|Music by||Walt Kraemer|
The Pinball Number Count is a series of animated segments that debuted on Sesame Street in season 8, and was aired regularly up through Season 33. Each entry follows a pinball as it goes through an extravagant pinball machine, while the Pointer Sisters sing a counting song. The lyrics count up to the number twelve, with each segment focusing on a different number.
Animation was made for numbers two through twelve; a segment for number one was never produced.
The "Pinball Number Count" segments contain common beginning and ending sequences showing the launch of the pinball into the machine and the exit of the pinball from play. Between these two sequences are different number-specific animated narratives showing the pinball in play. This middle segment features a scene in which a number of contraptions moved the pinball about the interior of the machine. These scenes are tied to a theme, such as an amusement park, a golf course, and others detailed below.
The segments were produced and animated by Jeff Hale's Imagination Inc. The animation was directed by Hale, who also developed the concept and design for the segments. The actual animators included Ernie Fosselius. The animation recalls contemporary psychedelic and pop art styles, typified by the ornate pinball bumpers, colorful geometrical motifs, and whimsical themes and devices inside the machine.
In 2010, a stop-motion remake of the segment produced by Florence Animation, an Italian studio, was entered in the AniBOOM Awards 4 Sesame Street and was declared the winner. The segment first aired during Season 41, as part of Episode 4221.
The music for Pinball Number Count was composed and produced by Walt Kraemer, and was arranged by Ed Bogas, with vocals provided by the Pointer Sisters. The arrangements in the eleven films reflect musical idioms commonly found in 1970s urban culture, predominantly funk and jazz, though other styles including Caribbean steel drum music are also represented. The number-specific middle sections contain one of three different improvised instrumental solos over a basic progression featuring soprano saxophone, electric guitar, and steel drum. The vocals work in similar fashion with wild lines from the Pointers shouting the various numbers from 2 to 12 at different intensities each time the pinball hit a selected target.
In 2003, as part of the show's 35th anniversary, Sesame Workshop and electronica label Ninja Tune released a 12-inch vinyl record for the DJ market. The maxi-single included a new remix of "Pinball Number Count" by Strictly Kev of DJ Food combining all eleven sketches and all three versions of the solo section into one extended track. A video remix was created for Ninja Tune's ZenTV DVD, and for a limited time, also had a 1280x1024 computer wallpaper available for downloading.
This reworked and remastered DJ Food edit was featured on the Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music collection; according to producer/composer Walt Kraemer, this was because a clean master track of the original recording did not exist. The remix video was released as a bonus feature on What's the Name of That Song? and Old School: Volume 2.
|2||The pinball finds its way through carnival- and amusement park-themed obstacles: riding a roller coaster, a ferris wheel, and some hanging airplanes... until being dropped into a clown's mouth that enters a haunted house of ghosts and ghouls.|
Solo: steel drum
(First: Episode 0987)
|3||The ball rolls through circus attractions. It is shot from a cannon, caught by clowns, and handed off by a ringmaster to a juggling monkey who tosses it to a lion tamer and his lion. The ball then lands on the nose of a seal and is launched by a hippopotamus to a pink elephant that runs it into the hole.|
Solo: electric guitar
(First: Episode 0978)
|4||The ball passes golf-themed obstacles, a play on the golf term "fore".|
Solo: steel drum
(First: Episode 0984)
|5||The ball is kicked into the backseat of a car which enters a tunnel, from which emerges a bicycle with the ball in its basket. The ball is then pushed by a locomotive, then a magnet attached to a plane picks it up and drops it into a tugboat, which then sinks. After the ball is shot out of a volcano, it is caught by a blimp, which drops it into the hole.|
(First: Episode 0991)
|6||The ball encounters farm-themed obstacles. Rolling down a barn and kicked by a donkey through a heard of sheep, the ball lands in a haystack. A goat farmer tosses it to a chicken that lays it like an egg. The ball chases a pig into a barn where the farmer drops it into the hole.|
(First: Episode 0983)
|7||The ball rolls past famous world landmarks, including the Taj Mahal, the Sphinx, and the pyramid of Khafre. |
(First: Episode 0989)
|8||The ball goes through the wilderness exploring forest-themed obstacles.|
Solo: electric guitar
(First: Episode 0998)
|9||The pinball encounters mechanical baseball players and is chased under the bleachers and down a hole by a mechanical dog.|
Solo: steel drum
(First: Episode 1032)
|10||The ball encounters European medieval- and fantasy-themed items. It is launched from a catapult by a knight into the mouth of a dragon that spits it to a giant that hits it toward a cannon that shoots it into a witch's cauldron.|
(First: Episode 0990)
|11||Mechanical jungle animals pass the ball around, including an elephant, a zebra, a lion, and a gorilla who flicks it into the hole.|
Solo: electric guitar
(First: Episode 0988)
|12||The ball goes sightseeing through famous American landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful, and the Golden Gate Bridge.|
Solo: steel drum
(First: Episode 0985)
Muppet Mentions and covers
- A tribute song by Stephen Lynch titled "Jim Henson's Dead" was released on his 2000 album A Little Bit Special. In it, Lynch incorporates the tune and lyrics from the song into a myriad of other Henson and Muppet references.
