A website for Muppet fans who grew up. Our mission is to provide a website and forum for biting satire, poignant observations, and general wittiness related to the Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and all things connected to Jim Henson’s life and legacy.
In 2019, it isn’t hard to find people complaining online that blockbuster movies have taken over the film industry. But in 1980, blockbuster movies took over Sesame Street instead. That’s right, today we’re looking at season 11’s twoepisodes where R2-D2 and C-3PO visit Sesame Street.
The most famous scene finds R2-D2 falling in love with a fire hydrant, but the Star Wars Droids get plenty to do:
They get some oil from the Fix-It Shop.
They say the alphabet with Bob.
They deliver a hologram message to Oscar from Lothar the Space Grouch.
We get confirmation that Artoo understands American Sign Language, and Linda touches his head to hear him based on how he’s rumbling.
All of this is delightful. The writers are clearly thrilled to play around with these characters, and it’s a true joy to watch. So it’s perfectly fine that these episodes are remembered as “The Star Wars ones.” But we all know that street scenes account for maybe fifteen minutes of any given Sesame Street episode. So that leaves 45 minutes in each episode. Let’s talk about what else happens.
There’s a hilarious Sesame Street News Flash about the Tortoise & the Hare, featuring Frank Oz as a slow-talking tortoise. There’s a cartoon where the letter J hooks up with various other letter cars to make words. There’s a film about baby zoo animals being fed milk from a bottle.
We get to hear the gorgeous harmonies of Jerry Nelson, Joe Raposo, and Jeff Moss as a barbershop trio singing “High, Middle, Low.” We get to see a Valentine’s Day heart transform into a Valentine’s Day chicken. We get to watch a wombat scratch itself for thirty seconds.
Lena Horne sings “Bein’ Green” to Kermit. Ernie works himself into a frenzy wondering why Bert isn’t home yet. Beans and Milk both make their way from farm to pantry. Some otters slide around on the ice. Caterpillars never wear brown boots.
So, all in all, a pair of typical Sesame Street episodes. A whole bunch of stuff smashed together, some of it brilliant and some of it bizarre. But, most importantly for our purposes, almost none of it was new except for the street scenes. Now, dozens of new segments were made for season 11, but they mostly don’t appear in these particular episodes.
Between both of these episodes, there’s exactly one sketch that was made for season 11 – the one where Grover tries to sell Kermit a toothbrush. Even that had debuted in an earlier episode of the season. Everything else was old. To pick two random examples that I linked to above, “Here Come the Beans” is from season 5, and “High, Middle, Low” debuted all the way back in season 2. These are clip shows, because every episode of Sesame Street is a clip show.
Among those clips, we can even find gems that we’ve never seen before. In particular, one of these episodes contains a sketch called “The Cursed Prince” that’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on Sesame Street. In it, Grover narrates the story of the Cursed Prince (played by David) and his beloved princess (Maria). From that basic setup, it goes to some absurd and hilarious places. Go watch it right now.
Well, that sketch debuted in season 8, but I watched it as part of these episodes. Theoretically, I should be focusing on new material because we already covered season 8. I could ignore all the recycled sketches and present season 11 like it’s all shiny new stuff for 1979-1980. But that would be talking about some other show, not Sesame Street.
“The Cursed Prince”, like everything in these episodes, is part of season 11 because it appears there. That’s the experience of watching Sesame Street – old and new segments, all smashed together. The new stuff is no more important than the old, certainly not to the preschool audience. It’s all just Sesame Street.
No other TV show has ever been quite like that. It’s what makes Sesame Street special. It’s why certain sketches are still burned into our brains as adults, and it’s definitely why we’re still talking about the show after 50 years.
Notable Character Debut: The puppet we would come to know as Elmo debuts this year, singing “We Are All Monsters.” Someday, all monsters would indeed bow before him, but not yet. He’s basically just an Anything Muppet at this point.
MVE (Most Valuable Episode): The season opens with a six-episode visit to Maria’s family in Puerto Rico. I love that the show spent so much time on long trips, visiting the extended families of its regular human characters.
MVH (Most Valuable Human): Sounds like it’s probably Maria.
MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): Oscar’s Puerto Rican cousin Osvaldo, who appears in the opening episodes and visits Sesame Street later in the season. What a kooky guy!
