|PERFORMER||Kevin Clash 1984-2012|
|Ryan Dillon 2013-present|
|DESIGN||Caroly Wilcox designer/builder|
|Leslee Asch designer/builder|
Elmo is a furry red Muppet monster with an orange nose who lives on Sesame Street. He is self-described as three-and-a-half years old, and almost always refers to himself in the third person. The character's popularity led to his own segments on Sesame Street including "Elmo's World" and "Elmo the Musical".
Other relatives in Elmo's family include his grandma and grandpa; his great-grandmother (featured in a 1989 episode) and his great-grandfather (named Selmo); his Uncle Jack, Aunt Jill, and cousin Jesse (featured in When Families Grieve); plus additional cousins Elmer (featured in Kids' Favorite Country Songs), Chester (featured in Here For You), and Mimsy. Additionally, the television special Sesame Street Stays Up Late shows Elmo's "international" cousins — Pepé from Mexico and Elmonosuke from Japan. As seen in The Furchester Hotel, he also has an aunt Funella Furchester, an uncle Furgus Fuzz, and a cousin Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz.
According to a Q&A video, his favorite food is wasabi; that's why he has no eyelids. This has been reaffirmed on Rove Live and in other interviews, along with the Muppet bios published in several Sesame Workshop press kits. In 2000, Elmo told Donnie and Marie Osmond that his mother and father tell him to never "hate" any food, but he makes an exception for Brussels sprouts, Marie decided to taunt him with a bowl of them. Brussels sprouts have often been listed among Elmo's pet peeves in press kit bios.
As with many children of his age, Elmo is seen somewhat infrequently with a favorite toy of his: an orange monster-like doll named Baby David. In the film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Elmo is devoted to his blue blanket, Blanket.
Elmo's birthday is February 3rd.
Sesame Workshop description of Elmo:
“Elmo is a 3½-year-old red monster with a high pitched voice and a contagious giggle. Enthusiastic, friendly and cheerful, he always wants to be part of everything that goes on. However, like most preschoolers, he sometimes doesn't have the skills or knowledge to do what he wants. But that never stops him because he has a very positive, optimistic view of himself and life. Elmo's best friends are Zoe and Abby, and also his pet goldfish Dorothy. Elmo loves eating his favorite food, wasabi. He also loves riding on his tricycle and being tickled.”
The puppet that would eventually become Elmo was designed in 1979 by Caroly Wilcox. Intended as a generic Anything Muppet monster, labels used for the puppet included "baby monster", "short red" (in Wilcox's sketch), and "little red" (on exhibit at Center for Puppetry Arts, Worlds of Puppetry, Jim Henson Collection).
Elmo made his earliest named appearance in Season 11 (Episode 1439), where he was first performed by Brian Muehl. In this early appearance, Elmo communicates with Maria only in mumbles. After he was established on the show, press releases for Season 12 described him as a character who communicates with sounds rather than words. His appearances that season continue with the mumble talk, as in Episode 1475 where he learns the Spanish word "casa" and writes it all over the wall of 123 Sesame Street.
Elmo was considered such a minor character, that the puppet was still used as an AM monster in inserts, and in these instances, as with most background Muppets, had rotating performers.[note 1] However, writer David Korr had taken a liking to Elmo and continued writing him into Street scenes. In Season 16 (1984), after Brian Muehl's departure, the character was briefly taken over by Richard Hunt, who performed Elmo with a gruff voice and often had him yelling his lines.
Hunt disliked playing Elmo and couldn't make the character work. On November 26, 1984, after the taping of Episode 2037 that morning, Hunt came into the studio's Muppet green room and literally tossed the puppet to Kevin Clash, asking him what he could get out of it. Clash first performed Elmo in Episode 2026, taped on the same day.
Clash performed Elmo in remaining material for the season, and in the interim between seasons, he thought about what he could bring to the role. While trying to find a "hook," he decided that Elmo should embody love. Clash said, "I knew that Elmo should represent love - just kissing and hugging." Clash cites a moment in season 17 (from Episode 2215 where Elmo packs for an imaginary vacation) as the moment when he "found his voice" as Elmo. Clash's first indicator that his performance was working was when he heard the camera crew laughing during taping. Soon after, Elmo started to build in popularity, as research showed that viewers were not only entertained by the character, but they were learning from him.
