Sesame Street is one of the most iconic and beloved children’s shows in television history. For over 50 years, kids have tuned in to learn letters, numbers, and lessons about diversity from Big Bird, Elmo, and friends.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question:
In this in-depth article, we’ll take a behind-the-scenes look at the various filming locations used throughout the history of Sesame Street.
We’ll cover where early episodes were shot, the move to Kaufman Astoria Studios, and some unique on-location filming sites used over the decades.
The Original Filming Studio in Manhattan (1969-1992)
The iconic children’s show, Sesame Street, has been capturing the hearts of audiences for decades. But have you ever wondered where the magic happens?
The show’s original filming studio, located in Manhattan, was the birthplace of countless beloved characters and memorable moments.
The Show’s Humble Beginnings
When Sesame Street first premiered in 1969, the show was filmed in a small studio in Manhattan.
The space may have been modest, but the creativity and passion of the cast and crew were anything but. They worked tirelessly to bring the show’s educational and entertaining content to life.
During those early years, the set was designed to resemble an urban neighborhood, reflecting the diverse and multicultural nature of the show’s target audience.
The familiar brownstone buildings and bustling streets became a backdrop for the show’s characters, including Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster.
Shooting Around the Neighborhood
One of the unique aspects of filming Sesame Street was the use of real locations in the surrounding neighborhood.
The show took advantage of the vibrant streets of New York City, incorporating local businesses, parks, and landmarks into the episodes.
Children watching the show could recognize familiar sights, such as the stoop of Mr. Hooper’s store or the steps of the iconic Sesame Street apartment building.
This integration of real-world environments added an extra layer of authenticity to the show’s portrayal of everyday life.
Expanding the Set Over Time
As the popularity of Sesame Street grew, so did the need for a larger studio space. In 1992, the show’s production moved to a bigger facility in Queens, allowing for even more creative possibilities.
The new studio featured state-of-the-art technology and expanded sets, accommodating the show’s ever-growing cast and crew.
Despite the move, the original filming studio in Manhattan holds a special place in the hearts of Sesame Street fans.
It was where the magic first began, and its humble beginnings continue to inspire the show’s commitment to education, diversity, and entertainment.
The Move to Kaufman Astoria Studios (1993-Present)
After more than two decades of filming at the original Sesame Street set in Manhattan, the production team decided it was time to find a new home.
The decision to move was primarily driven by the need for more space to accommodate the growing production demands of the show.
Needing More Space
By the early 1990s, Sesame Street had become a cultural phenomenon, loved by children and adults alike.
The success of the show meant that the production team needed additional room to add new sets, build larger stages, and expand their workshop areas.
The original set had become too small to meet these evolving needs, and a new location was necessary.
Additionally, the team wanted to create a more modern and efficient production facility that would allow them to continue to innovate and improve the show.
They were looking for a space that could accommodate the latest technology and provide the necessary infrastructure for future growth.
Kaufman Astoria Provides Room to Grow
After an extensive search, the production team found the perfect location at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York.
The studio complex, founded in 1920, had a long history of hosting various film and television productions.
Its reputation for providing high-quality facilities and services made it an ideal choice for the Sesame Street team.
Kaufman Astoria Studios offered the space and resources that Sesame Street needed to continue to thrive.
The complex features multiple sound stages, workshop areas, and production offices. This allowed the team to expand their operations and accommodate new sets and characters.
Furthermore, the studio’s state-of-the-art facilities provided the production team with the latest technology and equipment, enabling them to enhance the visual and technical aspects of the show.
This allowed for more creative storytelling and improved production values.
A Permanent Home for Sesame Street
Since moving to Kaufman Astoria Studios in 1993, Sesame Street has found a permanent home.
The studio complex has become synonymous with the show, and the production team has continued to innovate and evolve the beloved children’s program.
Today, Sesame Street remains a cultural icon and a testament to the power of educational television.
Its move to Kaufman Astoria Studios not only provided the necessary space for growth but also allowed for the continued success and impact of the show for generations to come.
On-Location Filming Sites Through the Years
Early On-Location Shoots
Since its inception in 1969, Sesame Street has been filmed in various on-location sites to bring its vibrant and diverse world to life.
In the early years, the show made use of real city streets to create an authentic urban feel.
One of the most iconic on-location sets was the brownstone stoop, where beloved characters like Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch interacted with the human cast members.
