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THE NEIGHBORHOOD ARCHIVE - All Things Mister Rogers

Sesame Street

Although Mister Rogers only physically visited Sesame Street once, his name was mentioned multiple times on the program as the two children's shows co-existed and complimented each other on PBS throughout the years.


Mister Rogers Visits Sesame Street

On May 22, 1981, the season finale of Sesame Street featured a storyline where Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus were preparing to have a race. When no one was able to judge the contest, Big Bird turned to a man from a different neighborhood for assistance.

 

Muppet Wiki describes the scenes of Episode 1575 of Sesame Street as follows:[1]

Big Bird passes by a man standing in front of Hooper's Store [and] wonders, "Where have I seen that face before?"

Big Bird announces to everyone at Hooper's that he's preparing to have a race with Snuffy, but since everyone thinks Snuffy is imaginary, he can't find anyone to judge the race -- especially on such a hot day. Luckily, the man in front of the store is willing to oblige.

Big Bird gives Snuffy the low-down on the race, and they go for it. Since Snuffy is so slow, however, Big Bird ends up finishing before him.

Big Bird suddenly fears that he may have hurt Snuffy's feelings by finishing before him. The man sees the issue from both sides, but points out that Big Bird can still be Snuffy's friend. Just then, the man has to leave, and it is at that point where Big Bird finds out who he was just talking to: Fred Rogers!

Snuffy comes to the finish line, and tells Big Bird that he doesn't feel bad for finishing last, because he knows that he and Big Bird are still friends. However, he doesn't believe Big Bird when he hears that Mr. Rogers judged the race. This upsets Big Bird. He laments to Maria, "It was the most exciting day of my life, and I don't want to talk about it!"

[Later in the episode] Mr. Rogers comes to visit Big Bird at his nest. Big Bird wonders if Mr. Rogers is really here, because no one believed him before. Mr. Rogers observes that sometimes it's hard to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and suggests that they both pretend some more. Big Bird imagines a teddy bear riding a race car, and realizes that he can't touch him - except in his imagination. Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, is real. They both share a hug.


Big Bird Visits Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Episode 1483 of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired on June 3, 1981 with Big Bird paying a visit to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

 

According to the description of this episode found here on the Neighborhood Archive:

In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, Henrietta is still jealous of Big Bird as he arrives to submit his drawing for the Draw the Neighborhood Contest. After talking with Big Bird, however, Henrietta realizes that she and X will always be friends. Meanwhile, Lady Elaine is still trying to find a way to underhandedly win the contest as she tells Big Bird that his drawing excedes the size limit for the contest.

The Make-Believe Controversy

In deciding the capacity in which Big Bird would visit Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, a difference in philosophy arose between Fred Rogers and Carol Spinney, the man inside the Big Bird costume. Again, according to Muppet Wiki:[2]

Caroll Spinney agreed to appear in the episode as Big Bird after some dialogue with Fred Rogers; when Spinney originally received the script for the show he saw it required him to remove the costume and discuss the inner-workings of the Big Bird puppet. Spinney protested, as he didn't believe in ruining the illusion of Big Bird for the children. Rogers agreed, but only under the stipulation that Big Bird’s appearance was restricted to the fantasy segments of the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe," as he didn’t believe in perpetuating the deceitful blur of real and pretend to children that occurred when presenting the character as real in the "real world."

While Sesame Street Unpaved mentions that Rogers understood Spinney's concern over showing the children how Big Bird works, Spinney said at some of his book signings (promoting his autobiography, The Wisdom of Big Bird) that he and Fred Rogers argued over the phone for roughly twenty minutes over whether or not to have him tell the kids how he performs Big Bird.

In the same episode, Rogers still throws a disguised punch back at Spinney by putting on a tall giraffe costume shortly before Big Bird's appearance, stating to the child viewer "When you see big make-believe creatures in parades or in plays or on television, you can know that the people inside are just pretending to be something else." He adds "There are people inside. Sometimes of course there are machines inside of them too, that make them move. But they're just pretend. Just pretend."

The Big Bird Species Debate

Among fans of Sesame Street and other Muppet creations of Jim Henson, a debate exists surrounding the true species of Big Bird. This highly debated topic has pinpointed him as everything from a bizarre chicken to a large canary.[3] According to some sources, Big Bird's appearance in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe is one of the few instances where this debate has been somewhat settled.

The 1998 book Sesame Street Unpaved lists Big Bird's "scientific name" as "bigus canarius" (big canary)[4] but on Episode 1483 of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Big Bird himself provides conflicting information. In conversations with X the Owl, Big Bird says that he is a "golden condour" and later tells King Friday XIII that he is "like a condour."[5]


Other Mentions of Mister Rogers on Sesame Street

Bert Writes to Mister Rogers

Episode 0573 (1974) features a sketch where Bert is attempting to write a letter to Mister Rogers and is bothered by Ernie's use of an electric fan.[6]

The Fairy Balloon Person

In Episode 4088 (2005), Snuffy wishes he could float like a cloud and is greeted by the Fairy Balloon Person played by Richard Kind.[7]

After providing Snuffy with enough balloons to carry him into the sky, the Fairy Balloon Person hears a short musical jingle and a the following dialogue takes place:

[jingle]
Fairy Balloon Person: "Uh oh. I hear a wish."
[jingle]
Fairy Balloon Person: "Somebody in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood wants a balloon. I bet it's a beautiful day there!"

Big Bird Discovers the Orchestra

On the Sesame Street record Big Bird Discovers the Orchestra, the orchestra goes missing and Big Bird decides to help find it despite the fact that "it was time for Mister Rogers."


Photographs

  


Notes


References

  1. Sesame Street Episode 1575. Muppet Wiki. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  2. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Muppet Wiki. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  3. "Big Bird’s Species Still Source for Debate". BirdChannel.com. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  4. Sesame Street Unpaved. Hyperion Books. 1998.
  5. Sesame Street Episode 1483. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
  6. Sesame Street Episode 0573. Muppet Wiki. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  7. Sesame Street Episode 4088. Muppet Wiki. Retrieved 17 April 2014.

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