"Sesame Street: Made in NY"

This Tuesday, writers, directors, producers and puppeteers will discuss the making of the world's most famous children's TV show. We asked veteran set designer Victor DiNapoli to talk to us about his biggest inspiration: New York City.

Sesame Street
Would you mess with an eight-foot-tall bird? We didn’t think so. But it’s not hard to picture the gangstas in West Side Story snapping left past Oscar the Grouch. “Chuck Rosen created the set in 1969,” says Victor DiNapoli, who has been the show’s set designer for the past 30 years. “Before Lincoln Center was built, West Side Story was shot there. You can see it reflected in the Sesame Street set.”

Hooper's Store
The meeting place has been through several incarnations, including a 2002 pretend fire and an overhaul that made it look more like a typical convenience store. “The original Hooper’s was a neighborhood soda fountain,” says DiNapoli. “The renovation reflects what has happened all over New York, where older shops are being modernized.” What’s next—a Duane Reade? “Never!” cries DiNapoli.

The Furry Arms Hotel
“The producers asked me to create a typical residence-type hotel in Muppet scale,” says DiNapoli. “The motivation came from old-world hotels like what used to be the Mayflower on Central Park West or the Algonquin in midtown. And the revolving door created a place for comic entrances and exits—and confusing circular journeys for our Muppet characters.”

Big Bird's Nest
Our avian friend's fixer-upper will always be under construction, says DiNapoli: "The nest area was conceived as an empty lot. It provides some privacy for Big Bird, and has been personalized with favorite toys."

The Sesame Street Subway Station
The Count would’ve taken forever to purchase a vending-machine MetroCard (“$1 muahaha…$2 muahahah…). “This is a direct copy of the original 72nd Street subway entrance on the Upper West Side,” says DiNapoli. “It’s typical of a time when New York built many of the city’s Carnegie libraries, and it reflects the architecture of those buildings.”

123 Sesame Street
Residents Gordon and odd couple Bert and Ernie staked out prime real estate. “The building is very typical of the middle-income brownstone homes you’d see on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues in the 1970s and ’80s,” says DiNapoli. “This was meant to look like a survivor of gentrification; it sits proudly next to a construction site.”

The Laundromat
First it was the Fix-It Shop, then the Mail-It Shop, and now it’s a Laundromat. “It represents the gentrification of the neighborhood,” explains DiNapoli. “The interior evolved from researching several neighborhood Laundromats—we got a flavor for them by walking through the Upper West Side and Lower East Side.”

Next: Open Sesame >>