Classic Sketch Debut: Grover tries to sell Kermit a toothbrush, and then gives him teeth to make the product more appealing. One of the best examples of that classic Grover/Kermit chemistry.
Classic Sesame Street - Grover Sells Toothbrushes - YouTube
Classic Song Debut: “Born to Add,” my personal pick for the best song parody in the history of Sesame Street. Christopher Cerf (and the musicians who played on the track) nail Bruce Springsteen’s sound perfectly, and the idea of “Counting as teenage rebellion” is hysterical.
Classic Sesame Street - Song: Born to Add - YouTube
Curriculum Focus: Muppet Wiki doesn’t list anything specific on the season 11 page, but the season did feature a recurring segment starring ballerina Suzanne Farrell as she demonstrates various dances and positions.
Musical Highlight: Kermit performs “Disco Frog,” a very of-the-moment song that aged into a valuable historical document. It’s still catchy though!
Sesame Street: Kermit Sings Disco Frog - YouTube
Best Celebrity Moment: Outside of the Droids, the celebrity pickings are pretty slim this year. We did get appearances from delightful character actors Mary Wickes and Frances Sternhagen, so let’s go with them!
WTF Moment: In their first episode, the Droids come in a spaceship. In their second episode, they take a bus to Sesame Street. All the way from Tatooine?!
One More Thing: The Droids were on The Muppet Show (with Mark Hamill and Chewbacca) this same year. All three episodes aired in January-February 1980. Four months before The Empire Strikes Back came out, the Star Wars publicity machine was aimed squarely at the Muppet fan demographic. What a wonderful time in our history.
Okay, One More Thing: Lucasfilm wasn’t a big operation yet in 1980, so the Droids appear courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. Now it’s all Disney anyway, because everything is, and society is on the verge of collapse.
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Hey, you know what’s great? The Sesame Street theme song. It’s catchy, it’s 50 years old, and it’s a huge part of the show we all love so very, very much. So why not immortalize it in book form?
Entertainment Weekly has announced that “Sunny Day”, reimagining the lyrics to the theme song, will be printed as a picture book by Random House.
Each page will illustrate one lyric of the song, with art by the following Random House artists: Ziyue Chen, Joe Mathieu, Tom Lichtenheld, Sean Qualls, Selina Alko, Emily Winfield Martin, Joey Chou, Kenard Pak, Rafael López, Pat Cummings, Brigette Barrager, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Leo Espinosa, Mike Curato, Greg Pizzoli, and Dan Santat.
The lyrics, of course, are credited to Joe Raposo, Bruce Hart, and Jon Stone.
The book will be available on October 22nd, just in time for the 50th anniversary! Check out a few preview pages below!
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I have a lot of Muppet stuff. It’s on my shelves, on my walls, in boxes under the bed and in the closet. I don’t have as much as I used to, because I’ve been successful at parting with some of it to prevent my home from becoming unlivable… but also, I still sometimes buy new Muppet stuff. And yet, there have been those items of Muppet merchandise through the years that caught my eye, that I coveted, but that I never owned.
Among these items: the Fisher Price Sesame Street Clubhouse playset.
By 1977, Fisher Price’s original Sesame Street playset, which recreated the set of the TV show to scale with their Little People toys, had been out for a couple years. It had presumably sold pretty well to all the young fans who wanted to recreate their favorite episodes at home – and those who wanted to act out new Sesame Street adventures, perhaps with guest appearances by some friendly Weebles and a fashionably-dressed giant named Barbie.
But after those few years, most of the kids who wanted the playset would have already had one. And that playset was a pretty thorough representation of the entire set as seen on the TV show, including a detailed 123 Sesame Street and Hooper’s Store. So what did the geniuses at Fisher Price do? They used a lesson they learned from the show and used their imagination!
The clubhouse playset takes its general inspiration from the building in the back of the arbor on the street – you know, the one that used to be a garage, that was Gina’s veterinarian office for a while, and was recently replaced by the community center. It has the garage doors, the window, the stairs, the tire swing… and then things get crazy.
