvert.


Will Vinton was responsible for coining the term Claymation, which took the form of The California Raisins and the Domino's Pizza "Noid" to name a few stand-outs. He also worked on Eddie Murphy's The PJ's.

His Sesame Street work included the 6-episode Cecille The Ball series, and an unfortunate and now very dated piece involving hip hop and hardware.


Willems' earlier career was comprised mostly of cartoon work, in Nickelodeon shows like Sheep In The Big City, which he created, and Codename: Kids Next Door, which he wrote for. He is now an award-winning children's author of books like "Don't Let The Piegon Drive The Bus!" and the Elephant and Piggie series.

His work on Sesame Street was expansive, including 33 episodes of Suzie Kabloozie.


Like Harvey Kurtzman, Gahan is another cult-favourite cartoonist who made the transition to animation via Sesame Street. His dark, black humour translated well to the almost-epic Bridgekeeper series.

These are only a few of the talented individuals who freelanced for Sesame Street over the past 40+ years. There are so many genius, memorable moments by other lesser-known contributors, and tons of work that just doesn't seem to exist on-line right now, by famous artists like Cordell Barker, Richard Condie and Andy Warhol. Maybe I'll try to blog about that on another sunny day.

Until then, this particular post has been brought to you by the letter C and the number 2. (which is the amount of page views I'm hoping for)


  1. Okay, perhaps I'm dating myself here, but I actually remember watching some of these! The Bud Luckey ones are some of the most memorable for me! And,I hate to admit this, but I STILL love the "King of 8" AND, the unfortunate "Hammer Time".
    Great trip down memory lane :) Thanks!

  2. Great post - might I suggest updating it to include Sally Cruickshank? She's most well-known for her short, "Quasi at the Quackadero", considered to be amongst the 50 best cartoons ever made, as well as more cult shorts such as Face Like A Frog and Make Me Psychic, and a sequence in Twilight Zone The Movie.

    For Sesame Street she did at least four segments, including "I'm Curious" and "Your Feet's Too Big", all on YouTube!