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So Long Judy Freudberg, Sesame Street Veteran; Writer Behind Land Before Time and American Tail

so long and thanks for all the fish

Chances are, if you’re a regular visitor to this site, you’re around the age where Sesame Street and the early directorial efforts of Don Bluth were a major part of your childhood. No really, we have statistics. We’re absolutely not projecting our personal experience onto others. And the thing that Sesame Street, The Land Before Time, and An American Tail have in common are Judy Freudberg, a writer behind all three.

After a forty year career in children’s entertainment that began as a script typist for Sesame Street Workshop in 1971 and earned her seventeen Emmys, Freudberg died this week of a brain tumor at the age of 63.

Though she started out just as a typist, four years later Freudberg was writing for Sesame Street full time, and was the co-writer on Sesame Street‘s first feature length movie, Follow That Bird in 1985. But perhaps her most prominent contribution to Sesame Street was the creation of the Elmo’s World segment. You might never realize, based on Sesame Street’s cheerful facade, the amount of research and psychology that goes on behind the scenes to make sure that the forty-year-old television program remains engaging, relevant, and educational to its young audience, rolling with changes not just in children from decade to decade, but the rest of television. Freudberg talks about the circumstances that motivated the creation of Elmo’s World:

When Sesame Street first started, it was the only game in town, so they could get away with a lot more. They weren’t worried about competition.

And then we were told, around season 30, 12 years ago, that we were losing our audience, especially with about 20 to 30 minutes left in the show. We were the only hourlong program on; children’s television was almost all 30-minute shows. And that’s when we came up with “Elmo’s World,” to go in the last part of the show, to win back their attention. And it worked.

So thank you, Judy Freudberg, for touching a lot of people’s childhoods in ways that they probably never realized.

(via The Hollywood Reporter.)

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