Lloyd Morrisett, the co-creator of the beloved children’s television series “Sesame Street,” died Sunday, the Children’s Network announced. He was 93.
Morrisett died of natural causes at his home in San Diego, his daughter Julie told The Hollywood Reporter.
Morrisett was an experimental educator for the nonprofit Carnegie Corp. of New York, when he and Joan Ganz Cooney, a producer for a New York public television station, created the Children’s Television Workshop, which debuted in March 1968, the entertainment news website reported.
Morrisett, a psychologist, and Cooney brought in Jim Henson and his Muppets to bring “Sesame Street” to life, CNN reported. The long-running show debuted on Nov. 10, 1969.
The show reached more than half of the nation’s preschool children during its first season. According to IMDb.com, the show has won six Primetime Emmy Awards.
Morrisett said he got the inspiration for “Sesame Street” when he woke up one Sunday morning and found his 3-year-old daughter mesmerized in front of the television set, watching a test pattern, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
He told the story at a dinner party hosted by Cooney.
“There was something fascinating about it,” he told Karen Herman in a 2004 interview with the TV Academy Foundation website The Interviews. “What is a child doing watching a station identification signal, what does this mean? I didn’t know.
“I said, ‘Joan, do you think television could be used to teach young children?’ Her answer was, ‘I don’t know, but I’d like to talk about it.’”
Morrisett convinced Carnegie to invest $1 million in “Sesame Street,” then lobbied for an additional $4 million from the U.S. Office of Education and $1.5 million from the Ford Foundation, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Without Lloyd Morrisett, there would be no ‘Sesame Street,’” Cooney said in a statement. “It was he who first came up with the notion of using television to teach preschoolers basic skills, such as letters and numbers.”
Morrisett was born on Nov. 2, 1929, in Oklahoma City, according to Rolling Stone. He initially trained to become a teacher and earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1951, the website reported.
He pursued graduate work at UCLA and earned his doctorate in experimental psychology at Yale in 1956, Rolling Stone reported.
The Children’s Television Workshop (now known as Sesame Workshop) also created shows including “The Electric Company,” which was founded by Morrisett, Cooney and actor Paul Dooley, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
He served as Sesame Workshop chairman until 2001.
Asked what children would have done without Morrisett’s work, his daughter Julie told the entertainment news website that “I guess we’d all be stupider.”
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