Grouchland USA shares some characteristics with "Grouchytown", a grouch location first mentioned in 1989 when its residents visit Sesame Street for the first time in Episode 2538. Later, in Episode 2648, Bob visited Grouchytown, which was revealed to be a neighborhood that exists as the opposite of Sesame Street. Each trip to and from Grouchytown is achieved via conventional means. In the film, the only known way to get to Grouchland, despite apparently being in America, is through a swirling door portal in Oscar's trash can. Visitors are then deposited, through a pipe, onto a pile of trash bags, the gateway to Grouchland. Grouchland is ostensibly run by a Grouch Mayor.
Grouchland is a teeming metropolis, populated solely by Grouches, littered with trash, ranging from small, messy piles to huge mounds. Trash is not just on the streets as trash, however. A living embodiment of the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure," Grouchland incorporates trash of all kinds into the very fabric of the city's architecture and economy. Trash is prized as better than "good" stuff. The buildings are tall but lopsided, resembling stylized versions of the worst urban tenements. Though many Grouches still appear to live in cans, many of the buildings also serve as homes, sporting tilted jigsaw-like windows, crooked doors, and a teetering floor placed on top of another. The entire city skyline is angular and juts in odd directions. Cars and garbage trucks drive to and fro, adding to the smog, and the occasional Grouch dog wanders the street (while a Grouch parrot is on display in the marketplace). Oscar also nostalgically mentions the old septic tank.
Grouchland's business district is a thriving marketplace of shops and services, most of them centered around trash or general Grouch surliness.
Storefronts include the Book Dumpster, the Wilting Rose florists, the Car Mess, the Tone Deaf music shop, Bad Humor Man's ice cream cart, and a restaurant called The Rotten Egg. Patrons can buy a quart of muck or a glass of Icky Yuckee at the Inconvenience Store. The bank of Grouchland is the First Savings and Leave Us Alone, while female grouches can receive a make-over at the Ugly Parlor. For entertainment, the local cinema plays such movies as Basically It Stinks starring the Grouch celebrity Sharon Groan.
Most of the Sesame Street visitors find accommodation at the Grouchland Jail due to the fact that it is illegal to ask a police officer for help in Grouchland.
Outside of the city itself, surrounding environs include a forest teeming with rather grouchy animals and such locales as the steep Mount Pickanose, Huxley's castle, and Da Dump, the domain of the Queen of Trash and a kingdom all to itself.
Oscar has referenced the Rusty Bucket, a grouch jazz club. "Can't wait for the sound of 12 broken trombones playing different tunes at the same time!"
Behind the Scenes
Grouchland, like many other Muppet sets, relies heavily on forced perspective, creating an enormous landscape, vast in relation to the Grouches and other Muppets, but still able to accommodate human visitors. Wide camera angles and other techniques made the space seem more open.
Alan Cassie served as production designer, and Val Strazovec as conceptual designer. Strazovec, who was largely responsible for the essential design and look of Grouchland, discussed his approach in the film's production notes:
“At first, they thought I had gone too far with Grouchland. They envisioned a real town with the trash being the trash, but I said 'no, no, no, this is such an opportunity to show something that isn't tradition. The whole thing should be as grouchy as those who live there.' Grouchland is about crankiness and fun. I thought, let's make it look silly, make it look funny. Almost like a child would draw, with crazy angles. It was crooked. The foundations were real but we twisted them.”
In addition to specially fabricated Grouch houses and props, actual trash was a vital ingredient. The props department visited flea markets and other places, collecting 10 truckloads of suitable trash.
- Allen, Constance. Unwelcome to Grouchland, Random House, 1999.