"Sesame Street" is the show that made Elmo famous. Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, vice president of Education and Research for "Sesame Street," gave us a rare look into what goes on behind the scenes at "Elmo's World."
The idea for an Elmo segment came just before the 30th season of "Sesame Street." Research showed that the average viewing age was getting younger. The show was more popular with the under three crowd than ever before, but Truglio says that the younger viewers were losing interest around the show's 45 minute mark. Producers sought a way to capitalize on the research.
They came up with the idea for a truncated version of "Sesame Street." The original format would end around 45 minutes, and a shorter segment, designed to engage the youngest set of viewers, would air during the final 20 minutes of the show.
Elmo had always tested well with young audiences, so he was the natural choice for the show's host. "Elmo's World" debuted on November 16, 1998. The show-within-a-show fit perfectly with the season's "Discovery and Exploration" theme, as Elmo investigated the world in a way young preschoolers understood: through simple subject-matter and lots -- and lots -- of repetition. For example, every "Elmo's World" episode begins with Elmo announcing the topic of the day. The topics are something simple and familiar in a child's life, such as shoes, music, the sky, dogs, mail, or babies. Elmo, his pet goldfish Dorothy, and their silly friend Mr. Noodle explore the topics through a child's eyes with a series of kits and interviews."We pick subjects we know preschoolers are drawn to and then select a few basic educational messages they can take away with them," Truglio said. One characteristic feature of "Elmo's World" that children love (and may drive some parents crazy) is that it has precisely the same segments, in the same exact order, every day. Like it or not, "Sesame" research has shown that the formula appeals to young children's attraction to ritual and routine, and that children's participation in the show (through singing, dancing, or talking to the TV screen) increases with repetition.The finale of each episode of "Elmo's World" is when Elmo sings his hit single, to the tune of "Jingle Bells." The lyrics change with the words of the day. "Elmo's World" has undergone a few changes. When it first appeared, Elmo narrated the mini-documentaries. Today, the documentaries, which feature real kids, are shot and narrated by the young filmmakers.In the beginning, the same "Elmo's World" segment was repeated on all five shows for the week, but by the end of the inital season, this practice was dropped. In 2001, Elmo's crayon-animated computer began delivering e-mail from his Sesame Street friends about games, bugs, and the topic of the day. These computer segments replaced the "Elmocam" home video portion of the show used in the first two seasons. Parents may be wondering if there is more to "Elmo's World" than singing and silliness. Learn about the learning aspects of Elmo in the next section.