The creative team behind “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street,” a documentary on the origins of the eponymous beloved children’s show “Sesame Street,” discussed the challenges of bringing the series’ rich history to life.
Director Marilyn Agrelo and producers Ellen Scherer Crafts and Trevor Crafts spoke to the Variety Studio presented by AT&T TV at Sundance Film Festival about the making of the doc and their decision to focus on the early history of show by zoning in on creators Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone and Jim Henson. The doc is based on the book of the same name by Michael Davis.
Given the show’s 52-year history, the team said it was challenging to narrow down the film’s talking points. Ultimately, they settled on telling the largely untold behind-the-scenes story of the show’s first 20 years.
“We decided to concentrate on the people that originated ‘Sesame Street,’ the small gang of artists and writers and educators who brought the show to life … we were able to have a starting point that was very rich and, we believe, told the story beautifully,” Agrelo said.
The producers added that they felt like “kids in a candy store” while sifting through the series’ archives and reflected on the innovation of the series when it first premiered.
“[‘Sesame Street’] is an institution now, but back then — and as our movie really shows — it was this rag-tag group of people that really did something that was a total experiment,” Trevor Crafts said.
“Sesame Street” pioneered representation, especially with its consultation of community organizers such as Evelyn Davis, who ensured the series reached communities of color, and an educational curriculum — aspects that the “Street Gang” team says reverberate in children’s television today.
“This film tells all of these little stories that nobody knows about ‘Sesame Street,'” Agrelo said. “We love the fact that we’re unveiling all these little nuggets of history that are so fun.”