On the side of the building, there’s a bright red crank. The roof has a bucket thing that the Little People figures can stand in, and when you turn the crank, they spin around and around. Turning the crank also causes the floor on the second story of the building to move, so if there’s a figure there, it rolls forward onto a slide that goes down the side. If such a contraption existed on the show, it would be extremely dangerous to all involved. Can you imagine an episode where Herry Monster sits in a bucket way up on the roof and Bob turns a crank on the side of the building to spin him around and around, while Mr. Hooper is propelled uncontrollably in the direction of what looks like a dry water slide? No, that would be ridiculous. Engaging television, certainly, but ridiculous.
Not to mention the revolving door in the back! On the TV show, we never really see behind the garage, but in the alternate reality of this playset, there’s a door that can only be compared to a secret swinging bookcase door from a mystery story. It’s a good thing they made a Little People figure of Sherlock Hemlock. He’ll solve The Case of Who’s in There!
Last but not least, there’s a trap door over the garage, which leads to a chute hidden inside the building, which spits out figures in a hole in the side wall! And this is the most brilliant aspect of the whole thing. It would have been neat if there was a trap door that dropped a figure into the garage. It also would have been neat if there had been a chute for characters to zoom down. But to combine the two, and to make the chute invisible to the naked eye was perhaps Fisher Price’s all-time greatest flash of genius. Although again, it would be quite hazardous in practice. I’m sure kids would be entertained by the sight of Big Bird jumping through a loose board on the roof and down a concealed shaft, but Children’s Television Workshop would have gotten a lot of letters from parents.
I did not exist in 1977, but I encountered this playset a few times at friends’ houses and church nurseries, and I thought it was the coolest thing. I especially loved that trap door chute. It never got old dropping things in there and watching them pop out – Cookie Monster, Bert, Gordon, a small Lincoln Log, a grape, the disembodied head of a G.I. Joe… It was hours of fun. The stickers were intriguing too: “Oscar Loves Trash” was funny, while the heart on the wall inscribed with “David + Maria” teaches kids that it’s acceptable to scrawl graffiti on other people’s property.
I don’t know if there are many other Sesame Street fans who care about, or even know about, this playset, and I assume there weren’t as many of these manufactured as the standard “123 Sesame & Hooper’s” playset. I never owned the clubhouse, but I’ve always thought of it as a highlight of Sesame Street toy history. Periodically, the producers of Sesame Street make changes to the set, and I’m always a little disappointed that they never redo the garage to make it more closely resemble the clubhouse playset. Maybe for the 60th anniversary! If they ever do, I volunteer to come to the studio and be the first to test the chute.
In honor of Sesame Street‘s 50th anniversary, the United States Post Office has announced that they’ll be releasing a set of stamps featuring all our favorite Muppets!
I mean, just look at that cast of characters above. It’s already amazing that Bert and Ernie will be immortalized on a stamp, but Guy Smiley? Herry Monster?? If only Herbert Birdsfoot could’ve made the cut.
This isn’t the first time Muppets have been honored by the USPS. In 1999, Big Bird graced a stamp in a set honoring the 1970s, and in 2005 a set featuring Jim Henson and the Muppet Show characters was released in honor of Kermit’s 50th anniversary.
There’s no official release date yet, but we have been assured that the stamps will be available later this year.
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While we wait with bated breath for any details about the upcoming Sesame Street movie, like plot or setting or whether or not Forgetful Jones will be in it, we finally have a little more info. And that info is the date when we’ll finally know everything.
According to Variety, the Sesame Street movie will be in theaters on January 15, 2021. For those of you who haven’t bought your 2021 calendars yet, that is the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
Also, the Variety article specifically notes that the film will be “live action”. So any of you who were worried that Bert and Ernie would be replaced with CGI replicas can now rest easy.
Stay tuned for more info about the Sesame Street film as we learn it!
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Recently, Twitter user @ColinGorman5 asked us an impossible question. It’s a question that has haunted Muppet fans since 1975. It’s a question without an answer, and yet we are compelled to think of one.
What kind of animal is Animal? Is he even an animal???
So often we go back and forth about the mystery of Gonzo’s species. The debate of whether he’s an alien, a bird, a weirdo, an artist, and so forth becomes so loud, we don’t even see the other question mark right in front of our faces.