- The Dead Hensons, a San Francisco Bay Area band, covered "Pinball Number Count" and has performed the song in concert.
- A cover of "Pinball Number Count" was released by the band Wicked Hemlocks on its debut album, Quill of the Mad. Stick in Your Spokes Records, 2007. NPR described it as "a brilliant and completely surprising cover."
- Janelle Monáe sampled the melody in her 2008 song, "Many Moons."
- In 2004, a techno-style video-audio remix of the song, cut together with footage from the Beatles animated feature Yellow Submarine was released on the Internet by a UK group called Braces Tower.
- The 2005 Family Guy episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Fonz" features its own remake of the cartoon with Stewie encased inside a plastic ball in place of the pinball. Fox licensed the original audio for use in the short animation.
- In 2010, Aniboom.com started a Sesame Street animation contest that included a category to remake the original classic. Digital artists from around the world have now done remakes, including this feature at PinballNumberCount.com.
- The Count, backed by "The Sirloin Sisters," performed a jazz rendition of the song (arranged by Carlos Henriquez) at A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration in 2019. They sang a second chorus counting 50 years of Sesame Street and were joined by a number 50.
- In Let's Make Music, Elmo demonstrates ways to make music without using instruments to Telly. Elmo states that counting can become music and starts singing the chorus from the segment. He's joined by Telly, then Luke Cresswell making a rhythm with a broom.
- In The Street We Live On, Grover takes Elmo on a magical taxi ride through the history of Sesame Street. While trying to get to Hooper's Store, they instead find themselves in the ending scene of the cartoon.
- During a spoof of Just Dance in Elmo's Alphabet Challenge, the background is based off one from the segment.
- Pentatonix perform an a capella cover of the song in a Season 44 insert as part of their "Number Medley."
- The clock from the segment is seen on the wall of an Anything Muppet's living room in a "Grovercize" segment in Kinect Sesame Street TV.
- The opening sequence from When You Wish Upon a Pickle features the clock in a room among other Sesame paraphernalia.
- The Count plays a pinball machine based on the segment during the credits of Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration.
- A pinball machine modelled after the segment is seen being played by Murray Monster in the book Sesame Street Countablock.
- Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music (DJ Food Re-Edit-Special Extension by Strictly Kev)
- Solid Steel presents Sesame Street (DJ Food Re-Edit-Special Extension by Strictly Kev)
- The Great Numbers Game -- #12 segment.
- Let's Make Music -- #12 segment with sound effects.
- What's the Name of That Song?-DJ Food remix (as a DVD bonus segment).
- Shalom Sesame: Passover -- #10 segment in Hebrew.
- Sesame English: Rock On -- #5 segment
- Old School: Volume 2 -- #2 segment included as part of episodes 1056 and 1186, and #4 segment (the booklet said #2 segment) and DJ Food remix included as Season 7 classic cuts. Additionally the set includes a collectible reproduction of a Pinball Number Count animation cel.
- 40 Years of Sunny Days -- #7 segment.
- Elmo's Magic Numbers-2 through 12 (as a DVD bonus segment).
- Count on Elmo (2010 remake)
- Old School: Volume 3 -- #2 segment included as part of Episode 1316 and #12 segment as part of Episode 1576
- 50 Years and Counting -- #2 segment.
Although mentioned in the packaging and promotional material for Old School: Volume 1, "Pinball Number Count" is not actually included on the set.
- SesameStreet's YouTube Channel -- "Pinball Animation Countdown Compilation," #12 through #2
- A Letter from Walt Kraemer 10 September 2003 (original url)
- Muppet Central post by Sally Cruikshank Jan 2, 2004
- Sesame Workshop - Aniboom Awards 4 Sesame Street Winner is Announced
- ninjatune.net Released 26th January 2004
- Sesame Workshop Press Release. August 4, 2003
- Second Stage: "Wicked Hemlocks: 'Number Count,'" NPR, 2007.
- "Smart Cookies" concept art by Michael Lapinski