See also Proto-Elmo.
Elmo appeared in an episode of The Torkelsons in 1991 and had occasional guest spots on The Frugal Gourmet. In the mid-1990s, Elmo became a regular guest on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, appearing more than a dozen times between 1996 and 2002. The Tickle Me Elmo doll was manufactured in his likeness, and became the must-have toy during the 1996 Christmas season; and subsequent variations and other Elmo dolls (such as Chicken Dance Elmo, Let's Rock! Elmo, Elmo Live, and Big Hugs Elmo) have also been successful.
Elmo has also been prominently featured in many home videos including Elmo's Sing-Along Guessing Game, Elmo Says BOO!, Elmo's Magic Cookbook, and Elmo's Potty Time, and has starred in many television specials such as Elmopalooza, Elmo Saves Christmas, The Street We Live On and Elmo's Christmas Countdown. Additionally, Elmo was the star of the 1999 full-length, theatrically released motion picture The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.
Elmo is also the host of The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo, his own late-night talk show that takes place just before his bedtime.
In 1994, Elmo had a "Best of" video released; a sequel, The Best of Elmo 2, was released in 2010, and a third installment, The Best of Elmo 3, followed in 2015. A "Best of" album was also released in 1997.
He stars in the recurring Sesame Street segments Elmo's World and Elmo the Musical. Additionally, he has performed such songs as "Elmo's Song," "Happy Tappin' with Elmo," "In Your Imagination," "Elmo's Rap Alphabet," "Elmo's Ducks," and "The Elmo Slide."
Elmo has appeared as a main character in several international co-productions, including 5, Rue Sésame in France, Sesamgade in Denmark, Sesamstrasse in Germany, Sesamstraat in the Netherlands and in the British co-production The Furchester Hotel.
Elmo characteristically avoids pronouns, referring to himself in the third person (e.g. "Elmo has a question" rather than, "I have a question"). In its FAQ on its website, Sesame Workshop responded to the allegation that Elmo referring to himself in the third person will teach children improper English, stating that:
“Elmo mimics the behavior of many preschoolers. Like 3-year-olds, he doesn’t always have the skills or knowledge to speak proper English. Cast members and many of the other Muppets, however, do demonstrate proper usage of the English language.”
While Elmo almost always speaks in third-person, his dialogue has broken this rule on occasion, such as in song or via indirect comments. In a May 2011 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Elmo sang a few lines of a Jennifer Hudson song, only after realizing he sang the word "me".
Elmo tweeted about his third-person speaking in March 2010; "Someone just told Elmo yesterday was Talk in Third Person Day. Elmo doesn't know what that is but it sounds fun. Can Elmo play?"
At The Paley Center for Media screening of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, a member of the audience asked him why he spoke in third person. Elmo (after jokingly threatening the audience member) replied that "it's just the way Elmo talks."
Behind the scenes
In 2011, there were either eight or nine different Elmo puppets. Kevin Clash told Channel Newsasia that "this one [on my lap] is rodded. There's a full radio-controlled Elmo, there's one for the blue screen, etc. They do different things." In later years, there has been a live-hand variant of Elmo, used in episodes like episode 4206 and specials like Elmo's World: Happy Holidays!
Additionally, dozens of Elmo variants have been created by the Muppet Workshop (now, Jim Henson's Creature Shop) almost exclusively for use in the Tickle Me Land segments of Elmo's World as figments of Dorothy's imagination. These creations build on the basic premise of the Elmo puppet, to create a unique design which displays a variation of Elmo as anything from a rock to an elephant, to even a male doctor and female nurse.
After Clash's departure
Kevin Clash's tenure as the character ended in 2012 following his resignation from Sesame Workshop. Portions of season 44 had already been filmed prior to Clash's departure, leaving some of his performances as Elmo featured throughout the 2013-2014 season of Sesame Street.
Clash also filmed an Elmo appearance for the special Michael Bublé: Home for the Holidays, recorded Elmo's vocals for the 2012 Macy's Parade and for the Big Hugs Elmo doll released in 2013. His last known public performance of Elmo was during a radio interview with WNYC on October 30, 2012 (twenty days before his official resignation from Sesame Workshop).
Sesame Workshop released a statement regarding Clash's departure on November 12, 2012, a portion of which read: "Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years."
