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Elmo: The Story Behind A Childhood Icon

A look into the history of the little red icon of Sesame Street


What's going on?

Elmo is a furry red character from the widely acclaimed children’s television show Sesame Street. His adorable fluffy exterior and high pitched voice, along with his habit of referring to himself in the third person endear him to both children and adults alike.


The story of Elmo begins as a character for whom the producers of Sesame Street were trying to find a role. He was then given to puppeteer Kevin Clash in 1984, and thus became the character we know and love ever since. Elmo rapidly became one of the most popular characters on the show, relating easily to children thanks to his kind personality and cheerful, curious nature. In 1996, the Tickle Me Elmo toy was introduced as part of the show’s merchandise which brought the character to even greater heights. Stores rapidly sold out of them and long queues formed as people rushed to buy the toys. A million toys were sold in the first year and four million the year after. The toys still occasionally appear on eBay and can reach up to a value of $1,000.


Two years later, riding on the success of Tickle Me Elmo, Sesame Street launched Elmo’s World, a segment on the end of their programme. It was meant as an educational opportunity for preschoolers and succeeded in becoming a permanent fixture of the show. Now, 35 years since he was first introduced, Elmo is still a well-loved character, and there seems to be no sign of that changing anytime soon.