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Elmo

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Performer:
Kevin Clash • (1985 - 2012)
Ryan Dillon • (2013 - present)
Elmo-elmo-elmo
Design Team:
Caroly Wilcox • (designer)
Elmoearlyportrait

Elmo is a furry red Muppet monster with an orange nose. He is self-described as 3-and-a-half years old, and refers to himself almost entirely in the third person. The character proved to be immensely popular with toddlers that in 1998, he was given his own full segment on Sesame Street, called "Elmo's World." Starting in season 43, a new Elmo-centered segment titled "Elmo the Musical" airs in its place.

Character background

Elmo Family
Elmo with his mom and dad.

Elmo lives in an apartment on Sesame Street with his mother Mae, his father Louie, and, in some storybooks, a sister named Daisy. He has a pet goldfish named Dorothy.

Other relatives in Elmo's family include his grandma and grandpa; his great-grandmother (featured in a 1989 episode) and his great-grandfather (named Selmo); his Uncle Jack, Aunt Jill and cousin Jesse (featured in When Families Grieve); plus additional cousins Elmer (featured in Kids' Favorite Country Songs) and Chester (featured in Here For You). Additionally, the television special Sesame Street Stays Up Late shows Elmo's "international" cousins — Pepé from Mexico and Elmonosukefrom Japan .

Elmo's early childhood has been shown with Elmo as a 13-month-old infant in the Sesame Beginnings video series, and in flashbacks shown in Elmo's Potty Time and "Bye Bye Binky."

According to a Q&A video, his favorite food is wasabi; that's why he has no eyelids. This has been reaffirmed on Rove Live and in other interviews.[1] along with the Muppet bios published in several Sesame Workshop press kits.[2] In 2000, Elmo told Donnie and Marie Osmond that his mother and father tell him to never "hate" any food, but he makes an exception for Brussels sprouts, Marie decided to taunt him with a bowl of them. Brussels sprouts have often been listed among Elmo's pet peeves in press kit bios.[3]

As with many children of his age, Elmo is seen somewhat infrequently with a favorite toy of his: an orange monster-like doll named Baby David. In the film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Elmo is devoted to his blue blanket, Blanket

Elmo's birthday is February 3rd.

Sesame Workshop describes the character as:

Elmo is a 3½-year-old red monster with a high pitched voice and a contagious giggle. Enthusiastic, friendly and cheerful, he always wants to be part of everything that goes on. However, like most preschoolers, he sometimes doesn't have the skills or knowledge to do what he wants. But that never stops him because he has a very positive, optimistic view of himself and life. Elmo's best friends are Zoe and Abby, and also his pet goldfish Dorothy. Elmo loves eating his favorite food, wasabi. He also loves riding on his tricycle and being tickled.[4]

Origins

FirstElmoSketch
The first sketches of Elmo, by Caroly Wilcox, reveal that he was initially intended to have a wider face, in comparison to the other monster pictured (Kermit the Forg).

The puppet that would eventually become Elmo was designed in 1979 by Caroly Wilcox.[5][6] Intended as a background monster, he appeared as an extra in several sketches and, for a time, had no consistent performer. Elmo first appeared on Sesame Street specifically as "Elmo" in Season 12 where he was performed by Brian Muehl. The character was originally conceived as one who would communicate with sounds rather than words.[7][8]

After Muehl's departure in 1984, the character was briefly re-cast to Richard Hunt, who performed Elmo with a gruff caveman voice and a rowdy persona. Hunt was not comfortable with performing Elmo, and felt the character was not working. One day, frustrated with the role, Hunt came into the show's green room and literally tossed the puppet to Kevin Clash and asked what he could get out of it.[9] Clash gave Elmo his recognizable falsetto, and while trying to find a "hook" for the character, decided that Elmo should embody love. Clash said, "I knew that Elmo should represent love - just kissing and hugging."[10] Clash cites a season 17 scene in which Elmo packs for an imaginary vacation as the moment when he "found his voice" as Elmo.[11] Writer David Korr took a liking to the character, and backed up with positive research, started utilizing Elmo regularly.[9]

Popularity

Rosie.elmo
Elmo with Rosie O'Donnell in Elmopalooza.