Ryan Dillon has since taken over the character. Dillon first appeared publicly as Elmo at the White House Easter Egg Roll in April 2013 and has continued to perform the character in new appearances and productions; including in multiple segments for season 44, and into season 45.
Immediately following Clash's departure, Peter Linz voiced the character for a recording commissioned for the grand opening ceremony of the Spaghetti Space Chase dark ride at Universal Studios Singapore, synced by an Elmo walk-around. However, Linz stated the recording was a one-time performance.
- Primary Performers
- Brian Muehl - Season 11 to Season 15
- Richard Hunt - Season 16 (see proto-Elmo for more)
- Kevin Clash - Season 16 (First: Episode 2025) to Season 44
- Ryan Dillon - Season 44 to present
- Other Performers
- Peter Linz - Spaghetti Space Chase opening event at Universal Studios Singapore (2013, voice for walk-around character)
- On Big Bag, he made a guest appearance in one episode as Chelli's pen-pal.
- Elmo's earliest illustrated appearance was in the 1981 book The Sesame Street Circus of Opposites.
- For the 2005/2006 season, Sesamstraat (the Dutch version of Sesame Street) moved into new scenery. The scenery was introduced with a TV special. Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster and Elmo flew over to The Netherlands for this special occasion. It was the first time the American characters visited the Dutch street. Apparently, during that visit, Kevin Clash (who had come along as puppeteer for the characters) had told Elmo's Dutch voice actor Hein Boele, that he did the best Elmo impression of all the Elmo voices he had met before.
- The meaning of life to Elmo? He stated that: "Um, the meaning of life for Elmo is respecting your elders by saying Mr. and Ms. and saying thank you and also giving lots of loves and kisses. That's the meaning of life for Elmo."
- He is 24 inches tall, when measured in 2011 by guest Drew Brees.
- At a screening of Being Elmo at the Museum of the Moving Image, Elmo was asked what it was like to work with Richard Hunt, to a huge response from the audience. He recollected, "It was TORTURE! ...Elmo doesn't like opera! Elmo doesn't like tuna fish sandwiches and Schweppes Ginger Ale. Elmo doesn't like any of those things! But for some reason, when he was working Elmo, Elmo was motivated to love those things."
- An Elmo cameo was written for The Muppets, but both Jason Segel and Nick Stoller explained that it would've been too expensive.
- In 1981, David Rudman used the Elmo puppet in his audition video for Jim Henson, lip-syncing to "I Can Do That" from A Chorus Line.
- Clip from the Q&A after the Being Elmo screening in NY 9/25/11
- Season 41, Season 42, Season 43, Season 44
- Press Kits: Season 40, Season 41, Season 42
- Sesameworkshop.org: Season 44 Press Kit
- Falk, Karen. Imagination Illustrated. p. 180
- Borgenicht, David. Sesame Street Unpaved. p. 85
- Season 12 Press Kit, CTW Archives
- Adrian Slifka, The Youngstown Vindicator: "New Muppets' Gang to Brighten 12th Season of 'Sesame Street'" - November 23, 1980
- Wisconsin Public Television podcast
- Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street, page 100
- Script documents provided by a trusted source
- Kevin Clash on developing Elmo's character, video interview for the Archive of American Television, conducted on July 20, 2004.
- Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
- 40 Years of Sunny Days disc 1 "Behind the Street" featurette
- Time.com, Kevin Clash: The Man Behind Elmo Nov. 10, 2009
- Annie Evans, "The Elmo Phenomenon", Sesame Family Robinson, 27 February 2011. (archive)
- CinderElmo bonus features
- Sesame Workshop FAQ
- Being Elmo Q&A session feature on DVD
- Elisa Chia, "Meet the grown-up behind Elmo", 31 July 2006.
- Sesame Workshop's Statement Regarding Kevin Clash
- Peter Linz's Facebook page
- The Dutch voice actor of 'Elmo'
- Ask Elmo.
- Measure, Word of the Day segment, Sesame Street.
- Exclusive: On the Set of the New Muppets Movie, Stein, Joel, Time
- Jason Segel Says New Muppet Character Walter 'Was Born In My Brain', Ryan Seacrest.com
- Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street, page 103
- David Rudman on The Joey and Amanda Podcast (35:30)