Don’t Get Lost: Out Of This World Facts About Labyrinth

Labyrinth is a 1986 musical fantasy film following a 16-year-old girl named Sarah who must reach the center of an otherworldly maze in just thirteen hours in order to rescue her infant brother. With a budget of $25 million and a final theatrical gross of $12.9 million, the film was considered to be a box office failure with mixed critical reviews. Today, it has a cult following and is considered by many to be a classic. Be careful what you wish for, and take a look behind the scenes into the wonky world of Labyrinth.

The Script Went Through Several Revisions And Treatments

Connelly running down a hallway
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Before Labyrinth became the classic that many know and love today, the script for the film traded hands, a lot. Illustrator Brian Froud first pitched his idea of a baby surrounded by goblins to Jim Henson after a screening of The Dark Crystal. Jim Henson and Dennis Lee then came up with a story which was given to Monty Python’s Terry Jones and Fraggle Rock’s Laura Phillips, who each wrote a script.

Finally, it was passed on to screenwriter Elaine May did her own revisions to make the characters feel more human. Although the lone screenwriting credits went to Jones, he didn’t feel “very close” to it because his version and the final version were so different.

Author Maurice Sendak Had Some Things To Say About The Film

Connell and creature
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Maurice Sendak, the author of the iconic children’s books Outside Over There and Where the Wild Things Are, wasn’t thrilled about the movie. The plot of Labyrinth was incredibly similar to his story Outside Over There, with some of the audience members even referring to the creatures in the film as “Wild Things.”

Although Sendak’s lawyers advised Henson to halt the production, their warnings did little. As a note to Sendak, in the movie’s credits, it reads, “Jim Henson acknowledges his debt to the works of Maurice Sendak.” Regardless, Sendak complained about it for years.

Baby Toby Followed In His Father’s Footsteps

Baby looking down
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Toby Fraud was the son of the movie’s film designer Brian Fraud and played the kidnapped baby Toby Williams in the film. Ironically, the young Toby would grow up to follow in his father’s footsteps and would go on to be a designer, artist, and puppeteer in films such as Pananorman and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Considering that he was so young when Labyrinth was being filmed, he admits he doesn’t remember much about the experience except for peeing on David Bowie the first time he met him. Not many people can say that!

There Are Hints About The Film Can Be Spotted In Sarah’s Room

Image of Sarah's room
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Several of the movie’s characters are cleverly hidden around Sarah’s room that most people might not pick up on their first watch. There’s a stuffed animal that looks like Sir Didymus on her dresser, a doll that looks like Ludo, bookends similar to Hoggle, and a figurine of Jareth on the side of her desk.

Furthermore, there’s a scrapbook that shows newspaper clippings of an actor who is no other than David Bowie, and the dress she wears at the ball can be seen on a miniature doll. Finally, there’s a wooden maze game on her dresser that is a foreshadowing of the Labyrinth.

Jareth’s Crystal Ball Tricks Are Real

David Bowie will balls
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

The tricks that Jareth does with his crystal balls, such as twirling them in his hands, is no special effect or camera trick. They were actually done by choreographer Michael Moschen, who is also an accomplished juggler.

In those scenes, Moschen was crouched behind Bowie with his arm sticking through Bowie’s armpits. Impressively, he had no screen to see what he was doing, so all the tricks that he was performing were impressively done completely blind.

There Was Strategy To Keep Toby Calm

David Bowie and Toby
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

In the scene when baby Toby is seated on Jareth’s lap, the baby had to be kept under control as Jareth is whispering in his ear. When filming the scene, Toby screamed in so many takes that something had to be figured out in order to keep him quiet.

Luckily, a crew member had a glove puppet on hand. So, during Jareth’s speech, Bowie had the puppet in his off-hand that was out of shot that he distracted the boy with. This resulted in Toby being completely entranced and quiet for the scene.

Two People Had To Work The Ludo Costume

Ludo in Labyrinth
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

After the Ludo rig had finally been constructed, when Henson learned that it weighed over 100 pounds, the director told the Creature Shop to start all over again to make it lighter.

Even after the costume had been modified and brought down to weigh just seventy-five pounds, it was still a monster of a costume. Too heavy for just one person to manage, the suit had to be operated by two different people. Puppeteers Rob Mueck and Rob Mills took turns wearing it.

