Sunday, September 27, 2020

Street Wise

Sunday Surprise Day. 

The Sesame Street comic strip started right at the beginning of the show in late 1971 and ran until 1975. The artist and writer was Cliff Roberts a cartoonist and animator, who also provided some of the educational animations for the tv show. The strip followed the same format as those modern animations, using various characters kids stuff words, numbers and shapes, just by constant repetition. Of course, the tv show also had Jim Henson's muppets providing the main characters in their own shorts and interacting with the human presentors cast and the children who lived in and visited the street. For the first year, the comic strip did not have those. Cliff Roberts used his own cast of characters for the strip, an old lady, a small guy with a hat, a yellow guy with a hat, all drawn in the cartoon style used in the show as well. In fact, these secundairy characters were regulars on the show as well. But they were soon eclipsed by the succes of the Muppet characters, who started appearing in the newspaper strip as well after the first year. All drawn in Roberts' wonkey and modern style, of course. Although it did have a good run, the strip never grew enough from it's 175 newspaper start to last out even the decade and it has rarely been seen after that. Which is odd, because Roberts' contribution to the Sesae Street tradition should probably be better known than what I could find online. This is what he got at the Muppets Wiki: "Cliff Roberts (1929-1999) was a cartoonist and animator who worked on inserts for Sesame Street as well as the spin-off comic strip. Roberts spent much of his early career in New York City as a freelance commercial artist and director. He also worked as a photographer, with work displayed at the 1964 World's Fair, and contributed cartoons to Playboy and The New Yorker. He soon became a popular designer for animation, creating character model sheets for Terrytoons and UPA projects. Roberts' style, reflecting his commercial illustration background, involved flat but appealing forms and a minimal color palette; most of his characters were white blobs with occasional splashes of color. For the Sesame Street comic strip, Roberts created Jasper and Julius, a comedy duo who would engage in debates over body parts, as well as Christopher Clumsy and Miss Fortune. These characters were eventually brought over to the show in season 4. Roberts later worked on the Saturday morning cartoons The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo and The Pink Panther, and illustrated the Langston Hughes book The First Book of Jazz. He retired in 1993." In 1960 he published a book called The Dot, which seems to me to have been an influence on 1963's The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics by Norton Juster (which was turned into an animated short by Chuck Jones soon after that). It also seems an influence of the style and contents of Sesame Street itself. If you want to brave the ads you can read it on Flickr: When I started researching this because I have a long run of early Sunday strips, I was surprised to see there was a daily version as well. I immediately went to my online microfiche source and got as many of the ealry dailies as I could get. I certainly saw enough to return to this subject later.

And here are some more:


joecab said...

I think you mean its start date was 1971 rather than 1951.

One Hour Device Repaire said...

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Blog of the Decimator said...

Some of these were later adapted as short cartoons on the show.

rodineisilveira said...

Distributed in the newspapers from the whole world by King Features (