The stoop was actually located in Harlem, New York, and served as a familiar backdrop for countless memorable scenes.
International Location Shoots
Over the years, Sesame Street has expanded its horizons by venturing beyond U.S. borders for on-location shoots.
These international trips have allowed the show to introduce children to different cultures and promote global understanding.
For example, the show has filmed in places like Mexico, Japan, and Australia, showcasing local customs, traditions, and languages.
These international location shoots have not only enriched the educational content of Sesame Street but have also given children around the world a glimpse into the lives of their peers in other countries.
The Benefits of Filming On Location
Filming on location offers a range of benefits for a show like Sesame Street.
Firstly, it adds a sense of authenticity and realism to the scenes, allowing children to better connect with the characters and storylines.
Additionally, shooting on location provides an opportunity to showcase different environments, exposing children to diverse settings and fostering their curiosity about the world around them.
On-location shoots also offer practical advantages.
For instance, filming in real cities allows the show to incorporate local landmarks and features, making the street scenes more relatable to children in those areas.
Moreover, shooting on location can be a cost-effective option, as it eliminates the need to construct elaborate sets and can often tap into existing infrastructure and resources.
In recent years, advances in technology have made it easier for Sesame Street to film on location.
Portable equipment and lightweight cameras have made the process more convenient and efficient, enabling the show to capture authentic moments in a variety of settings.
Behind-the-Scenes Filming Secrets
Tricks for Shooting with Child Actors
One of the biggest challenges in filming Sesame Street is working with child actors.
These young performers bring an incredible energy and spontaneity to the show, but they can also present unique challenges for the production team.
To ensure a successful shoot, the crew employs a variety of tricks and techniques to keep the children engaged and focused.
- Using colorful and interactive props: Props play a crucial role in capturing the attention of young actors. By incorporating bright colors, interesting textures, and interactive elements, the crew ensures that the children remain fully engaged in their scenes.
- Creating a playful and supportive environment: The crew understands that children perform best when they feel comfortable and supported. They create a friendly and nurturing atmosphere on set, encouraging the young actors to express themselves and have fun.
- Working with child wranglers: Child wranglers are essential members of the production team who specialize in working with young actors. They help establish rapport and build trust with the children, ensuring a smooth and productive shoot.
Challenges of Shooting on Small Sets
Another behind-the-scenes secret of Sesame Street is the use of small sets.
The show’s iconic street, with its colorful buildings and friendly neighbors, may appear spacious onscreen, but in reality, it is quite compact.
Filming on small sets presents its own set of challenges for the crew.
- Maximizing space through clever set design: The production team carefully designs the sets to optimize the available space. They use innovative techniques like forced perspective, where objects closer to the camera appear larger, creating the illusion of depth and spaciousness.
- Efficient camera movements: The crew utilizes smooth camera movements and strategic angles to make the small sets appear larger. They carefully plan their shots to create the illusion of a bigger world within the limited space.
- Collaborative teamwork: Filming on small sets requires close collaboration between the crew members. They work together to ensure that equipment, props, and actors are positioned correctly, maximizing the available space without compromising the quality of the shots.
Technical Innovations in Filming
Sesame Street has always been at the forefront of technical innovation in children’s television.
Over the years, the production team has embraced new technologies and techniques to enhance the filming process and create a more immersive experience for the viewers.
- Green screen technology: The show utilizes green screen technology to transport the characters to different locations and settings. This allows for greater flexibility and creativity in storytelling, as the crew can seamlessly integrate animated backgrounds and special effects.
- Puppetry advancements: The puppetry techniques used on Sesame Street have evolved significantly since the show’s inception. The crew constantly explores new ways to bring the beloved characters to life, incorporating animatronics, remote control mechanisms, and other cutting-edge puppetry techniques.
- High-definition filming: As technology has advanced, Sesame Street has embraced high-definition filming to deliver a crisper and more vibrant viewing experience. The use of high-quality cameras and equipment allows for greater detail and clarity in each episode.
For over 50 years, Sesame Street has used its iconic street set along with clever filming techniques to bring the neighborhood to life for generations of viewers.
From the original tight studio in Manhattan to the spacious Kaufman Astoria Studios lot, the show has found creative ways to expand and evolve its filming over the decades.
So while the neighborhood may look familiar, there’s plenty of innovation happening behind the scenes!