Elmo appeared in a 1991 episode of The Torkelsons and had occasional guest spots on The Frugal Gourmet. In the mid-1990s, Elmo become a regular guest on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, appearing more than a dozen times between 1996 and 2002. The Tickle Me Elmo doll was manufactured in his likeness, and became the must-have toy during the 1996 Christmas season; and subsequent variations and other Elmo dolls (such as Chicken Dance Elmo, Let's Rock! Elmo, Elmo Live, and Big Hugs Elmo) have also been successful.

Elmo has also been prominently featured in many home videos including Elmo's Sing-Along Guessing Game, Elmo Says BOO!, Elmo's Magic Cookbook, and Elmo's Potty Time, and has starred in many television specials such as Elmopalooza, Elmo Saves Christmas, The Street We Live On and Elmo's Christmas Countdown. Additionally, Elmo was the star of the 1999 full-length, theatrically released motion picture The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.

In 1994, Elmo had a "Best of" video released; a sequel, The Best of Elmo 2, was released in 2010. A "Best of" album was also released in 1997.

He stars in the recurring Sesame Street segments Elmo's World and Elmo: The Musical. Additionally, he has performed such songs as "Elmo's Song," "Happy Tappin' with Elmo," "In Your Imagination," "Elmo's Rap Alphabet," "Elmo's Ducks," and "The Elmo Slide."

Kermit Love felt he knew part of the character's reason for success: "Elmo is popular because Elmo is red."[12]

Elmo's CinderElmo co-star French Stewart lists the three year old monster's acting talents behind only Pacino, Brando and Streep, while Oliver Platt says he is a "giving actor."[13]

Third-person speech

TSWLO-12
Elmo's World

Elmo characteristically avoids pronouns, referring to himself in the third person (e.g. "Elmo has a question" rather than, "I have a question"). In its FAQ on its website, Sesame Workshop responded to the allegation that Elmo referring to himself in the third person will teach children improper English, stating that:

Elmo mimics the behavior of many preschoolers. Like 3-year-olds, he doesn’t always have the skills or knowledge to speak proper English. Cast members and many of the other Muppets, however, do demonstrate proper usage of the English language.[14]

While Elmo almost always speaks in third-person. On a few occasions, Elmo's dialogue has broken this rule such as in song or via indirect comments. When appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Elmo sang a few lines of a Jennifer Hudson song, only after realizing he sang the word "me".

At the Muppets, Music & Magic event at The Cinema Arts Centre in August 2007, Elmo joked that the reason he speaks in the third person is that he gets paid for each time he says "Elmo."

Elmo tweeted about his third person speaking in March 2010; "Someone just told Elmo yesterday was Talk in Third Person Day. Elmo doesn't know what that is but it sounds fun. Can Elmo play?"

At The Paley Center for Media screening of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, a member of the audience asked him why he spoke in third person. Elmo (after jokingly threatening the audience member) replied that "it's just the way Elmo talks."

Behind the scenes

Kevin-Clash-Elmo
Kevin Clash with Elmo

In 2011, there were either eight or nine different Elmo puppets.[15] Kevin Clash told Channel Newsasia that "this one [on my lap] is rodded. There's a full radio-controlled Elmo, there's one for the blue screen, etc. They do different things."[16] In later years, there has been a live-hand variant of Elmo, used in episodes like episode 4206 and specials like Elmo's World: Happy Holidays!

Additionally, dozens of Elmo variants have been created by the Muppet Workshop (now, Jim Henson's Creature Shop) almost exclusively for use in the Tickle Me Land segments of Elmo's World as figments of Dorothy's imagination. These creations build on the basic premise of the Elmo puppet, to create a unique design which displays a variation of Elmo as anything from a rock to an elephant, to even a male doctor and female nurse.

After Clash's departure

Ryandillonelmo
Ryan Dillon with Elmo

Kevin Clash's tenure as the character ended in 2012 following his resignation from Sesame Workshop. Portions of season 44 had already been filmed prior to Clash's departure, and so material featuring Clash as Elmo has been featured throughout the 2013-2014 season of Sesame Street.

