For more than 50 years, Sesame Street has felt like home for kids — and adults — around the world. This year, Sesame Workshop celebrates even more growth with tons of merch featuring our favorite fuzzy monsters. The Pop Insider chatted with Gabriela Arenas, senior vice president of global product licensing at Sesame Workshop, to talk about the Street’s big plans for 2022 and beyond.
The Pop Insider: What new and exciting content can fans expect to see this year?
Gabriela Arenas: There’s already so much going on! In terms of new content, we’re super excited about Sesame Street Mecha Builders, the first of many new Sesame Workshop originals for WarnerMedia’s Cartoonito preschool programming block. The show, which debuted on May 9, re-imagines Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby Cadabby as robot heroes-in-training who use their STEM superpowers to solve wacky, larger-than-life problems. Animated in a dynamic, 3D style, this series will help older preschoolers practice important critical thinking skills while laughing along with their Sesame Street friends.
Launching later in the year, Bea’s Block will introduce viewers to a new world where vibrant and diverse wooden block characters — including Bea and her friends — tumble, stack, and roll their way through kindness-filled adventures.
We’ll also be expanding our animation slate with book-based properties, starting with E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web. For more than 50 years, Sesame Workshop has been weaving stories that center around memorable characters and diverse, compelling voices. Stories can forge powerful connections with kids and families, so where better to start than with a faithful retelling of one of the most beloved kids’ novels of all time?
This year, Elmo and his adorable new puppy Tango — introduced just last year — will star in Sesame Street: The Nutcracker, an animated holiday special that follows the pair on a fantastical adventure through the beloved story! Blending new and classic music, Sesame Street: The Nutcracker will premiere on Cartoonito during the holiday season.
We’re also continuing our Coming Together initiative with a “Word of the Day” video series that uses the power of language to help kids build positive and healthy senses of self. Inspired by the iconic Sesame Street segment, the short-form series stars the Sesame Street Muppets and celebrity friends who will teach kids words like “belonging,” “fairness,” and “proud.” We started with Amanda Gorman introducing the word “upstander” and future guest appearances will include Samuel L. Jackson, Gabrielle Union, and Brett Goldstein.
All of this new content has fully integrated educational curricula, engaging characters, and a whole lot of heart — everything parents expect from the makers of Sesame Street.
PI: It’s not just on screens where we’ll catch Sesame Street. You’re active in the podcast world, too.
GA: We know maintaining healthy routines helps young kids understand their world and feel secure — especially when we’ve all experienced so much upheaval and disruption. Last year’s “Goodnight, World!” podcast, co-produced with the mindfulness and meditation experts at Headspace, continues to find new audiences, recently earning a Silver Clio Award, an American Library Association Youth Media Award, and more. Families can listen in on the Headspace app or wherever they get their podcasts.
We recently launched the second season of “The Sesame Street Podcast with Foley & Friends,” exclusively on Audible — and we’re already looking forward to a third season down the road. Stay tuned for even more exciting podcast news soon!
PI: Sesame Street has a knack for introducing surprising collaborations that fans really love. What do you have in the works?
GA: It’s true! When it comes to our collaborations, fans have come to expect the unexpected. We’ve been collaborating with some top trend-setting lifestyle brands, taking an innovative multigenerational approach to propel our characters forward.
To name a few, premium kitchen brand Hedley & Bennett launched a Sesame Street-inspired collection featuring Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Elmo, and Bert and Ernie on their famous handcrafted aprons. NYC-based Staple debuted a streetwear collection that mixes the company’s colorful graphics — and iconic pigeon! — with everyone’s favorite Sesame Street characters. The collection includes adult shirts, hoodies, hats, outerwear, a rug, and plush. Skincare brand Starface is offering a limited-edition collection of patches and pore strips inspired by Sesame Street characters. For yogis of all ages, Yune Yoga has a collection of mats and more featuring Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and The Count.
We’re launching another collaboration with Peter Alexander, Australia’s leading sleepwear designer brand. Inspired by iconic Sesame Street characters and big dose of playfulness, the nearly 50-piece collection features bold, colorful prints and snuggly, soft fabrics that make bedtime fun for the whole family — dogs included!
We also have a great fashion collab with Cotton-On, Australia’s largest global retailer. The Sesame Street collection debuted a few months ago and features bold character art on loungewear, outerwear, underwear, and accessories with a vintage ‘90s vibe. Following its success, Cotton-On launched a line of comfy pajamas and streetwear for babies, toddlers, and kids.
Sesame Street x Adidas NEO launched a trendy collection with more than 40 pieces of adult apparel, footwear, and accessories in more than 1,200 stores in China, and online on the Adidas official Tmall Store! The Shanghai NEO flagship store was covered with Sesame Street characters using a massive bespoke entrance display, in-store decorations, and featured video throughout the walls.
We’ll be announcing some more great collabs shortly, especially in cosmetics, that we know fans will love.
PI: You had a great debut with Under Armour’s Curry Brand footwear collection, but the fun hasn’t stopped. What’s the latest on this collaboration?
GA: We’re gearing up for the launch of another set of sneakers inspired by the iconic characters of Sesame Street. The first two drops in the collection were prized by sneakerheads and Sesame fans — and now five more Sesame Street friends will be hitting the court, featuring new designs based on Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Lily the Tiger, Abby Cadabby, and Elmo. We love how Under Armour’s Curry Brand is right at the intersection of cool and social good. As a mission-driven brand committed to helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder, that speaks to us. From the designs to the technology, these sneakers capture the essence of what is so unique about our brand; this collaboration gives generations of fans a whole new way to show their love of the Sesame Street Muppets.
PI: Summer is around the corner and what better way to have fun in the sun than at a theme park? Tell us about Sesame Place San Diego.
GA: If you love rollercoasters, water slides, and Sesame Street, it’s an absolute must-visit! Sesame Place San Diego is the newest theme park in California and the first Sesame Place on the West Coast. With surprises on every corner, fans of all ages will find never-ending adventures waiting for them: a Sesame Street parade, an engaging musical play area, one-of-a-kind photo opportunities, and a never-before-seen live character show called “Welcome to Our Street.” The show stars Elmo, Abby, Grover, Rosita, and Cookie Monster as they all work together to find the perfect way to welcome their new friends to Sesame Street.
Already a fan favorite on the East Coast, the award-winning Sesame Street Party Parade is filled with costumed characters, floats, music, and performers jumping rope, hula hooping, and grooving with their furry friends. The park is full of immersive experiences, water attractions, family-friendly rides, and entertainment. Best of all, fans will finally be able to see Elmo and all his friends as they take a stroll through the beloved Sesame Street neighborhood.
PI: Earlier this year, you announced Just Play as your multiterritory master toy licensee. Can you tell us more about this partnership?
GA: We are so excited to have Just Play as our multiterritory master toy licensee for North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In this multiyear partnership, Just Play will manufacture and market an expansive array of products featuring Sesame Street characters. Starting in 2023, Just Play will create engaging and educational products that will roll out throughout the year and beyond. Key preschool play patterns and categories include plush, figures, playsets, vehicles, role-play and dress-up products, bath toys and accessories, and learning toys.
Creating unique and powerful experiences for kids and families to play and learn is a huge priority for Just Play — and for us, too! Those deep connections drive everything we do at Sesame Workshop. Another thing we love about this partnership is that Just Play will contribute to Sesame Workshop’s social impact efforts, too. The industry-leading toy company will provide funding for vital initiatives that bring critical early learning and support across a broad variety of challenges to kids around the world.
This article was originally published in Issue No. 13 of the Pop Insider. Click here to read the full issue!