The World Trade Center was a complex of seven buildings in downtown New York City. The most prominent aspect were a pair of buildings known as the "Twin Towers," which were once the tallest buildings in the world.
The complex was destroyed in the attacks taking place on September 11, 2001, but has since been rebuilt with new buildings and a memorial to those lost.
- A King Kong-style enlarged Cookie Monster climbs the Twin Towers on the cover of the October 1976 issue of Sesame Street Magazine. His height reaches into the night sky, having taken several bites out of both structures.
- The Twin Towers are seen in the New York City landscape in the opening of Shalom Sesame.
- A Sesame Street film insert features a young girl flying in a small airplane with her father around the island of Manhattan. They deliberately pass and acknowledge the World Trade Center. (First: Episode 3431)
- Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy appeared on The Clive James Show via satellite in 1996 with the New York City horizon behind them, the Twin Towers prominently displayed amongst the buildings.
- In Sesame Street Episode 3979, architect I. M. Pig mentions to his porcine flunkies that they must go build "twin nests on the Twin Towers." This was changed in later broadcasts (see below).
- When Kermit travels to an alternate universe in the November 2002 TV movie It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, the Twin Towers can be seen outside Miss Piggy's apartment window. According to director Kirk Thatcher, their appearance was not meant to imply that Kermit is somehow responsible for the destruction of the towers, but simply "the background cycloramas/translights that were available in Canada were more than a year old."
- An animated Sesame Street insert produced by Misseri Studio showcases music from all over the world. The final segment, about jazz, takes place in New York City, with the Twin Towers visible in the landscape. Though the segment never aired on the domestic show, it was played on international co-productions.
Response to the attacks
Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, two shows in production at the time — Sesame Street and Bear in the Big Blue House — took responsibility in helping children cope with feelings brought up in the aftermath, both in an indirect manner.
Sesame Street’s 33rd season was already in production at the time of the attacks and it was decided among the creative staff that the four remaining episodes (which had yet to be written) should tackle issues related to the event.
“We felt we needed to do something in response to 9/11, but we knew we had to be very careful, because our viewers are so young, and parents are returning to educational programming as a safe haven for kids.”
The season premiere, Episode 3981, indirectly referenced the events by having Hooper's Store catch fire and showing how the event affects Elmo, the audience surrogate. The episode featured real New York City firefighters and their fire station and was dedicated to the memory of Lt. Robert Nagel, who died as a first responder the morning of September 11th. The three remaining episodes of the season tackled topics related to the attacks, including prejudice (Episode 4021), loss (Episode 4026), and bullying (Episode 4029).
In a similar fashion, the team behind Bear in the Big Blue House responded to the attacks with their two-part, season four premiere, "Welcome to Woodland Valley." In the episodes, a falling tree damages the Woodland Valley Library. The episode's themes are about coping with destruction and a community comes together in times of crisis.
The Jim Henson Company postponed the MuppetFest! event originally scheduled to occur September 22-23, 2001 in response to the tragedy and concerns regarding travel. In a statement released on September 14th, Henson Company CEO Charles Rivkin stated: "Our sympathies and prayers are with our country, as well as the friends, families and colleagues of the thousands of people who have been affected by this tragedy. In light of this week’s terrible event, we determined that postponing MuppetFest! is the right course of action." One month later, on October 11th, it was announced that the event would be held December 8-9, 2001 in Pasadena, California.
Following the attacks, certain Sesame material directly referencing the Twin Towers were altered or removed from subsequent airings or releases.
- The direct mention of the Twin Towers in Sesame Street Episode 3979 was re-dubbed by Jerry Nelson for later broadcasts and home video release. The line mentioned above was instead changed to "We need to build a new hotel at the Best Nesterns."
- The opening sequence for Sesame English prominently featured the Twin Towers in two shots - an animated shot of Tingo's in-bound flight going over the city, and one of Niki chasing Tingo through the frame. Following the attacks, the shots were changed and replaced. The animated section was replaced with new footage of Tingo's passport being stamped, and the later scene was altered to replace the Towers with a generic apartment house.