David Bowie Released Two Music Videos Promoting The Movie

Bowie and Connelly
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Both directed by Steve Barron, David Bowie released two music videos to help promote the film. The first was for the song “As the World Falls Down,” which features clippings of not just the ballroom scene but also ones with Hoggie and Bowie.

The second was “Underground,” which is played during the credits. This music video once again shows clips from the film, especially those in which Bowie is present. Both of these music videos might seem a bit unusual for anyone that hasn’t seen Labyrinth.

Getting The Baby To Cry

Bowie holding Toby
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

While the filmmakers may have had some issues keeping Toby’s attention during shooting, one scene they particularly found difficult involved making him cry. At the beginning of the “Magic Dance” scene, Toby can be seen crying while surrounded by several goblins.

The problem was that the baby wasn’t scared in the least bit by the puppets and the animatronics used. Instead, they had to wait until the baby was tired and needed a nap before they could film the musical number.

The Last Scene Was Altered During Production

Talking through the mirror
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Although the film was initially supposed to have a slightly different ending, it was changed at the last minute during production. Sarah’s final encounter with Ludo, Hoggle, and Sir Didymus was supposed to take place at her bedroom window and not her vanity mirror.

After saying their goodbyes, the creatures were then going to fade away. However, the scene was ultimately changed to what is seen in the final movie for what the filmmakers thought would be a more upbeat resolution.

The Truth About The Worm

The Worm in Labyrinth
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

While it may appear that the worm tricks Sarah and sends her on the wrong path, this may not be the actual case. If this had not happened, Sarah would not have gone through the entire Labyrinth with her friends. It was only with the help of Ludo, Hoggle, and Sir Didymus that Sarah survived the robot guard and the attack on Goblin City.

If she had gone straight into the castle, she most likely wouldn’t have been successful. This is one of the many themes in the film which is that the wrong decision may turn out to be the right one.

Video Games Have Been Made From It

Labyrinth the computer game
Activision
Activision

In 1986, two video games based on the film were released. In the west, Labyrinth: The Computer Game was released for Apple II and Commodore 64. It was the first graphic adventure game released by Lucasfilm Games, which eventually was rebranded as LucasArts in the 1990s.

In Japan, Nintendo and Henson Associates, Inc. released another game titled Labyrinth for the Famicom system. The game is almost completely in Japanese although it was never released in the West. However, there are some unofficial English translations in existence.

A Lot Of Actresses Were Interested In The Role Of Sarah

Connelly in a dress
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

While Labyrinth may not have been Jenniffer Connelly’s first acting role, it certainly was her breakout. Previously she had appeared in Seven Minutes in Heaven and Once Upon a Time in America, which may have helped her land the part.

However, she was not the only actress competing for the role. Other high-profile actresses included Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marisa Tomei, and more. Another actress that came close to the part was Ally Sheedy, a star in The Breakfast Club.

The Case Of The Missing Hoggle

Connelly and Hoggle
Georges De Keerle/Getty Images
Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

Typically, when movies wrap up filming, props, costumes, puppets, whatever was being used to make the film are shipped to a studio for safekeeping or in case they need to be used again or placed on display.

So, after the filming of Labyrinth was complete, the Hoggle puppet was packed up and shipped off. Somehow, during transportation, the package was lost and ended up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, which is a kind of museum that houses such items. The staff knew they found something of note and added it as part of their museum.

Hoggle Took A Lot Of Work To Bring To Life

Connelly and Hoggle
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

One of the most notable characters in Labyrinth is Hoggle, the dwarf that works for The Goblin King Jareth, yet ends up befriending Sarah. While he is voiced by Brian Henson who also performed his mouth puppetry, it took far more people to bring the character to life.

Henson had five other people working simultaneously with him. Little person Shari Weiser worked Hoggle from inside of the costume, while four other people off-screen used remote controls to animate his face.

Jareth Was Designed To Look Like A Rock Star

David Bowie in costume
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Besides being played by David Bowie, the character of Jareth was initially conceived to look like a rock star, although it’s not blatantly stated in the film.

Designer Brian Froud commented, “I gave him a swagger stick. It has a crystal ball. If you look at it, it’s a microphone. There are a lot of subtleties going on in that. He’s supposed to be a young girl’s dream of a rock star.” Froud went on to explain that production also “got in a lot of trouble about maybe how tight his pants were. That was deliberate.”