Okay, so what do we know? Animal is the manic drummer of the Electric Mayhem, humanoid but not quite human, part beast but nothing recognizable. It’s likely he isn’t vegetable or mineral. He exists in the gray area between man and monster, but that answer doesn’t satisfy. So let’s do what we always do, and completely over-analyze the situation until it isn’t funny anymore.
Theory #1: Animal is human
Look at the Electric Mayhem. Dr. Teeth, Floyd, Janice, and Zoot are all unmistakably human. Sure, they might have green skin or blue hair, but as far as Muppets go, they’re people. The odd “man” out is Animal, whose species is unclear. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that he’s a person too? Sure, he’s hairier than most, but that’s no reason to call him an animal.
Theory #2: Animal is a gorilla
If Animal is an animal, the most likely candidate for species is probably some sort of primate. He’s somewhere near human on the evolutionary spectrum, but still might belong in the jungle. He’s a skinny guy, so maybe “gorilla” isn’t really accurate, but until I see a tail, I’m assuming he’s not a monkey.
Theory #3: Animal is a caveman
Animal could be human, but perhaps not like today’s humans. More like a human from prehistoric times. Animal does seem to have a lot in common with the cro magnon man – he has a limited vocabulary, he’s strong, he’s hairy, and he has no concept of modern technology or societal norms. I mean, can’t you just see him clubbing a wooly mammoth and dragging it into his cave single-handedly? It’s almost too natural.
Theory #4: Animal is a monster
The Muppets have a long history of including monsters in their show. Giant ogres, monsters with three heads, beasts with sharp teeth and angry eyes. Animal definitely fits in that category, especially as someone so good at scaring the pants off of people.
Theory #5: Animal is a werewolf
Okay, so if Animal isn’t an animal and if he isn’t a man, maybe he’s somewhere in between. Maybe he’s both at the same time? Maybe he was a regular guy who got bit by a werewolf, and he’s constantly caught under a half-full moon, torn between man and beast. The main thing that tears this theory to shreds is that none of the dozens of people he’s bitten have ever turned into werewolves themselves. As far as we know.
Theory #6: Animal is the embodiment of the id
Frank Oz has said many times that Animal’s personality can be boiled down to five words: Sex, sleep, food, drums and pain. That right there is the basis of our impulsive, survivalist nature. With so many Muppets representing conceptual notions like gluttony, limbo, and a question, it’s not that far off to assume that Sigmund Freud’s id could be a Muppet too.
Theory #7: Animal is the epitome of human evolution
Flipping 180 degrees from the theory that Animal is the base of human intelligence, what if he’s the end result of humanity? What if the human race continues to grow and evolve until mankind is strong and virile, without any hangups like intelligence or the need to be politically correct. He’s free – as free as we all hope to be someday.
Theory #8: Animal is the victim of radioactive fallout
Animal has potential to be a superhero. He has equal potential for super villainy. Either way, he definitely seems to have gotten superpowers along the way. Maybe he was bitten by a radioactive gerbil, or he was hit with quantum rays from outer space, or he’s the long lost prince from a far-off planet. In any case, there’s gotta be something to explain his extraordinary strength and impeccable timing, and it just might lie in the pages of a comic book.
Theory #9: Animal is an electron
Animal is an explosive force. He looks like a starburst, with light spewing out from every direction. He’s pure energy. So why not a fundamental building block of life in Muppet form? Sure, why not, whatever.
Theory #10: Animal is a drummer
Why fight it? The debate will continue on whether Animal is a man or a beast, but we can all agree that he beats drums. And he does it well! If he has superpowers, if he is the embodiment of something extraordinary, if he has magical abilities – it’s all so he can rock out with his band. Who cares what Animal is? He’s a drummer, and he’s damn proud of it.
What do you think? Does your theory fit any of the above? Got a completely different theory? Let us know!
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Jeez, you’d think the Muppets shot Walt Disney’s dad or something.
The newest indignity isn’t as horrible as some of the others, but it’s far from a good sign for the future of the Muppets at Disney World. We’ve learned that a beautiful mural of Kermit and Piggy spoofing Gone with the Wind (seen above), which has been on display since the attraction’s debut, is being painted over.
