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Posts Tagged ‘Muppets’

Meet the ‘Sesame Street’ Crisis Response Team

Sesame Street courtesy of The Sesame WorkshopThis week’s New York Magazine includes an intriguing profile of a crisis response team that’s been in the news quite a bit lately: the PR group representing Sesame Street puppetmasters The Sesame Workshop. The profile seems even more relevant given the ongoing Elmo-related drama that culminated in puppeteer Kevin Clash’s abrupt resignation this morning.

Protecting the interests of Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the press-averse Snuffleupagus seems like a fairly low-risk job, but Sesame Street deals with more PR challenges than you’d expect–even if we leave out the Elmo kerfuffle. Day-to-day crises range from longtime fans’ “sellout” accusations to a multitude of unlicensed usage cases involving trademarked and extremely valuable characters.

This year, for example, the team had to do its best to “clamp down on” a glut of sexy Big Bird costumes—and we didn’t even mention the Change.org petition demanding that the company force Bert and Ernie out of the closet. Must have been hard to write a serious press release about that one.

Ironically or not (depending on your political sensibilities), the team’s leader is whip-smart Sherrie Rollins Westin, a veteran of the George H.W. Bush White House and former wife of longtime Republican strategist Ed Rollins (who briefly managed Michele Bachman‘s amazing 2012 presidential campaign). The team also includes former Newsweek CEO Tom Ascheim and Myung Kang-Huneke, who previously represented the New York City Housing Authority (an organization that’s perpetually defending itself against lawsuits). In other words, these guys do NOT mess around.

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Good News: Elmo Sells Fruit!

Today in The Positive Power of Branding News: findings from a recent Cornell University branding study caught our eye as a rare point of light among the usual thread of negative news. Why? Because researchers seem to have discovered, at long last, a way to convince kids to eat their fruits (if not their vegetables).

When given a choice, a 10-year-olds will always pick a cookie over an apple, right? Well, this nugget of common knowledge is no match for the power of branding fueled by a little of that Muppets magic.

The study in question involved more than 200 boys and girls of various backgrounds aged 8 to 11. On each day of a given week, after each child selected a lunch option, they were given a choice of either a cookie or an apple for an after-meal “dessert.” Here’s where the researchers played with the kids’ minds: On alternating days, they placed an Elmo sticker on each item. They also measured the results when the sticker bore an unfamiliar character and when neither item included a sticker.

Their findings were a little shocking: Kids were twice as likely to pick the apple over the cookie if it had Elmo’s image on it. What’s more, the Muppet didn’t make the cookie any more appealing–and the unknown character made no difference at all.

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Ben Folds Five Revives Career via ‘Fraggle Rock’

If you were a child in the 80′s, you probably spent many a half-hour TV block “dancing your cares away” with the lovable inhabitants of an underground world called Fraggle Rock. And if you were a fan of alternative rock in the 90′s (as many 80′s babies were), you may have shared the pain of a dramatic breakup with Ben Folds Five while listening to “Brick.” Since then, if you’re anything like me, you’ve deeply missed both the Muppets and the band during their long hiatuses. Fret no more, fellow “silly creatures”; they’re baaa-aaaaack! Both of them. Together!

To promote the release of The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind (their first album in 13 years), Ben Folds Five has released a music video for the single, “Do It Anyway,” that features the familiar, fuzzy cast of Jim Henson characters.

Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick, who helped make it all happen, said:

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RIP Jerry Nelson, aka The Count

The entertainment world lost one of its little-known leading lights today when longtime voice actor and puppeteer Jerry Nelson passed at the age of 78. While Nelson played a variety of roles during his 40-year stint with the Sesame Street/Muppets brand, he will always be best known as The Count–a lifelong bachelor and professional mathematician who rarely left the house without his popped-collar cape, deep black goatee and Transylvanian accent.

Here we see the very first appearance of The Count (official name: The Count of Count), who made his on-screen debut in 1972 helping Cookie Monster figure out how many sugary treats he had on hand (this was well before the blue man turned to broccoli and bean sprouts):

Rest in peace, Jerry. You had a great run.