A Connection To Star Trek

Picture of Gates McFadden
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

There is a similarity between Labyrinth and Star Trek and that is Gates McFadden, who played Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Before working on Star Trek, she worked as “Director of Choreography and Puppet Movement” for Jim Hensen on The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Dark Crystal.

She also handled the choreography on Labyrinth, ensuring that Bowie, Connelly, and all of the actors had their moves perfected before being filmed in front of the camera.

It Was David Bowie Making The Baby Noises

Bowie with an orb
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Although there are many aspects of Labyrinth that make it a classic, one element of the film that doesn’t necessarily hold up is the film’s musical numbers, with none of the songs except those done by Bowie going on to be hits.

One of the film’s most memorable, “Magic Dance” features Bowie singing to a group of monsters and baby Toby who gurgles during the song. Yet, during recording, the baby wasn’t providing the results the filmmakers were looking for, so Bowie took matters into his own hands and made the noises himself.

The Helping Hands Scene Was Dangerous To Shoot

Helping Hands Scene
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

One of the most unforgettable scenes in the film is “Helping Hands,” yet it was not only logistically challenging to film, but also was particularly dangerous for Jennifer Connelly. In the Blu-ray bonus features, it’s explained that the actress was suspended in a harness 40-feet up in the air.

She was then lowered down into a pit of more than one hundred hands wearing latex gloves. However, Connelly had to be careful of her own hands because if they managed to go behind the harness, she had the risk of her fingers being cut off.

Filming Took Place Around The World

The set of the Labyrinth is seen before filming.
theREALmgo/MovieStillsDB
theREALmgo/MovieStillsDB

Labyrinth has a fantastical look that took several locations to achieve. Most of it was filmed at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. However, some of the other scenes were in the United States. The opening shot is in Memorial Park, New York. When Sarah rushes home in the rain, she runs by the Hudson River.

Another set was the West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire. This old house also appeared in The Music Lovers and The Importance of Being Earnest. With good set design and editing, the movie looks like a different world.

Darth Vader Appeared On Set

Darth Vader signs autographs for the cast of Labyrinth.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth/Facebook
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth/Facebook

George Lucas was one of the executive producers of Labyrinth. On the first day, he surprised the cast by bringing Darth Vader. He called it a “good luck card” for Jim Henson’s new movie.

Cast members got some autographs and great pictures before filming. Unfortunately, the “good luck card” didn’t work as intended. The movie only made $12.9 million back from its $25 million budget, making it a box office failure. However, it later became a cult classic with its own set of devoted fans.

The Film Had Mixed Reviews

Jennifer Connelly stands in a forest in this Labyrinth publicity still.
Zayne/MovieStillsDB
Zayne/MovieStillsDB

Critic reviews on Labyrinth ranged from positive to negative to neutral. On the positive side, Roger Hurlburt called it “a fantasy fan’s gourmet delight.” Bruce Bailey praised the movie’s script, bringing up how it pulled from classic fantasy tales and served them in a new way.

Although many people enjoyed the visual style, not all critics agreed. Gene Siskel’s review for the Chicago Tribune said it had a “visually ugly style.” Roger Ebert argued that none of the actions in the film had consequences, robbing it of dramatic tension.

George Lucas Helped To Edit The Movie

George Lucas lounges in a chair.
Jim Wilson/New York Times Co./Getty Images
Jim Wilson/New York Times Co./Getty Images

Along with being an executive producer, George Lucas was also a co-editor. Jim Henson met him when it helped with Yoda’s puppetry in The Empire Strikes Back. On the set, Henson talked to Lucas about a movie idea he had with more advanced puppetry.

For Labyrinth, Henson made the first movie edits before handing it to Lucas. Henson later said that Lucas made more tight cuts on the dialogue. Others who have worked with Lucas said that he is the opposite; he tends to want to keep dialogue.

Jim Henson Thought That It Would Be A Hit

Director Jim Henson directs actors on set of the Labyrinth.
MoviePics1001/MovieStillsDB
MoviePics1001/MovieStillsDB

Jim Henson thought that people would love Labyrinth and was disappointed by the box office result. In an interview with CinemaBlend, his son Brian Henson said that the movie took years and a lot of effort. However, “it was received as too weird.”

