The documentary, “Street Gang; How We Got To Sesame Street” premiered at Virtual Sundance 2021 and is being released in theatres April 23. Here’s Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review.
Directed by Marilyn Agrelo (“Mad Hot Ballroom”) and inspired by Michael Davis’ New York Times bestseller, this documentary chronicles the birth and evolution of the beloved children’s program Sesame Street.
In 1969, this pioneering show literally invented ‘educational programming’ and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. I was too old to have grown up with it and didn’t have kids to watch it with, yet I, and just about every other Baby Boomer could list the names of the charming characters roaming this famous street.
In addition to the intentionally diverse real people cast from Bob to Uncle Wally, celebrity guests including athletes, actors, musicians, even politicians make appearances. However, it is Jim Henson’s Muppet cast of Bert & Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Big Bird, Mr Snuffleupagus and many more who upstage just about anyone.
The real magic came from the insightful minds and passionate hearts of the educators, creators, artists and writers who worked as a team to produce one of the most impactful programs in the history of television.
By the 1960's, 12 million children under age 6 were watching 3-5 hours of TV per day. Little, if any of it, could be considered quality programming. Most of it used addictive and manipulative marketing strategies to sell things, even to the very young audience.
It was clear to anyone paying attention that educational gaps existed between various groups of children which were getting worse over time. TV producer Joan Ganz Cooney was one of those people. She partnered with Lloyd Morriestte of the Carnegie Corporation with the goal of taking those “addictive” qualities of TV and using the power for good; such as helping young children become more prepared for school. They put together an incredible producing team. Jon Stone was responsible for writing, casting and format. David Connell did animation and volume. Samuel Gibbon was the show’s liaison between the production staff and research team.
Through interviews and vintage footage we learn about the process and success of this wonderful teaching tool and its progressive ideas.
"Street Gang; How We Got To Sesame Street" is rated PG and runs 1 hour and 47 entertaining and educational minutes. It will be screened in-person at the Santy Auditorium by Park City Film May 21-23. This is Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review. See you at the movies!