But the majority of disabled characters are voiced by able-bodied actors. To celebrate, we’ve created a list of 50 Sesame Street characters, like Bert, Ernie, the Count, and Oscar the Grouch, including when they all made their debut. Take your favorite fandoms with you and never miss a beat. Jennifer Thorn, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the English Department of Saint Anselm College answered my questions about Julia and what she can teach us.. She is one of the most powerful characters in… She serves to help children be more accepting of people with autism and promote disability awareness in children. “In an animated world there’s no reason not to [include disabled characters],” said Johanna Stein, executive producer of the animated kids’ show “Madagascar: A Little Wild.” Because an animated show creates everything from scratch, there’s no reason not to fill it with more disabled characters than you’d find anywhere else. The goal of creating Julia was to portray what having autism is like. Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! The autism spectrum includes a wide range of behaviors and capabilities. When a formative program like Sesame Street exposes young children behavior that's common in children with autism, it can help normalize it. It wasn’t until years later that I learned I was being confused with actress Tarah Schaeffer, who was a regular on the series and was a wheelchair user with my same disability. Children with disability remain a rarity in TV programs. “Sesame Street” led the way and numerous other series have followed suit, especially in the world of animation. All rights reserved. Many people gained their first exposure to sign language—and deafness itself—from Linda, a human character Sesame Street introduced in 1972. Sesame, Skoog launch accessible toy To encourage active engagement with content, the Skoog Cube plays songs, games and stories featuring Sesame Street characters. Created by disabled cartoonist John Callahan, “Pelswick” was unlike anything children had seen and Tinkler knew it was special. I can name currentcharacters on one hand: Sesame Street, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, introduced a muppet with autism, Julia, just two years ago. Meet Julia, an old buddy of Elmo’s and the newest friend on Sesame Street. There’s a need for voice actors with disabilities to voice disabled characters. They are taught social distancing and also on how to wear a mask. They’ve never solely been focused on introducing disability in children’s lives early — more often than not, they are creating fully-fleshed out characters to help children who might be disabled themselves. Copyright © 2021 Penske Business Media, LLC. In the case of “Arthur,” the Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided funding to native Alaskan writers to work on “Molly of Denali,” an animated kids show produced by the same production company as “Arthur.” Greenwald says that search galvanized them to do more and they hope they can receive more funding to bring on disabled writers. One such actor is Rob Tinkler, who provided the voice of wheelchair user Pelswick on the Nickelodeon cult show of the same name. Four years ago, Sesame Street introduced Julia, its first new Muppet in 10 years. Here are a few movies and television shows that proudly feature characters with disabilities! In the next couple of weeks, Sesame Street is introducing its newest character, Julia, a young girl on the autism spectrum. Ironically, Tinkler never had the opportunity to meet Callahan, who died in 2010, nor did he know the artist was actually in a wheelchair. “Some carpenter who had been there for 30 years explained ‘Well, they were designed for Tarah,'” Lehmann said. This Article is related to: Television and tagged Animation, Sesame Street. On 21 September, ‘Sesame Workshop’, NGO behind ‘Sesame Street’ released a collection of videos and resources that are designed to help children with autism and their families cope with new norms due to the Covid pandemic. You will be redirected back to your article in, Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox. In children’s programming the goal isn’t to make every disabled narrative turn into “event programming.” In the “Arthur” episode “The Princess Problem,” wheelchair user Lydia Fox and Arthur’s little sister D.W. are talking about a group of superhero princesses. “What I really loved [about the character] was his eternally positive yet acerbically comedic way,” Tinkler told IndieWire. Share Tweet Email Tweet Email “The Street is grounded in reality,” Truglio said. But Reeve, along with his son Will, not only were able to show kids how wheelchairs help people who need them, but became a wonderful moment for father and son to have a frank talk about disability. Looking back on it now, Tinkler said there should have been (and should be) a more thorough search for disabled voice talent. It wasn’t until after I wrote it that I realized I had an earlier experience: During the first four years of school I was asked constantly if I once had been on “Sesame Street.” I always thought it was cool to hear this, because I assumed they were obviously confusing me with some girl who had brown hair or wore glasses. Carol Greenwald, executive producer for the series, says the show received so many messages from kids that it was a no-brainer to go further. Because the show deals with puppets, the puppeteers are usually sitting or laying on the floor with their arms raised with the goal to put them on the same level as the human actors. Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, https://muppet.fandom.com/wiki/Characters_with_disabilities?oldid=1355608. The show wanted to avoid tokenizing Dave, or making him the stock disabled character. The “Tarah platforms,” as they’re called, are the width of a wheelchair and can be stacked so that the height can be adjusted for anyone, whether they’re in a wheelchair or not, to be on the same level as the puppets. Although not an animation character, I had to mention Sesame Street ‘s new muppet Julia, who has autism. Advocates are pleased with the addition and the positive conversation that surrounds the new Muppet. “‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ has a 13-year-old girl [Toph] who is blind. Bove’s character would introduce children to sign language but, more importantly, her character would become a series regular on “the Street,” eventually developing a romantic relationship with fellow “Sesame Street” regular Bob (Bob McGrath). “It’s just a fact of who Dave is.” The goal, then, becomes to help children model appropriate behavior when they do interact with someone who is disabled, while simultaneously creating representation for disabled children. Dreamworks Animation’s children series “Spirit Riding Free: Riding Academy,” recently cast wheelchair actress Cassidy Huff to voice the role of Eleanor, a world-class equestrian rider who uses a wheelchair. Mandy Mouse in Peppa Pig, Julia in Sesame Street and AJ Gadgets in Hero Elementary are a few of them to begin with which have receieved a lot of hype in recent time. But, it is an encouraging step that will make children or adults with autism feel less alone. The Count and Tarah Schaeffer on “Sesame Street”. The probability of a young child having some sort of relationship with someone who is on the autism spectrum is pretty high. On other occasions, however, particularly in productions featuring The Muppet Show characters, certain disabilities (especially partial deafness) have been played for laughs. Played by Linda Bove, who is … Julia’s introduction on “Sesame Street” has been met with applause and interest. Jim Henson’s famous creations The Muppets have been entertaining children for decades. But to watch “Pelswick” during its brief run in 2000 was to see a disabled character for kids that was witty, frank, and honest. Jason can be seen on “Sesame Street” counting, spelling and hanging out with his Muppet friends in 55 episodes in the 1970s. Kingsley appeared in several Muppet & Kid Moments. Netflix's Animated Shorts Provide a Poetic Gateway for Hard Conversations, 'Soul': How Pixar Designed a Tactile New York and an Ethereal Great Before for Its First Black-Led Feature, The Best Slasher Movies Ever Made, From 'Candyman' to 'Psycho', Sundance 2021 Deals: The Complete List of Festival Purchases So Far. Needless to say, Julia is the star in all videos! “And it’s really about who makes our community.” Disabled characters would show up here and there on other children’s shows, like Jeff Erlanger’s memorable turn on a 1981 episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” but Bove was the first to become a permanent resident next to Big Bird and company and she’d spark more appearances by other disabled characters and real-life people, including the late Christopher Reeve. Animation and children’s programming long have been at the forefront of disability representation. So Julia joins a long line of Sesame Street characters with disabilities, but she’s the first to have a disability that can’t be easily recognized. Sesame Street worked with autism organizations including Autism Self Advocacy and Autism Speaks to best personify the traits of a child with autism, according to “60 Minutes.” Beggar (uses a crutch), The Muppet Christmas Carol. Sesame Street: Meet Julia. Over the years, Sesame Street, its international spin-offs, and other Muppet productions have incorporated a variety of "differently abled" characters (and celebrity guests) as role models and to show that physical differences are less important than shared feelings and friendships. Looking at the “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” website made a difference for parents, whether or not they were personally affected by the developmental disability, according to findings published late last month in the journal Autism. “We never wanted to point to it [Dave’s] disability,” Stein said. “Babies notice differences,” she told IndieWire. Julia, “Sesame Street’s” first character with autism, helps children and their families understand people on the spectrum. As a disabled writer, I will use both person-first and identity-first language interchangeably for purposes of brevity and clarity. Sesame Street is all about teaching important life lessons to kids. While favorites like Big Bird have been on the show since the very first episode in 1969, others, like Elmo, weren’t introduced until years later. “It was very important that Dave be an equal partner,” Stein said. Stein is similarly committed: “I say this as much out of a sense of responsibility and as a sense of need but it’s crucial to better programming.”. In case you missed it, one of the nation’s oldest and most beloved children’s television programs has taken a huge step towards inclusion of children with disabilities. By Elizabeth Blair • Oct 22, 2015 . Kami (HIV positive), Takalani Sesame (also appears on Sesame Square and The Adventures of Kami and Big Bird) Long John Silver (amputee), Muppet Treasure Island. Sign up for our Email Newsletters here. Sesame Street recognized that this awareness should start at an early age and created a puppet named Julia who is friends with Elmo and who has autism. In 1988 “Sesame Street” would introduce Katie, a Muppet character who uses a wheelchair, but it wasn’t until 1994 that an actual child using a wheelchair would become a member of “the Street.” Schaeffer’s inclusion was spearheaded by longtime “Sesame Street” writer Emily Kingsley, whose son Jason — who had Down Syndrome — would write the iconic “Sesame Street” song “Count Me In” in 2000. Most importantly, he was the leading character of the entire series. When Ben Lehmann, executive producer for “Sesame Street,” first arrived on the series, he took note of the large wooden platforms everyone was using. The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by Jim Henson, many for the purpose of appearing on the children's television program Sesame Street.Henson's involvement in Sesame Street began when he and Joan Ganz Cooney, one of the creators of the show, met in the summer of 1968, at one of the show's five three-day curriculum planning seminars in Boston. In 1988 “Sesame Street” would introduce Katie, a Muppet character who uses a wheelchair, but it wasn’t until 1994 that an actual child using a wheelchair would become a … “And they’re noticing differences because they’re trying to figure out the world around them.” Adults, she explained, are the ones generally left uncomfortable, leading them to punish children for their curiosity about differences, which then leads  to internalized behavior. Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! When it comes to animation the rules are limitless — and that extends to creating a landscape populated with disability. This is part of an ongoing series that looks at the history of disability issues in television. But even in the world of animation and shows aimed at kids, inclusion can be improved upon. Lydia no longer likes the group because there isn’t a character who uses a wheelchair. Jason (Down syndrome), Sesame Street. The Muppets are an internationally recognised troupe of puppet characters that Henson created in the 1960′s, which became an integral part of the children’s television show Sesame Street in 1969. Parents and experts say that this is great initiative. The goal, according to Greenwald, is to use these stories to “open a kid’s eyes to the fact that not everybody is represented in these kinds of groups.” Hopefully, those dealing with the same issues can identify. Sesame Street had a new muppet join the cast recently. Her name is Julia and she has autism. 1974) is the son of writer Emily Perl Kingsley. It’s often said that children should be shielded from the harsh realities of the world and acknowledging disability becomes part of that conversation. “When we brought on Christopher Reeve there was a lot of discussion about that,” Truglio said. Jason Kingsley (b. Sign up for our Email Newsletters here. Many assumed Reeve’s wheelchair would be too scary for children. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop, said the series always has been cognizant of that stigma. Cartoon makers, who have understood the need for inclusion, are introducing characters with disabilities in their cartoons. As time moves forward, young children who watch “Sesame Street” will become familiar with autism through the Julia character. Tom (1970–1972) Larry Block: Worked at Hooper's Store. "Sesame Street" is the latest to join a relatively short list of TV shows that have included a character with a disability. The makers of “Sesame Street” say Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Grover are getting a new friend with autism as part of an effort to reduce stigma and help those on the spectrum learn life skills. "Sesame Street" is the latest to join a relatively short list of TV shows who have included a character with a disability. Sesame Street first created Julia as an online character in 2015 as part of a broader initiative to provide parents with educational resources on autism. You can find Part One in the series here and Part Two here. Like many series in the 1970s and 1980s, disability was quickly spotted on children’s shows of the time. Tinkler walked away from many roles, including voice character of color, because of the need to be more diverse in voicework. But some of our favorite Muppets on the show have stepped up to deal with major social issues. The first regularly appearing character on Sesame Street who used a wheelchair; served as a positive role model for children with disabilities. Emily Kingsley, Jason’s mom and a writer for the show, used her experiences with her son to push for more inclusion as an activist for kids with disabilities. He made his first appearance in 1975,1 and according to the book Street Gang, Kingsley appeared in over 50 episodes of Sesame Street. 'Sesame Street' Introduces A New Muppet Character With Autism . The PBS series “Arthur,” based on the series of children’s books by Marc Brown, first touched on disability in 1996 when they showed series regular Buster needing glasses. Schaeffer’s role on “Sesame Street” would spark a discussion about accessibility on-set. 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Just two years after it debuted, “Sesame Street” broke barriers by casting deaf actress Linda Bove — who you might remember as Allison in that very special episode of “Happy Days” — as a character of the same name. Since that time the loveable characters have appeared on their own TV show, feature films, … Some other examples include Jason Kingsley, who has Down syndrome—he appeared in over 50 Sesame Street episodes. 6. Never did I assume it was because I was disabled. Trash Gordon (2004–2007) Roscoe Orman: Spoof of the 1930s superhero Flash Gordon. Pickles and Dave from “Madagascar: A Little Wild”. In the case of “Arthur” and “Madagascar: A Little Wild,” Stein and Greenwald admit there aren’t disabled writers working on their respective series nor are there animators with disabilities, and it’s something they want to change. “[Someone might say] ‘Yeah, I know, but it’s just a couple of lines.’ But this is a couple of lines that would mean a lot to somebody who could play this,” he said. I talked in the first part of this series about watching “The Wild Thornberries” as a kid and seeing the character of Bethany, who used a wheelchair. He also co-wrote the lyrics to "Count Me In" with his mother. Stein calls it “casual representation” and it’s something the team behind “Madagascar: A Little Wild” have been using for their deaf character of Dave, whose sister, Pickles, is his interpreter. Other characters have tackled disability head-on, from blindness to disability to autism — but what’s important is showcasing those character in stories that don’t confront disability in the same overt manner. It proved difficult as autism is different for every person who has it. Interviews with leading film and TV creators about their process and craft. Julia (Autism), Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. "It's important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like," Julia's puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, told Sixty Minutes. DuckTales on Disney just ran an episode featuring Della Duck, an amputee .Last fall an IT entrepreneur with cerebral palsy debuted a superhero with CP . Shows of the entire series comes to animation the rules are limitless — and that extends to a! As a disabled writer, I will use both person-first and identity-first language interchangeably for purposes of and. 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