If he had been alive still today to see how the gross revenue has consistently performed,” Brian said before trailing off. “It’s turned out to be great success in the long run.” It made less than The Dark Crystal, but remains well-known today.

It Was A Henson Family Affair

Brian Henson poses with a few of his puppets.
Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images
Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

Jim Henson’s family also helped in the making of Labyrinth. His daughter, Cheryl, was a the puppeteer for one of the Fireys. His son, Brian, provided the voice for Hoggle and was one of the four puppeteers for him.

“It’s really weird and interesting and fun to do a character with four other people,” Brian told WABE. “You have to get to this point where you’re almost thinking in sync.” He also said that he designed Hoggle’s voice to be a half-Cockney, “fantasy British” accent.

Toby Froud Hardly Remembers Anything

Jennifer Connelly holds baby Toby.
lindsaylohanslastfan/MovieStillsDB
lindsaylohanslastfan/MovieStillsDB

Toby Froud, Brian Froud’s son who played the baby, is now grown up. Today, he works as a puppeteer himself. During an interview with Portland Monthly, Toby admitted that he remembered very little of Labyrinth. He only knows that he peed on David Bowie.

Toby also said that he wished he had met Bowie after the film. “I grew up a huge fan of his music,” he admitted, “and knowing I sat in his lap!” He said he had “vivid memories” of the goblins’ faces and “chaos around me.”

Jareth’s Armor Had Historical Influence

David Bowie poses as Jareth in Labyrinth.
mdew/MovieStillsDB
mdew/MovieStillsDB

When the audience is introduced to Jareth, he wears glittering armor with leather mail and a cloak. This design was inspired by 15th-century knights’ armor. Solid plate armor began to replace chain mail in the 14th century.

The design is appropriate, considering that much of the film was inspired by Medieval fairytales. Many of the creatures such as fairies and goblins come from Celtic and Norse folklore. Conceptual designer Brian Froud made many sketches of more “modern” fairytale designs and outfits.

Inspiration Came From The Author Maurice Sendak

Author Maurice Sendak poses with a puppet from his book,
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Labyrinth had many influences. One of the main influences was author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. Henson admired Sendak, who wrote Outside Over There and Where the Wild Things Are. In the end credits, a note says, “Jim Henson acknowledges his debt to the works of Maurice Sendak.”

Others have said that the movie was clearly influenced by The Wizard of Oz. Film critic Richard Corliss wrote, “Labyrinth lures a modern Dorothy Gale out of the drab Kansas of real life into a land where the wild things are.”

David Bowie Was Immediately Hooked

David Bowie acts as Jareth in a Labyrinth publicity still.
MoviePics1001/MovieStillsDB
MoviePics1001/MovieStillsDB

Although many musical artists were considered for the role of Jareth, David Bowie seemed to have the most passion for it. “I’d always wanted to be involved in the music-writing aspect of a movie that would appeal to children of all ages,” he said. He added that Henson gave him creative freedom.

“I was pretty hooked from the beginning,” Bowie said. “The script itself was terribly amusing without being vicious or spiteful or bloody, and it had a lot more heart in it than many other special effects movies.”

The King Of Pop Was Considered To Played Jareth

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Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

In the early developments of the film, Jareth, the Goblin King was going to be another non-human character, with one of Jones’ scripts not having him appear until halfway through the movie.

He later received a message from Jim Henson that he wanted Jareth to be played by either Jackson or David Bowie, so the character needed to be in the whole movie, singing. Henson then outlined the movie featuring Bowie, meeting with him several times over two years before finally agreed to take the role.

It Was The First Feature Film To Use A Realistic CGI Animal

A CGI owl appears in the first scene of Labyrinth.
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures

Many have praised the Labyrinth’s visual effects for its set design and puppeteering. But the movie made another feat that many forget. In the opening scene, you see a CGI owl. This is the first realistic CGI animal to appear in a feature movie.

The animation was created by animators Larry Yaeger and Bill Kroyer. It is unclear why Henson desired a CGI owl in the opening while puppets were used for the rest of the film. The CGI company that made the owl, Omnibus, went bankrupt in 1987.

