Tony Geiss, ‘Sesame Street’ screenwriter, dies at 86

He also penned animated features

Writer Tony Geiss, who helped “Sesame Street” win 22 daytime Emmys for scriptwriting and songwriting by means of the words he put in the mouths of Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and Elmo, died on Jan. 21 in Valhalla, N.Y. He was 86.

Geiss penned “Sesame Street” scripts from 1973-2009, inventing several Muppet characters and sometimes amusing parents as well as children with multilayered material. He also helped create “Elmo’s World,” a segment of “Sesame Street.”

Geiss penned the TV specials “Cinderelmo” and “Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” He also scripted the 1985 feature film “Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird” with Judy Freudberg.

Away from the world of “Sesame Street,” he and Freudberg wrote the stories or screenplays for “The Land Before Time” and “An American Tail,” feature films directed by Disney animator Don Bluth and produced by Steven Spielberg. “The Land Before Time,” about young dinosaurs battling for survival, continued on in the form of straight-to-video pics and a TV series, to which Geiss also contributed.

Geiss grew up in Greenwich Village, the son of painter and animator Alexander Geiss and Marjorie Thirer, a press agent. Geiss did a two-year stint in the Navy. At Cornell U., he met his wife, Phyllis. She died a year ago. There are no immediate survivors.

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