"Cracks" was an animated musical insert produced for Sesame Street in the 1970s. A young girl is unable to go outside to play because of the rain, and so she imagines the cracks in her wall form a camel. The camel takes her on an adventure through the wall where she meets a hen and a monkey, also made out of cracks. They soon encounter the "Crack Master," an angry creature that tries to scare them but ultimately ends up destroying the plaster around it from being too mean. The camel returns the girl to her room and, seeing the rain has stopped, she goes outside to play while hoping to see the cracks again another day. The CTW archival notes for Episode 0979 at the University of Maryland describe the short as teaching "Divergent Thinking," the process of generating creative ideas using many possible solutions.
The segment's earliest known appearance was in Episode 0818 and it remained in circulation as one of the show's recurring animated segments until 1980, its last known appearance being Episode 1430. However, the insert was later dubbed and aired on several episodes of Plaza Sésamo in the 1990s.
The Search for the Missing Short
On September 20, 2008, the blog Tail O' the Rat posted about "The Crack Monster!" The post was an illustrated recollection of "Cracks" by cartoonist Jennifer Bourne. Bourne had been attempting to find the short online for some time and had even made posts on some Muppet-themed message boards and Snopes, but could only find other Internet users who similarly recalled the short but were unable to find it. Soon a small conglomeration of people attempting to find the short formed, although they had little success.
Voiceover actor Jon Armond had also been searching for "Cracks" for several decades, and at one point contacted Children's Television Workshop itself but was told the studio did not know anything about the insert. Eventually, Armond received a fax from an untraceable number offering to send him a copy of the short on the condition that he not share it with anyone, nor could he release it to the public. Armond agreed, and shortly after received an envelope containing a DVD with the short. Although he showed the recording to Bourne and some fans and even screened it at a public event, he kept his contractual obligation. Nonetheless, Armond made a 2009 audio documentary describing the short in detail with a recreated soundtrack.
Daniel Wilson, the founder of the Lost Media Wiki (a website dedicated to finding lost material), continued his search for the short for several years afterward so it could be released to the public. Finally, in December 2013 he received an email from an anonymous sender that simply included "Cracks." Wilson subsequently posted the video on YouTube. Bourne confirmed the copy Wilson had was different from Armond's, noting Armond's tape appeared to have been taken out of an episode due to a short 2-second appearance of Bert and Ernie right before the clip (possibly Episode 0848), whereas Wilson's recording seemed to have come from a film archive due to it having a title card. The title card, which confirms the segment's title, sports the production code "06-0431," suggesting it was produced for Season 6.
Studio 360 Investigation
In 2019, following the internet's reaction to the discovery of "Cracks," Studio 360 producer Kurt Andersen began an investigation into who created the segment. He spoke directly with Sesame Street executive producer Benjamin Lehmann, who showed him the insert was in fact in the digital archive, contrary to what Armond had been told. Lehmann could not give an official explanation as to why the short was phased out, but noted the start of the War on Drugs coincided with when the short was taken out of circulation – the insert's liberal use of the term "crack" was a possible concern. He also suggested the description of a house full of cracks in the wall may have felt insensitive during the New York housing crisis in the 1970s.
Lehmann found that the insert was produced by a studio called "P. Imagination," but could not find any information about it. After some further investigation, Joe Hennes gave Andersen the credits for the music: saxophonist Mel Martin, radio producer Peter Scott, and vocalist Dorothy Moskowitz, the former lead singer of the experimental rock band United States of America. Moskowitz was stunned to learn of the short's cult infamy after Andersen contacted her for an interview. She was able to provide information on the recording of the short, which she dubbed "the most goddamn strange recording session I ever attended": Moskowitz performed the vocals by improvising the melody where she felt it was appropriate in the text, and Martin added music to her narration. Moskowitz could not tell Andersen who animated the short, but remembered a woman whose name she could not recall (besides being "vaguely hippy-ish") was present at the recording session. She suspected the woman was either the animator or someone from the animation studio.
Who Made It?
As of 2019, it is still not known who or what studio animated "Cracks." Kurt Andersen was unable to find a studio called "P. Imagination," though he noted its name was similar to Imagination, Inc., the production studio for Sesame Street animator Jeff Hale (creator of the Pinball Number Count, The Typewriter, and Ringmaster series). Though Andersen privately doubted the work matched Hale's style, he could not follow up on this as Imagination, Inc. shuttered in 1979 and Hale passed in 2015.
One of the most prevalent theories after its re-discovery was that it was the work of Cosmo Anzilotti, an animator who worked for Hannah-Barbera, however Anzilotti confirmed in a letter to Wilson that he did not make the short. Cathryn Aison confirmed to Muppet Wiki co-founder Scott Hanson that the short is not hers.
- ↑ CTW Archive notes for Episode 0979.
- ↑ "The Crack Monster!" Tail O' the Rat.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 "How an Internet Obsession Resurrected a Creepy, Long-Lost Sesame Street Cartoon." Slate.
- ↑ "Come visit the Cracks...!" Tail O' the Rat.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Crack Monster: The mystery behind the creepiest cartoon on ‘Sesame Street’. Studio 360.
- ↑ Letter from Cosmo Anzilotti to Daniel Wilson, founder of Lost Media Wiki.