The Fire Gang Scene Was Altered In Post-Production

Fireys surround Sarah in Labyrinth.
yodasimpson/MovieStillsDB
yodasimpson/MovieStillsDB

In the movie, Sarah crosses through the firey forest where she runs into the Fire Gang. The background in this scene had to be added in post-production. During filming, the background was a black velvet cloth that the puppeteers hid behind.

After filming, editors added the forest background. Jim Henson later said that he was unsatisfied with the look of the finished scene. However, he considered the puppetry to be a worthy inclusion despite the background not meeting his expectations.

Toby Froud Recreated “Magic Dance”

Toby Froud re-enacts
RealmofFroud/YouTube
RealmofFroud/YouTube

When David Bowie passed away in 2016, Toby Froud (who played the baby) decided to pay tribute to him. Toby now creates his own films with puppets, and he decided to recreate the “Magic Dance” scene from Labyrinth.

Toby sat in his living room with some friends and puppets that matched the movie. Together, they modeled the scene to remind people of Bowie’s moves. Although Toby never met Bowie as an adult, he deeply admired him throughout life. It shows in his work.

One Of The Puppeteers Did The Muppets Too

Puppeteer Dave Goelz attends an anniversary screening of Labyrinth.
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Labyrinth had many famous puppeteers. One was Dave Goelz, who also worked on The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie. In an interview with SYFY WIRE, Goelz talked about how Labyrinth and Muppets seemed to have “traded places.”

Goelz said that his local theater was replaying these classic movies. The Muppet Movie was a hit when it released, and it had a decent-sized audience. Despite flopping upon its release, “Labyrinth was absolutely a packed house” when it played in theaters later. In Labyrinth, Goelz played Sir Didymus.

Getting The Dog To Cross The Stream Wasn’t Easy

Sir Didymus rides a dog in Labyrinth.
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures

When Sir Didymus entered the film, he rode a real dog across a river. Achieving this was no easy task. In the river, the stones were hydraulically controlled. They allowed the dog and puppet to go underwater and rise back up to be visible.

The real dog wore a harness. He frequently slipped on the stones and had to be rescued by a cable. Meanwhile, the puppet had a radio-controlled head that allowed puppeteers to control him from a distance. It’s amazing that the scene ended up as good as it was.

Ludo Had A Camera Attached To His Horn

Sarah is seen with Ludo in Labyrinth.
yodasimpson/YouTube
yodasimpson/YouTube

Operating Ludo was “a challenge,” according to the production notes. The puppet was also a giant costume that the puppeteers, Ron Mueck and Rob Mills, had to control. On his right horn, there was a camera. The camera connected to two tiny screens inside the puppet’s stomach. The puppeteer used these to see where he was going.

One monitor displayed the camera that was on Ludo’s right horn. The other screen showed what was being filmed by the movie camera. These prevented Ludo from walking into things.

Sarah’s Bed Had Holes

Sarah from Labyrinth sits up in bed.
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures

In the first puppet scene of the movie, Sarah’s room becomes infested with goblins. One goblin crawls under the sheets, disappears, and then emerges. The effect was achieved by pulling a goblin underneath the sheet, and then letting it drop and pulling it behind a dresser.

To pull this off, the set designers had to poke holes throughout Sarah’s bed so that the puppeteers could manipulate the sheets. Essentially, they chopped up the bed and then covered it with sheets to look normal. Pretty smart.

Sarah Landed In A “Forgotten Place”

Sarah and Hoggle have landed in an oubliette.
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures
Labyrinth/TriStar Pictures

In Labyrinth, Sarah fell into a room through a trapped door. Hoggle says that it is an oubliette, and Sarah responds that she doesn’t know what that is. Oubliettes are secret dungeons that can only be entered through a trapped door in the ceiling. In French, the word means “forgotten place.”

Hoggle references this when he says that this is “a place where you put people… to forget about ’em!” It is ironic that they ended up in a “forgotten place” when Sarah told the Helping Hand that she would go down there.

The News Reported On Labyrinth’s Production

Two puppeteers operate Sir Didymus in Labyrinth.
MoviePics1001/MovieStillsDB
MoviePics1001/MovieStillsDB

Labyrinth’s production was covered in many top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Starlog, and Time. Many of these articles focused on the massive scale of the movie, the puppeteering, and the sets. The New York Times said that the movie was more “accessible” than The Dark Crystal since the puppets were played by live actors.

