Sesame Street’s 45th season has gained momentum by airing the new one-hour special The Cookie Thief on February 16th on PBS Kids. This marks Cookie Monster’s first special. It is about darn time, too! Cookie Monster is one of the oldest Muppet characters that is still in use and his origin predates Sesame Street. In the 1960s, Henson’s career in advertising was flourishing. In 1966, he drew three monsters that were going to be used in General Foods commercial advertising three snack foods called Wheels, Crowns, and Flutes. The snacks look interesting and tasty, but were sold in Canada. Although his commercial never aired, all three monsters were used in a sketch on the Ed Sullivan Show. In 1967, the Wheel Stealer Monster would appear in the IBM training film The Coffee Break Machine. In 1969, an altered Wheel Stealer Monster puppet named “Arnold,” appeared in a Munchos commercial. That same year, the puppet was changed again and debuted on the first season of Sesame Street. In the first season, he was a monster that threw tantrums to get his way and would be lectured by Kermit. The puppet scared children and received a slight makeover and kept trying to get Ernie’s cookies. By the second season, he was finally named “Cookie Monster” and began his reign of terror and cookie munching. Not only is he a live-hand puppet that is actually physically performed by two puppeteers, he was designed with a hole in the back of his mouth so he can eat anything. He was performed by Frank Oz from 1969-2001. David Rudman started performing him in 2001. This is not Cookie Monster’s first visit to a museum, either. Cookie Monster, along with the rest of the main cast of Sesame Street found themselves locked in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1983’s Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In The Cookie Thief, Cookie Monster (David Rudman), Elmo (Ryan Dillon), and a human character, Chris (Chris Knowings), visit the new Museum of Modern Cookie. Once they start viewing the exhibits, it is nearly more than Cookie Monster can handle! He wants to eat every work of art, but settles on eating tour guide Prairie Dawn’s (Fran Brill) cookie-centric clothing like her official Cookie Museum insignia, her cookie pointer, and cookie beret. One of the best lines in the entire special is when Prairie Dawn says, “Oh no! Not my official Cookie Museum insignia! Now I’m not official!” Chris, Prairie Dawn, Elmo, and the museum guard (the always hilarious Rachel Dratch) manage to talk Cookie Monster into devouring the art with his eyes and not his mouth. As the group boards the Cookie Elevator to visit the Cookie Cafeteria (yes, the cookie puns grow tiring after a while, even for pun-loving me!), Cookie Monster decides to take one last look at the Muncha Lisa, his favorite painting by Leonardo de Crunchy. As Cookie Monster nears the exhibit, he finds that the painting has been stolen! When his friends and the museum guard discover the robbery, Cookie Monster is accused! I mean, come on…he is the Cookie Monster! Who else would be guilty of such a crime? Ever true to their friend, Chris and Elmo are certain that Cookie Monster could never steal anything. They are determined to find the true thief. The rest of the special is devoted to a parody of the creation of each painting [starring your good ol’ blue furry pal Grover (Eric Jacobson)], the discovery of each featured painting having been stolen, and an attempt to evade the museum guard and her patrol of penguins. After discovering clues like crumbs, butter, and chocolate chips (and the viewer seeing the sneaky thief in action), it is revealed that the cookie art was stolen by…Little Cookie (Matt Vogel)! Little Cookie so loved the cookie art that he wanted to take it home. The special is concluded with a fun musical number teaching Little Cookie and viewers that anyone can be an artist and make their own art to enjoy out of several different mediums. The special includes several segments about art at the end. Overall, the special is pretty entertaining and educational, meeting Sesame Street’s main goals. According to a press release, this special serves to reinforce the 45th season’s “curricular focus of self-regulation and executive function skills that teachers identify as critical for school readiness.” Both Cookie Monster and Little Cookie are taught that even though they enjoy the art, they must not take it or destroy it in order to preserve it for others to enjoy. Not only does it teach the concept of impulse control, some of the Grover sketches also teach young viewers math skills, how to follow directions, and how to manage their emotions. As an adult watching the program, I cannot help but feel weird about a monster that eats cookies hanging out with a life size cookie that thinks and speaks. Cookie Monster does not seem temped at all to eat Little Cookie although he wants to attack paintings of cookies and sculptures made out of cookies or depicting cookies. In my opinion, Cookie Monster should have been the cookie thief the entire time. It only makes sense. The character of Chris manages to grate on my nerves worse than Elmo does. His dancing, which happens too often in the special, is like a Tyrannosaurs Rex doing the Carlton dance. He has also mistaken loud for funny. Even though he does not work for me for most of the special, there is a portion where Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Chris are animated and hide in a painting. His over the top delivery works much better in animation than in live action. This special is almost a little reminiscent of the 1978 travesty A Special Sesame Street Christmas in production value. Most of the money seems to have been spent in marketing and animation because only a handful of characters appear. If this were a brand new museum to Sesame Street, there should be more visitors instead of this group, a group of tourist sheep, and another small group that only appears for a musical number. Where is Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Oscar, the other human characters, or at least some nameless Anything Muppets? I understand that the age group, audience, and characters have changed over the decades, but this yet another Muppet case of what is missing from the special overrules what has been included. Instead of “Detective Elmo” trying to solve the case, Sherlock Hemlock could have appeared. Instead, we have Detective Elmo which is a set-up for one of the many games featured on the PBS Kids website. This music is just okay, which greatly saddens me. New songs were written for the special, but they were not up to par with the work of the late Joe Raposo or Jeff Moss. A revamp of “C is for Cookie” or “Just Three Colors” would have worked nicely. Aside from the Grover sketches, the part that this special does incredibly well is parodying actual famous artwork and transforming it to art featuring cookies. Dali, van Gogh, Warhol, da Vinci, Miro, Matisse, and Lichtenstein are just a few of the famous and talented artists included in the Cookie Museum. This special would be a great vehicle to introduce children to the idea of art and museums. After watching the special, children could be taken to visit a museum or research some of the artists and artwork parodied. My person favorite is The Cream by Edvard Munch which features the silhouettes of Bert and Ernie in the background. The focus on Cookie Monster, inclusion of Grover, and the meticulous attention to detail in the cookie artwork are saving graces for a special that would otherwise be mediocre. The main problem is the lack of other characters and the deviation from the idea of Cookie Monster being a cookie thief. It is just what he does. This plot has been used in multiple sketches including “The Great Cookie Thief” from season three and 1977’s storybook based on the same sketch. The bottom line is that it has been done before and better. That being said, mediocre Sesame Street is better than the best of much other children’s programming. The Cookie Thief (barely) earns 4 out of 5 rubber chickens! Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.