As you can see in the photo from Hollywood Studios HQ, the faux scaffolding is gone and half the mural is already painted over in a dull gray. It’s likely that this is to help with the visual transition into Star Wars Land right next door. It’s only a matter of time before it’s gone completely.
The Disney theme parks are on thin ice with us. There’s already so little Muppet content there as it is, and what meager offerings we’re given are being taken away bit by bit until nothing will be left but the lingering aroma of a memory of a Bean Bunny animatronic.
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Ten seasons! That’s an impressive achievement for any TV series, especially an experimental show for preschool kids that was doing things nobody had ever tried before. But now here’s Sesame Street, marking its 10th season and celebrating with a special hosted by James Earl Jones and a spiffy anniversary logo. And it’s already outlasted its little sister program, The Electric Company, which wrapped up its six-season run in 1977. (So long, Electric Company! Thanks for teaching us phonics and stuff!)
When I watch Sesame Street episodes from season ten, I get the usual feelings of nostalgia from familiar cartoons, Muppet sketches, and live-action film inserts. But I’m also struck repeatedly by how much Sesame Street feels like a neighborhood where I want to spend as much time as possible.
Sesame Street is the kind of place where you’ll find an extremely large, extremely friendly dog who seems to belong to the whole community. Yep, this is the debut season of Barkley, and before he was established as Linda’s pet, he was the neighborhood dog – to the point that, in his first episode, the humans decide by taking a vote whether he should be named Woof-Woof or Barkley. Barkley is bigger than any real dog I’ve ever seen, and his fur kind of looks like feathers, but the combination of design, puppet build, and performance (by Toby Towson at first, then by Brian Muehl and others) guarantees that he always seems like a real dog you could reach out and pet. Wouldn’t you love to live on a street where you could pet Barkley every day?
(For years, I assumed “Woof-Woof” had been around a while before they decided to change his name, but according to Muppet Wiki, this is his first appearance. And I do not question the wiki.)
Sesame Street is also the kind of place where you’ll be greeted by a happy vampire who welcomes you warmly, then counts all the people and (a bird) on the street as they say hello to you too. What a warm, friendly place! In my real-life neighborhood, my neighbors and I rarely say hello to each other so nicely, although we do often hold the door open for each other at Dunkin’ Donuts. But on Sesame Street, everyone is always ready with a smile and a wave. Well, everyone except Oscar maybe.
Sesame Street is the kind of place where a nurse who must have better things to do with her time off spends several minutes sitting on the stoop of her building, teaching a bunch of kids a song called “My Little Game.” This song, seen in the season-opening Episode 1186, is so disarmingly charming. Some of the kids seem to have no idea what’s going on, and none of them are very good at clapping along as instructed, but Loretta Long brings a sweetness and joy to it that turns it into a lovely moment. Sesame Street is the kind of place where there’s always time to sit down and sing a song, both loudly and softly. Doesn’t that sound pleasant? La-la la la la la-la la!
And Sesame Street is the kind of place where your neighbors invite you do some exercises up on the roof, although that might not end well. In this season, we get our first look at the roof of 123 Sesame, and the writers make great use of that set in Episode 1285. After finishing their exercises, the grown-ups find that the rooftop door is locked, so they’re stuck up there. And then it starts raining!
This is one of those episodes where Sesame Street feels as much like a sitcom as an educational show, with various rescue plans going awry in wacky ways. But through it all, the grown-ups have the companionship of their friends to keep them calm. And just like you or I would do in the same situation, they pass the time by counting to ten in Spanish. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t want to be David, Buffy, Gordon or Luis in this particular story. But I’d still love to have them as neighbors.
Notable Character Debut: This is also the first season for Bruno, the trash collector who carries Oscar’s can around so Oscar can be mobile. And as Muppet Wiki tells us: “Also introduced this season are the Polka Dot People, a family of Muppets who teach cultural diversity and a physically disabled Muppet.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard of those Muppets before! I hope someday we get to see the long-lost Polka Dot episodes.
MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): Watching a handful of episodes from this season, it was nice to see how present Herry Monster was, even in street scenes. He participates in pageants, he offers to brush Gordon’s hair, he confides his piano aspirations to Olivia, and of course, he interacts with cute kids. I would have thought Jerry Nelson was busy doing The Muppet Show at this time, but apparently he still found time for everyone’s favorite sweet-tempered, super-strong monster.