These articles helped to promote the movie before it even finished filming. Unfortunately, they did not affect the box office reception. Reports on the film’s production eventually turned into an hour-long documentary called Inside the Labyrinth.

Labyrinth Had Board And Card Games

A woman plays the Labyrinth board game.
Sylvia T/Pinterest
Meg Williams/Pinterest

Labyrinth had a lot of merchandise that coincided with the movie. One was a board game called Labyrinth the Board Game made by River Horse. It featured miniature models portraying characters from the film. Later, River Horse released a Goblins! Expansion, Fireys! Expansion, and Deluxe Play Pieces.

Under the Jim Henson Collection, the same company released a Labyrinth card game and adventure game. Both were in the style of an RPG. You can still buy these games today; they have remained fairly popular.

A Lifetime Of Playing Big Bird

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David Attie/Getty Images
David Attie/Getty Images

Big Bird is a staple of Sesame Street, and the 8’2″ bird has remained iconic because it’s been played by the same actor since day one. Caroll Spinney had always had a love of puppeteering, so when he met Jim Henson, it was fate. Henson invited him to join the Muppeteers, and eventually Sesame Street, and Spinney hasn’t looked back since.

Surprisingly, it’s hard work being Big Bird! Spinney wears platformed shoes to add extra height, raises his right arm to control the head and mouth, and uses his left arm to control both wings. Since Big Bird isn’t see-through, Spinney has a live-action video screen inside the costume to see what he looks like to the audience.

They Had Some Of The Coolest People Guest Star

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@sesamestreet/Instagram
@sesamestreet/Instagram

Over the years, many celebrities have felt honored to be invited to be a guest on Sesame Street. From Tony Hawk to Michelle Obama, the list goes on and on. The first celebrity to ever guest star on the show was James Earl Jones, and he sang the alphabet. Recently, Lupita N’yongo made headlines by discussing her dark skin tone with the muppets.

Even fictional characters have guest starred on the show, like when the Star Wars characters R2-D2 and C-3PO made it onto the show! The two droids help Big Bird understand numbers, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant. It’s no surprise those two fit right in on Sesame Street!

Kermit Never Came Back After Jim Henson Died

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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson, died unexpectedly on May 16, 1990, of toxic shock syndrome due to bacterial pneumonia. His death shook the world and weeks of tributes followed. Sesame Street chose to honor his legacy by not having Kermit the Frog return to the show.

While Sesame Street would eventually lose the rights to Kermit the Frog anyways, the decision not to have the muppet return was made beforehand. Kermit had always been Henson’s personal and dearest Muppet. Henson had made Kermit out of an old turquoise coat his mother had owned. It began as a lizard and slowly became more frog-like over time, eventually becoming the Kermit we know and love today.

It Was Supposed To Look Like An Inner-City Street

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sesame Street was inspired by the lack of good educational programming on TV at the time. The creators wanted a show that could actually prepare children for school. They discovered that no matter the socio-economic status, 97% of households in America had a television. The producers knew that children that came from a lower socio-economic household needed the most support, so they decided to make the set most recognizable to them.

Their choice has been praised by many for helping create educational equality, but it didn’t work everywhere. Many children who grew up in rural areas recall being confused watching Sesame Street.

Oscar The Grouch Was Orange

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David Attie/Getty Images
David Attie/Getty Images

Oscar the Grouch’s iconic messy, green fur didn’t come until season two. While it’s not known why Henson decided it should change, we’re glad he did! Of course, Sesame Street loves to keep a continuous narrative, so when Oscar showed up green for season two, they told viewers that he went on vacation to the Mushy Muddy swamp and turned green overnight.

Maybe the change of looks even helped him get the girl. In a now-banned episode, the Wicked Witch of the West came to visit and Oscar quickly fell in love. Of course, those two are perfect for each other!

They Didn’t Avoid The Topic Of Death

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@sesamestreet/Instagram
@sesamestreet/Instagram

Although slightly cranky, Mr. Hopper owned the street’s variety store and was one of the most beloved of the four original human cast characters on Sesame Street. Sadly, the actor who played Mr. Hopper, Will Lee, passed away on December 7, 1982. The producers of Sesame Street grappled with what to do. Rather than just avoid the topic and claim Mr. Hopper had retired or moved away, they decided to tell the kids the truth.

