The 8 Best Animated Sesame Street Characters

By Steven Romano in Daily Lists, Puppets, TV
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Nestled in the heart of New York City is the fictional community of Sesame Street: a cultural melting pot where human and felt-skinned citizens come together to sing the praises of rudimentary math and reading skills. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the more warmblooded residents trying to keep pace with their Muppet neighbors' excessive enthusiasm over learning to count and spell, the television program's true yet unsung heroes go sorely unnoticed. Born of ink, paint or other artistic mediums, Sesame Street's animated denizens are the workhorses of the series, their segments filling in the voids between those of their corporeal counterparts for the past 44 years. There were many animated characters to be had, but very few were recurring fixtures or charismatic enough to ride the nostalgia wave of one appearance. It's time to give some credit where credit is due with eight of the best.

8) Sign Man

Sign Man resides in a dystopian world not to far removed from our own, one in which horrendous typos are of the norm and remain unchanged. Suffice it to say that he lives in a Grammar Nazi's very description of Hell. Outwardly rebelling against his society's flippant disregard for proper spelling, Sign Man relied on his inhuman ability to bend the fabric of reality and alter the letters of the word itself, standing back to admire his godlike handiwork. We haven't seen much of the guy in Sesame Street's more recent years, but that isn't to say Sign Man's editorial skills wouldn't be of use in modern times, especially given the practical slaughter of the English language thanks in part to the Internet. With him in charge, the worldwide web would be a more peaceful, well-spoken place.




7) The Bellhop

He may have had very poor short-term memory, been mathematically challenged and unable to perform more than one task at the same time, but the Bellhop was able to keep the five-star hotel he called his place of work humming, typically at the cost of self-injury or pissing off the guests as a result of his sheer clumsiness. It was a thankless occupation to say the least, yet the Bellhop maintained his being the living embodiment of the adage "carpe diem." To be fair, though, he may be keeping up with the chipper pretense for the sake of his job, as the cartoon's overall design suggests that the Bellhop's trials and tribulations take place during 1930s America - a time when the economy swan-dived straight into the shitter. So of course anybody would be grateful to have some shred of employment, even if it involves hauling people's luggage around like a pack mule and getting beaten by fat children with disciplinary problems.

6) The King of Eight

The King of Eight appeared in only one animated segment on Sesame Street - there's only so many things Jim Henson could have done with the number eight - yet he has proven to be one of the most iconic animated characters in the series' run. Nevertheless, the segment's fairy-tale whimsy clouds its subtextual commentary on medieval tyranny. According to the King of Eight, everything must be eight in accordance with his deranged fetish for the number in question. With a tenuous defense composed of eight knights and, we can only assume, entire villages of peasants fed up living under the thumb of a madman, the Kingdom of Eight is ripe for conquest or bloody social upheaval, whichever of the two happens to come first. Even worse is imagining what he has planned for his wife and unwanted daughter number nine (the venomous disdain is unnervingly palpable in the king's voice). They'll likely be locked away within the Tower of Eight as punishment for failing to recognize that eight is great, if the king does say so himself (hey, there's a reason this very list is the length it is).

5) The Bridgekeeper

In spite of more conventional and less hazardous structures designed to span across gaping chasms, the Bridgekeeper hasn't let modern design stop him from judging whether one is worthy of gaining access to his shaky rope bridge; really, it screams lawsuit waiting to happen. While most in his line of work would ask for monetary payment or quiz them on their expertise of swallow aerodynamics, the Bridgekeeper asks - nay, commands - that prospective travelers identify shapes of his choosing. It's by no means a difficult task as anyone, including drunken slobs delivering groceries (what grocery store chain even considers setting up shop in what can only be described as Mordor?) proves more than capable of meeting the Bridgekeeper's expectations. Throwing in another relevant Lord of the Rings joke for good measure, Gandalf should have distracted the Balrog by asking him to identify a complex shape like, say, a rhombus. That's a ten minute window of opportunity to run right there.

4) Batman and Robin

The Electric Company may pride itself as counting a mute Spider-Man among its various guest stars, but Sesame Street gets the bragging rights for having both Batman and Robin appear in two segments a few years before Spidey's edutainment debut. Plus, the Dynamic Duo were capable of speech, so that really does have to count for something. Since Sesame Street was a series geared toward preschoolers, there was no way in hell the network censors at PBS were going to allow Batman and Robin to break the jaws and shatter the bones of perps, so this forced the people behind the segments to get creative, even though the end result was still pretty violent. In one such segment, Batman schools Robin on different prepositions... by knocking a criminal out cold with a well-aimed batarang to the head. In another, the Joker gets creamed by a car, goes flying into an open manhole and plummets - feet first - onto the hard concrete below. Logically, he shouldn't even be walking - let alone alive - but, no, there he is standing upright and hauled off to Arkham with a new appreciation for traffic safety. In the next installment, Dr. Hugo Strange gives the kiddies at home a crash course in the varying degrees of human psychosis.


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