MVH (Most Valuable Human): This is the season when Mr. Hooper graduates from night school to earn his GED! Thus proving to fans of all ages that it’s never too late, and that education is a never-ending process, whether you’re a six-year-old bird or a kindly old shopkeeper.
MVE (Most Valuable Episode): In Episode 1207, Bert meets a woman named Bertha and they totally hit it off. She looks just like him (weird), and she also likes oatmeal, marching bands, and pigeons. And now I know where “Bert’s Love Song” from the Love record comes from! Now if only we could actually see the episode…
Other Notable Episodes: I’m also intrigued by Episode 1262, in which Mr. Hooper allows his store to be used as a filming location for a movie directed by Richard Altman (played by Jerry Nelson, apparently in an onscreen acting role!) and starring Nick Redfield (played by Richard Hunt!). That sounds like fun.
Classic Sketch Debut: The earliest appearances of Billy Joe Jive are in season 9, but I want to mention them here. Before I had ever heard of the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or Encyclopedia Brown, I thrilled to the animated adventures of Billy Joe and his sidekick Smart Susie Sunset. They solve every kid-friendly mystery that comes their way, and they have a groovy theme song.
Musical Highlight: I’ll write more about this someday, but Sesame Street is seriously committed to disco now, as evidenced by the debut of the song “Disco D” in the season premiere. There’s also a disco-flavored tune called “Ride a Bike” featuring the humans riding bicycles in Central Park, which I had completely forgotten about. But it’s pretty catchy. I dig it.
WTF Moment: Telly Monster first appears in this season… as a guy with antennae and swirly eyes who is addicted to television. It’s fascinating to see, but I’m glad he eventually became a more well-rounded character, because I can’t imagine much potential for future episodes for a Muppet whose deal is “watches too much TV.”
One More Thing: In Episode 1199, Olivia has to step out for a while, but she has an important phone call coming, so she asks Big Bird to answer the phone and write down the necessary information. Big Bird waits patiently for the phone to ring, and then, just when Olivia returns, it rings, and Big Bird, that silly but well-meaning overgrown kid… successfully answers it and accurately writes down the information?!
What’s going on here? Where’s the comedy? Shouldn’t he have botched it up in an entertaining way? I guess Olivia was pretty smart, asking Big Bird instead of Grover (who definitely would have botched it up in an entertaining way) or Cookie Monster (who would have eaten the phone).
Okay, One More Thing: Although the adults are still just missing meeting Snuffy in infuriating ways, this season they may have reason to doubt their doubt. In Episode 1201, Bob and Susan hear Snuffy’s voice on a tape recording made by Oscar. In another episode, David actually overhears Big Bird having a conversation with Snuffy while standing outside Big Bird’s door, but by the time he gathers the rest of the gang, the bird and the Snuffleupagus have wandered off to a Shirley Temple film festival. DANG IT.
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Last year, uber Muppet fan Tony Whitaker shared with us his illustrations inspired by the first 20 seasons of Sesame Street (which you can – and should – see here). But as we all know, there are far more than 20 seasons of Sesame!
Tony has been hard at work nearing completion of his Sesame series, and he’s ready to share with us his pieces based on seasons 21 through 40. No promises, but we’re hoping Tony will have 10 more to share with us by Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary this fall.
Just like his previous series, every image below is chock-full of Easter eggs and references. See if you can recognize them all! And at the end, you’ll find a bonus image honoring Caroll Spinney in celebration of his retirement and 50-year career performing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Many thanks to Tony for sharing his work with us, and thanks to Kyle Wilkinson for helping to make the connection!
Enjoy the Sesame history, everyone!
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The next comic book miniseries based on Jim Henson’s classic series The Storyteller is premiering in just a few weeks, and the good folks at Archaia have given us a sneak peek at the first issue.
Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens will be in stores on April 3rd. The first issue, written by Bartosz Sztybor with art by Jakub Rebelka, is about a fisherman who captures a siren and learns a lesson or two along the way.
Check out the first few pages below, and then keep an eye on ToughPigs for regular previews for each issue!
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