Clash also filmed an Elmo appearance for the special Michael Bublé: Home for the Holidays, recorded Elmo's vocals for the 2012 Macy's Parade and for the Big Hugs Elmo doll released in 2013. Clash's last known public performance of Elmo was during a radio interview with WNYC on October 30, 2012 (twenty days before his official resignation from Sesame Workshop).

In a statement regarding Clash's departure, Sesame Workshop stated: "Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years."[17]

Ryan Dillon has since taken over the character. Dillon first appeared publicly as Elmo at the White House Easter Egg Roll in April 2013 and has continued to perform the character for multiple segments in season 44, as well as for several other productions, including videos, television guest spots, live appearances, and voice-overs.

Immediately following Clash's departure, Peter Linz voiced the character for a recording commissioned for a walk-around version of Elmo for an event at Universal Studios Singapore, however, Linz stated the recording was a one-time performance.[18][19]

Casting History

Primary Performers

Other Performers

Trivia

Tickle me elmo box
  • On Big Bag, he made a guest appearance in one episode, as Chelli's pen-pal.
  • Elmo's earliest illustrated appearance was in The Sesame Street Circus of Opposites.
  • For the 2005/2006 season, Sesamstraat moved into new scenery. The scenery was introduced with a TV special. Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster and Elmo flew over to Holland for this special occasion. It was the first time the American characters visited the Dutch street.
  • The meaning of life to Elmo? He stated that: "Um, the meaning of life for Elmo is respecting your elders by saying Mr. And Ms. and saying thank you and also giving lots of loves and kisses. That's the meaning of life for Elmo."[20]
  • He is 24 inches tall, when measured in 2011 by guest Drew Brees.[21]
  • At a screening of Being Elmo at the Museum of the Moving Image, Elmo was asked what it was like to work with Richard Hunt, to huge response from the audience. He recollected "It was TORTURE! ...Elmo doesn't like opera! Elmo doesn't like tuna fish sandwiches and Schweppes Ginger Ale. Elmo doesn't like any of those things! But for some reason, when he was working Elmo, Elmo was motivated to love those things."[1]
  • An Elmo cameo was written for The Muppets, but both Jason Segel and Nick Stoller explained that it would've been too expensive.[22][23]

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Kevin Clash with Elmo at 'Being Elmo' Screening September 25, 2011
  2. Season 41, Season 42, Season 43, Season 44
  3. Press Kits: Season 40, Season 41, Season 42
  4. Sesameworkshop.org: Season 44 Press Kit
  5. Falk, Karen. Imagination Illustrated. p. 180
  6. Borgenicht, David. Sesame Street Unpaved. p. 85
  7. Season 12 Press Kit, CTW Archives
  8. Adrian Slifka, The Youngstown Vindicator: "New Muppets' Gang to Brighten 12th Season of 'Sesame Street'" - November 23, 1980
  9. 9.0 9.1 Wisconsin Public Television podcast
  10. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
  11. 40 Years of Sunny Days
  12. Annie Evans, "The Elmo Phenomenon", Sesame Family Robinson, 27 February 2011.
  13. CinderElmo bonus features
  14. Sesame Workshop FAQ
  15. Being Elmo Q&A session feature on DVD
  16. Elisa Chia, "Meet the grown-up behind Elmo", 31 July 2006.
  17. Sesame Workshop's Statement Regarding Kevin Clash
  18. (YouTube)
  19. Peter Linz's Facebook page
  20. Ask Elmo.
  21. Measure, Word of the Day segment, Sesame Street.
  22. Exclusive: On the Set of the New Muppets Movie, Stein, Joel, Time
  23. Jason Segel Says New Muppet Character Walter 'Was Born In My Brain', Ryan Seacrest.com

See also

Start a Discussion Discussions about Elmo

  • Elmo's Debut Year

    2 messages
    • I had been meaning to bring this up for a while. I've noticed there are several conflicting sources concerning when Elmo first appeared. Car...
    • I agree. The current page says "The puppet, designed by Caroly Wilcox, that would eventually become Elmo had been used on Sesame Street since ...
  • Clash's last performance as Elmo?

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    • Just noting as a general statement that this is not the place to discuss/delve into peoples' personal lives. The question to this thread ...

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