“Sunny day. Sweeping up clouds away…” These nostalgic lyrics are some of the most recognizable in the history of tv. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, directed by Marilyn Agrelo goes behind the scenes of how Sesame Street came to fruition. Based upon the best-selling book by Michael Davis, the film captures the essence behind how the show became a cultural phenomenon. The documentary follows the story of the creation of Sesame Street and the Children’s Television Workshop. FUN FACT: The cost to develop the show was a whopping $8 million.
“That she was not considered to run a show that she created because of her gender is surprising,” explained producer, Ellen Crafts.
Joan Ganz Cooney, who was “charming and very persuasive,” was the driving force behind getting Sesame Street off the ground. However, she was told that the show would never be taken seriously if it was led by a woman. Cooney was unfazed by this.
Agrelo expounded that important message that women need to have a seat at the table, “because everything that was true in 1968 is still true to this day.”
The film is a nostalgic journey through never seen before classic archival footage. “We were so lucky to have access to Sesame Street Workshop archives,” Crafts stated. The film depicts the motivation behind the idea of Sesame Street in that it comes from the desire to speak to the community; to show the world the way you want it to be. “…it was so intentional and purposeful. The creators were doing something in response to the civil rights movement…for me, that was very inspiring,” Crafts clarified.
When responding to the quote by Cooney, “together, this gang was a genius,” Agrelo added that it was important that the cast opened up and trusted her, “The cast was talking about the happiest times of their life…I’m glad they opened up.” Their vulnerability, coupled with the honest depiction of the set through treasured archives, makes this film that much more entertaining and sentimental. For those of us who grew up watching Sesame Street, the songs, the characters, the Muppets and most importantly, the messages of racial and gender equality and representing all people, are precious because it is what shaped us. Producer, Ellen Davis added, “It wasn’t just a show. It was a community organizing.”
Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street will be released theatrically and On Demand in Spring 2021.