Sesame Street brought in child psychologists and experts to advise on the best way to do so. They aired Mr. Hopper’s funeral on a special Thanksgiving Day episode because they hoped the entire family would be watching and parents would be available if kids had any questions. This episode set the standard for how Sesame Street would approach difficult topics in the future.

Elmo Is The Only Non-Human To Testify In Congress

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Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images
Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images

Although Elmo wasn’t introduced as a full character until 1985, he’s been a prominent part of our lives ever since. He has even managed to be the only non-human to ever testify in front of Congress! In 2002, Mr. Elmo Monster went to Washington to urge more research and spending on musical instruments in school programs.

His full testimony can be found online in the United States’ Congress Archives where you can read the moment when the CEO of the International Music Products Association compliments Elmo’s Armani suit. Iconic.

Snuffleupagus Was Originally An Imaginary Character

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@sesamestreet/Instagram
@sesamestreet/Instagram

The only muppet on Sesame Street larger than Big Bird in Snuffleupagus, so it’s not surprising that many of Big Bird’s human friends didn’t believe he could be real. Snuffleupagus was introduced originally as Big Bird’s imaginary friend. He would always leave the scene just before humans entered. But this changed in 1985.

Amid growing concern about pedophilia and child abuse, Sesame Street made Snuffy into a real character. They didn’t want to discourage children from going to their parents in dangerous situations, and they wanted kids to know not to stop telling the truth even if adults don’t believe them.

The Show Has Won TONS Of Awards

awards
Jesse Grant/WireImage/Getty Images
Jesse Grant/WireImage/Getty Images

The show is not just loved by children, but also by critics. As of 2014, Sesame Street holds 167 Emmy Awards and 8 Grammy Awards. Since 2010, the show has won every award it has been nominated for. The staff and cast regularly bring the Muppets along with them to award shows too, which is fine until Cookie Monster tries to eat the Emmy!

The awards don’t end there — Big Bird even has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame!

Ernie’s Song “Rubber Duckie” Hit #16 On The Billboard Charts

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of awards, Ernie’s bathtime song ‘Rubber Duckie” was nominated for a Grammy. In 1970, the song became a hit, even reaching #16 on the “Hot 100 Singles” Billboard chart.

The song was originally performed in 1970 for season one of Sesame Street and has remained popular to this day. The song has been dubbed into many different languages, and in 1974 Ernie himself sang a Latin arrangement of the song. For Sesame Street’s 30th season, they paid tribute to Jim Henson’s original vocals with a new release of the song.

They Have An HIV Positive Muppet

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Peter Kramer/Getty Images
Peter Kramer/Getty Images

The world’s first HIV positive muppet, Kami, has been praised and criticized since her conception in 2002. She was first introduced on Takalani Sesame, the South African production of Sesame Street. At the time of her introduction, HIV affected one in nine people and many of these were children. In South Africa, those struggling with HIV also had to deal with the stigma attached to it, especially if the infected person was female.

Kami has been a face for reducing stigma around HIV. She has appeared at UNICEF events and with the United Nations for World AIDS Day. She has also been in several PSA’s in South Africa and outside, such as with former President Bill Clinton in 2006.

Jim Henson Invented An Interesting Way To Work

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@sesamestreet/Instagram
@sesamestreet/Instagram

When Sesame Street began, they had a unique way of filming. Henson originally envisioned a set that was raised 8-10 feet so that the puppeteers could stand and walk freely with their muppets. He dubbed the trick, “platforming”. If a puppeteer was shorter than their colleague, they wore platform shoes so all muppets could be at the same height.

While this is still used in many parts of the Sesame Street set, if a scene doesn’t require a lot of movement by the muppet, it is shot with the puppeteers sitting down.

Bert And Ernie

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David Attie/Getty Images
David Attie/Getty Images

Since it’s inception, fans have questioned the sexuality of the show’s live-in best friends. Bert and Ernie have been questioned many times and both have denied that they are anything more than best friends. At one point, Bert even said about his roommate, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

The Jim Henson Company, in response to the question that the two muppets are gay, issued a statement saying, “They aren’t gay. They aren’t straight. They aren’t anything. They’re puppets. They don’t exist below the waist.” That’s one way to quickly end a rumor.

