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Numerosity

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1weddingcake
Music by Joe Raposo
Lyrics by Jim Henson
Date 1969
Publisher Instructional Children's Music Inc.
Stage Harbor Publishing, Inc.
Jonico Music, Inc.
Individual Films:
Numerosity 1
Numerosity 2
Numerosity 3
Numerosity 4
Numerosity 5
Numerosity 6
Numerosity 7
Numerosity 8
Numerosity 9
Numerosity 10

In 1969, for the first season of Sesame Street, Jim Henson produced and directed a series of live-action short films teaching numbers. Ten segments were produced, for the numbers 1 through 10. The shorts were highlighted by the use of animated graphics, supplied by Henson, and a song, performed by the Kids. The films were shot from June 2-June 6, 1969.[1]

Henson labeled his March 1969 storyboards for the project as Numerosity, however CTW would invoice the films under the labels "Henson 10" (or whichever number was featured).[2] As such, internal CTW document refers to the segments as, for example, "Henson #10",[3] and the Sesame Street Old School DVD chapter menu refers to one segments in a similar fashion. The music for each film was individually registered with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers as, for example, "Ten Song (Song of Ten)." The series has also been referred to as "'The Baker' films"[4] or "baker segments"[5] due to the presence of a baker as the final gag in each film.

Each film opened with an animated sequence where kids counted up to 10 and then back to 1. Another animated sequence followed, as children would count to the specific number, in choral voice over, while animated numbers zoomed around the screen.

After the segment's number was announced, several human characters, ranging from jugglers to professors, would use different objects to demonstrate the number. Finally, a baker (laden with that segment's number of desserts) would melodically announce the confection... and immediately tumble down a flight of stairs, spilling the desserts. Jim Henson provided the voice of the baker, while stuntman Alex Stevens played the character on screen.[6] Different child actors were used, including Brian Henson in several entries (1, 3, 5, 7-10; most often counting coins) and John Henson rang ten bells (replacing brother Brian and ten little Indians). Saralou Cooper was the only actress used, appearing in entries for 2, 3, and 5.

In addition to the opening song and the baker, the most notable recurring sequence in these segments was a man opening a door with a question mark on it, revealing animals (two turtles, three crocodiles, four fish, etc.)

In 1970, the New York Times Magazine reported on Joan Ganz Cooney's distaste for the baker's fall at the end of the segment: "'I don't like it,' Mrs. Cooney says flatly of the pratfall finale. 'Banana-peel humor is male and it's from age 4 on. Younger children -- 2-year-olds, say -- think he's hurt.' Then why does the guy stay? 'The show,' said Mrs. Cooney, 'is definitely male-oriented.'"[7] The films were eventually taken off the show for being deemed too violent.[1]

"One Song (Song of One)"

(EKA: Episode 0086)

The original script for this segment indicates that an eye and an elephant were also to be counted with the penny, bird, and belly button, but were replaced by a wind-up toy and a cow in the final film. This is the least aired of the series due to the small amount of Sesame Street episodes in the early years that were sponsored by the number 1.

Releases:

"Two Song (Song of Two)"

(First: Episode 0001)

This segment appeared in the first test show and in the debut episode of Sesame Street.

Releases:

"Three Song (Song of Three)"

(First: Episode 0001)

Jim Henson makes an on-screen cameo as a juggler; and Brian Henson appears counting three peas. This segment was also included in the second test show and was featured in the documentaries The World of Jim Henson, Sesame Street Unpaved and A&E Biography: Sesame Street.

Releases:

"Four Song (Song of Four)"

(First: Episode 0006)

Some of the wind-up toys were used again in the #10 film.

Releases:

"Five Song (Song of Five)"

(First: Episode 0006)

Brian Henson appears as the boy counting five dimes. Five early Muppet monsters—Beautiful Day Monster, Thudge, Gleep (an early version of Grover), Flute-Snatcher, and Snork—appear to a man who discovers them and exclaims "five... whatever they are!" (the scene was cut from audio releases of the song). The version of the song that was included on The Sesame Street Book & Record included five horns, five dogs and five coconuts. The song was re-released on Songs from the Street and the music and lyrics were published in the 1971 edition of The Sesame Street Songbook. The "five fancy fruit cakes" sequence also appears in On My Way to Sesame Street movie viewer cartridge.

Releases:

"Six Song (Song of Six)"

(First: Episode 0011)

The girl in the third counting scene calls the six bats "six flying things".

Releases:

"Seven Song (Song of Seven)"

(First: Episode 0011)

The segment was featured in the This Way to Sesame Street promotional special. Brian Henson appears as the boy counting seven nickles.

Releases:

"Eight Song (Song of Eight)"

(First: Episode 0016)

Brian Henson appears as the kid who says "8 ping-pong balls."

Releases:

"Nine Song (Song of Nine)"

(First: Episode 0016)

Rowlf the Dog makes a rare Sesame Street cameo in this film; and Brian Henson appears counting nine quarters.

Releases:

"Ten Song (Song of Ten)"

(First: Episode 0021)

Sometime after its first broadcast, the "ten little Indians" (featuring Brian Henson) was replaced with "ten bells" (featuring John Henson). The segment was reviewed by Oscar the Grouch and Telly Monster (and imitated by Ernie) in a Sneak Peek Previews sketch and was also featured in The Street We Live On (with new sound effects). Pictures and dialogue of the segment were included in the book Sesame Street Unpaved.

Releases:

Other uses

In the video Counting with Elmo, Elmo sings a portion of the song to himself (where the song counts down form 10). Additionally, instrumentals from the counting song are used through the video.

The 36th season of Sesame Street featured a series of films with children cranking a Jack-in-the-Box and counting the number of times before the box pops. The films reuse the music from the number songs at the beginning where the kids count up to 10 and then back to 1; Henson's animated number sequence was remade with ribbon effects.

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jim's Red Book - 6/2-6/1969 - Shoot #s (4th Chef Falls)
  2. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, page 144
  3. "First Season Show Content", found at the CTW Archives.
  4. Borgenicht, David. Sesame Street Unpaved. p. 44
  5. Morrow, Robert W. Sesame Street and the Reform of Children's Television. Index.
  6. Talk: Number Song Series
  7. John Culhane, "Report Card on Sesame Street," New York Times Magazine, 24 May 1970, pp. 18 ff.

External links

Start a Discussion Discussions about Numerosity

  • Numerosity

    3 messages
    • Does the Red Book mention "Numerosity" at all? I'd be for using that title.
    • Ditto on moving to an actual sourced title. The text still mentions the legal registration for the songs, and the CTW invoicing, so I'm all...

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