NEW YORK – “Sesame Street” is going to be much sweeter.
Elmo, Grover, Abby Cadabby, and the rest of the Muppet gang are introducing a new character to the show this summer – a white-and-brown pup named Tango, The Associated Press has learned.
“We wanted to explore this special bond between children and pets by introducing this new character,” said Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice president of creative and production at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street.
Tango will join in season 52 of “Sesame Street” as an animated character and as a live-action muppet in episodes this fall on HBO Max and streamed on PBS KIDS in 2022.
The puppy will be featured in a 30-minute animated special, “Furry Friends Forever: Elmo Gets a Puppy,” which debuts August 5 on HBO Max. She is technically Elmo’s second pet – he has been looking after goldfish Dorothy for several years.
“He took care of his goldfish pretty well,” said Stallings. “We thought he had successfully taken care of Dorothy and that this could be the next step in his development and that he would get more responsibility and learn and grow.”
Plans to introduce a pet on Sesame Street dated back to pre-pandemic times when animal adoption skyrocketed. Sesame Workshop hopes that Tango will lead to age-appropriate assistance for pets, their care and feeding.
“The timing is perfect. It wasn’t like we decided six months ago, ‘Let’s create this new character because a lot of people are adopting pandemic pets.’ But we do know that many families adopted pets as a source of comfort and joy during the pandemic, ”Stallings said.
“As Elmo adopts Tango, for many of our children it will reflect what they are now experiencing at home and help them understand how best to love and care for their furry friends.”
Details about Tango have been carefully thought out, with internal discussions about what it should look like and what gender to choose. Stallings, who has a long-haired dachshund at home, puts aside her own preferences for the common good.
“We decided that the really best thing to do would be to make them so accessible, and appeal to as many children and families as possible, just make them like a mixed breed,” she said. “It could be a little bit of anything. Anyone with a pet could see a little of their pet in tango.”
In the animated and song-filled film, Grover and Elmo go out during playtime and meet the friendly but sad stray puppy sitting lonely in a cardboard box. She loves music and dancing and scratches her chin.
Even Oscar the Grouch calls it a “cute, adorable little fluffball”.
HOW TO MEET A DOG
Grover warns Elmo that whenever you approach a dog, move calmly and let him sniff the back of your hand. “This is how dogs get to know you. Or, should I say, nosing you,” says Grover.
Then the fuzzy monsters realize that the puppy is homeless. They decide that a local pet fair is the perfect place to find a new home for them.
“We’ll find you the home you deserve, little pup,” says Grover.
The couple also name the dog after ballroom dancing because they enjoy doing it. She dances the tango.
On the way, Cookie Monster offers her dog treats and Abby Cadabby cleans her in a magical bubble bath while she sings, “It was fun getting dirty. Now hurray, get clean.” The songs are by Paul Buckley.
When Elmo finds the animal fair empty, he comes to a realization.
“Elmo knows where tangos could be at home,” he says.
Grover asks, ‘Where?’
Elmo replies: “With Elmo.” But first he needs parental permission. Elmo promises to feed, play, bathe and go for a walk with tango. “We don’t need an animal fair to know we’re a great couple,” he sings.
The message: Let love take you in.
Tango will remain a puppy – just like Elmo will always be 3½ years old – but Stallings said the future of the dog as a recurring character is bright, with the possibility of even starring one day.
At first, however, according to Stallings, the makers only concentrate on the relationship between Tango and Elmo, as she becomes more familiar with the rest of the characters in “Sesame Street”.
“But if there are stories and educational reasons to tell, we could possibly put Tango off into their own series,” Stallings said.