Cookie Monster Is The Only Monster With Five Fingers

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@sesamestreet/Instagram
@sesamestreet/Instagram

Half the magic of Sesame Street is that the characters are delightfully not humans. While some have humanlike features, personalities, and characteristics, the “monster” muppet is the furthest from humans. The only monster with five fingers like a human is Cookie Monster, the rest all have four.

While no reason has ever been given to why this is, one can assume it’s so that Cookie Monster can eat cookies quickly and effectively. It probably isn’t easy holding cookies when you don’t have any opposable thumbs. How else can you dip them in milk?

The Newest Muppet Has Autism

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Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for HollyRod Foundation
Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for HollyRod Foundation

Sesame Street’s newest muppet is breaking barriers by being autistic. Julia had been present in many Sesame Street books and publications but was finally brought to the television show in 2017. The show’s producers brought in experts to best educate children, and parents alike, on autism.

In her debut episode, Julia encounters Big Bird, but Big Bird is worried she doesn’t like him. Elmo steps in to let Big Bird know that Julia does like Big Bird, but she has autism so she doesn’t communicate words as quickly or as easily. Once again, Sesame Street won’t shy away from important issues.

It Originally Wasn’t All About The Muppets

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@sesamestreet/Instagram
@sesamestreet/Instagram

When the producers originally envisioned Sesame Street, they weren’t dead set on using muppets. They first tried out puppets as being secondary to humans. Thankfully, this changed after their first screen tests. Producers noticed that the children were very engaged when muppets were on-screen, but quickly became disengaged when it switches back to humans.

They took the data to heart and changed the entire focus of the show. Sesame Street began to instead center on the muppets, and the only humans there were secondary characters who did not hold their own scenes, but only scenes with muppets.

Count Von Count Has The Best Twitter

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Theo Wargo/WireImage for Sesame Workshop
Theo Wargo/WireImage for Sesame Workshop

Count von Count, usually known as the Count, is one of the most iconic characters on Sesame Street. The muppet was based on the fictional character Dracula and helps children learn basic arithmetic. But the Count is not only helping children count, he is helping the entire internet. @CountVonCount joined Twitter in April 2012 and has been counting once a day, every day, and is well over 1000. He even boasts an impressive 63k followers.

Some people believe the Count’s name isn’t just ironic. In some vampire folklore, a way to ward off the attacker is to throw rice, sand, or seeds because vampires will need to count the grains before moving on. Much easier than driving a wooden stake through their heart.

Sesame Street Has Been Reproduced By 34 Countries

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BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images
BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

Sesame Street may have started in America but it quickly grew into a worldwide phenomenon. There are 28 dubbed versions of the American show, and over 34 countries have created their own version of Sesame Street.

While Sesame Street spreads, their values have spread as well. In New Zealand, they inserted the indigenous population Maori language into segments, which at the time was the only outlet for kids to hear Maori on their shows. In Nigeria’s version of the Cookie Monster, it yells “ME WANT YAMS!” because cookies are not commonplace.

Oscar The Grouch Is Based On Real Life

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@sesamestreet/Instagram
@sesamestreet/Instagram

Oscar the Grouch teaches us to be kind to our friends, but it’s no surprise the character was based on real life. The character was inspired by a nasty waiter from a restaurant in New York called Oscar’s Tavern. Carol Spinney (who also plays Big Bird) knew this when he auditioned for the part and also based the voice on real life. Spinney found inspiration from the voice of the cab driver from the Bronx who took him to the audition.

Apparently, Elmo was originally screen tested with a low, scratchy voice as well. Thankfully, Oscar the Grouch got to keep that unique voice.

Pop Culture Loves Sesame Street

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Michael Schamis/Wikipedia
Michael Schamis/Wikipedia

You can’t be the most popular and acclaimed children’s television show without finding your way into all corners of pop culture. Numerous TV shows have parodied or paid tribute to Sesame Street, including American Dad, The Simpsons, Arrested Development, Family Guy, and more.

One of the most popular Broadway musicals, Avenue Q, was a coming-of-age satire of Sesame Street. Four of the original puppeteers for the musical were actually former Sesame Street performers and three of the main puppets in the show are parodies of Sesame Streetmuppets.