Apr 4, 2012
Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Mr. Snuffleupagus
Martin P. Robinson (1980-present)
Jerry Nelson (1971-1978)
Micheal Earl (1978-1980)
Sesame Street Season 3: Episode 0276 (1971)
Most recent appearance...
Sesame Street Season 42 (2011)
Best known role...
Big Bird's best friend; not-really-imaginary friend; lovable, furry elephantine creature
4 years old
Alice Snuffleupagus (sister), Mommy Snuffleupagus, Daddy Snuffle, Aunt Agnes Snuffleupagus, Granny Snuffle, Señor Snuffleupago, Uncle Abe
WHO IS MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS?
Mr. Aloysius Snuffleupagus, Snuffy to almost everyone, is a young member of the species of Snuffleupagus. He resides on Sesame Street where he enjoys playing with his best friend in the world, Big Bird, whom he affectionately calls "Bird." Most fans of Sesame Street know Snuffy as Big Bird's imaginary friend. For over a decade, whenever Snuffy appeared on the show to play with Big Bird, Big Bird would try to rally the adults on the street to come see Snuffy as real. Yet every time, they would narrowly miss seeing Snuffy before he left for some trivial reason (forgot to brush his teeth, needed a tie, etc.).
All of these narrow misses led to the adults not believing Big Bird when he tried to convince them that his friend the Snuffleupagus was real. Although none of the adults ever saw Snuffy, numerous children, Muppets (Elmo, Forgetful Jones), and celebrities (Judy Collins, Mr. Rogers) could indeed see and interact with Snuffy.
It wasn't until Season 17 of the show that the adults finally met Mr. Snuffleupagus. Gordon, Susan, Maria, Luis, Bob, David, Linda, and everyone else could now finally not only see Snuffy, but interact with him and integrate him more prominently into the stories on the show. This quickly made Snuffy into a developing character and he would eventually become one of the most popular characters on the show.
Mr. Snuffleupagus became "real" to the other characters on the show for numerous reasons. The most prominent reason being that the writers of Sesame Street feared that children would be reluctant to tell adults secrets, which could become dangerous. When children saw the adults not believe what Big Bird tells them, children may not want to risk adults not believing them and neglect to tell adults something important. Plus, the Sesame Street writers were simply running out of ways for the adults to narrowly miss seeing Snuffy. Who can blame them?
In his first appearance in Season 3, Snuffy's face design was strikingly different from today's Snuffleupagus. He had bright green, unfocused eyes and no eyelashes, making him terrifying. Thankfully, Snuffy was redesigned in time for Season 4, when he gained eyelids and eyelashes and much more appealing and traditional white eyes. Snuffy would continue to be redesigned every once in awhile as the show progressed. Eventually his eyelashes became very long to where they hang over his eyes.
Mr. Snuffleupagus appeared in many of the major story lines on Sesame Street. He traveled with the cast to Hawaii in 1978 and even became invisible for two episodes in 2004. For a stretch in the 1980s-1990s, Snuffy's sister Alice Snuffleupagus became a secondary character on the show as well. Many episodes focus on Snuffy's other relatives visiting the street, including his Uncle Abe and Granny Snuffle. One episode from 1992 actually featured Snuffy's parents getting a divorce. The subject matter was deemed too serious for Sesame Street and the episode never aired.
Snuffy also played a major role in the 1984 feature film Follow That Bird! where he watched over Big Bird's nest while he was away. In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street Snuffy made a perfect Santa Claus to test Big Bird's concerns about how fat old Santa gets down the skinny little chimneys. Big Bird convinces Snuffy to don a Santa hat and step into a barrel to try and mimic Claus. Obviously this doesn't work, and poor Snuffy is stuck. Much later, in Elmo's Christmas Countdown, Big Bird and Anne Hathaway sing the song "I Want a Snuffleupagus for Christmas" with Snuffy.
For years, Mr. Snuffleupagus has been one of the most popular and endearing characters on Sesame Street. He continues to appear prominently in many of the current episodes of Sesame Street in recent seasons, almost always with Big Bird by his side. With his loveable behemoth demeanor, his innocence, and his storied history, Snuffy has cemented himself in the adoring minds of children and adult fans everywhere.
PERFORMING MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS
Mr. Snuffleupagus is one of the most complicated and intricate Muppet characters on Sesame Street. It takes two performers to operate Snuffy, one in the front who operates the face and mouth and provides the voice, and a performer in the back who moves the hind legs. Jerry Nelson originated the character in 1973, but with his commitments on The Muppet Show in the late 70s and early 80s, Jerry gave up the character. Michael Earl performed the front of Snuffy for three seasons before he was replaced by Martin P. Robinson, who continues to perform Snuffy's face, mouth, and voice to this day.
The back end of Snuffy has been performed by Richard Hunt, Brian Muehl, Frank Kane, and Peter Friedman, but since 1979 Bryant Young has been the only performer to work as Mr. Snuffleupagus's rear.
WHY DOES SESAME STREET NEED MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS?
Snuffy is not only a great character, but he is a wonderful piece of nostalgia for fans of classic Sesame Street. I know many adults whose fondest memories of the show involve the adults not seeing the elusive Snuffleupagus or finally meeting him. Snuffy is a great connection of modern and classic Sesame Street, which in turn connects kids and their parents watching the show.
But what is more important about Mr. Snuffleupagus is that he is a great character. He teaches kids that just because someone is big and intimidating, it doesn't make them scary. In fact, Snuffy proves quite the opposite. He may be large, but he's also loving. His size is intimidating, but his laugh is infectious. In recent episodes of Sesame Street, Snuffy has defied gravity, soared through clouds, pretended to be a dinosaur, made friends with even the smallest things, and been a loyal friend through and through. Mr. Snuffleupagus proves to all of us that no matter what you are, you can do whatever you want to do if you believe and, more importantly, if people believe in you.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org