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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block
MICHELE NORRIS, host
And I'm Michele Norris. And I made a new friend this week.
ABBY CADABBY (Muppet) Hi.
NORRIS: Hi, this is Michele.
ABBY: I know. I listen to you.
NORRIS: You do?
ABBY: Kind of, sort of.
NORRIS: My new friend will soon be a new friend to the millions of children who watch Sesame Street. Her name is Abby Cadabby. And here's what you need to know about her. She's 3. She really likes girly stuff and she's a fairy in training. Abby Cadabby showed up at a New York studio along with a friend from Sesame Street, the show's executive producer Caroline Fuerente. I began by asking Abby to tell me a little bit about herself.
ABBY: I have wings that kind of look like a dragonfly's wings. And a magic wand.
NORRIS: A magic wand.
ABBY: Yeah, but I'm not supposed to use it too much, because I'm still learning.
NORRIS: But, since you're 3, I bet every so often you can't help yourself. You wanna use it sometimes, don't you?
ABBY: It's hard not to.
NORRIS: Have you met the other folks on Sesame Street?
ABBY: Yes. Yes, I did. Well, not all them. And I met Oscar.
NORRIS: Oh, he's a grouch.
ABBY: He is so grouchy. I almost didn't wanna be on the street, and I was gonna play by myself, and then I bumped into Mr. Snuffleupagus. His name's Snuffy, and he's huge. And he was with Big Bird, who is really nice.
NORRIS: Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to direct a few questions to Carol- Lynn Parente, executive producer of Sesame Street. She's with us, as well.
CAROL: Yes, I am.
NORRIS: Are there special opportunities here, not just to entertain children, but to teach them lessons that the other characters couldn't give?
PARENTE: Well, what's wonderful about Abby is that she is different from the rest of our folks. She's a fairy, and she's got a magic wand, and she's got wings. And so, it's a wonderful opportunity for us to teach kids about diversity. And that's what's so wonderful about her joining the Sesame community.
NORRIS: Now, she's a fairy. And she's also a girl. And Sesame Street doesn't have a strong track record with female characters. Are they harder to create, harder to get the right balance when you're introducing a character who's a female?
PARENTE: I think there is always more pressure with any character that's female. But we have a history of some strong females. She has, Abby is meeting Rosita and Zoe.
ABBY: I love Rose. Yeah, and Zoe will be there. Rosita is teaching me Spanish. And I'm teaching Rosita dragonfly.
NORRIS: Now, was there any debate over whether she should be a girly girl? A girl who loved pink and sparkles? Because there are so many female characters aimed at children today who wear tennis shoes and seemed to keep up with the boys. And frankly, they look like, if they had to, they could probably kick some butt.
PARENTE: I think what's great about Abby -
NORRIS: Yes, I did say that. I'm sorry Abby.
ABBY: You said something bad.
NORRIS: I did. I'm sorry.
ABBY: It's okay. I don't understand the question anyway.
PARENTE: I think what's great about Abby is when we create characters, we want the characters to reach the children, because the best way to educate them is to find characters that connect well with kids. And so, writing for girls is that challenge of trying to write so that they're reflective of girls and their character, but also are strong and smart and funny.
ABBY: I'm pretty strong.
NORRIS: Abby, could you do us a favor? Could you describe yourself? When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
ABBY: Well, I have purple freckles. All fairies get them when they're little. And, oh, I like my hair. It's really fluffy. I put them in pigtails because it keeps the hair out of my eyes. And they're, they're purple and pink, and they're little shiny. And I have wings.
NORRIS: Now, there's a question about your appearance I need to put to Carol- Lynn Parente, but I think it might be something that you might not wanna hear. So, if you have a book, why don't you just take a quick look in your book for just a minute. We'll be right back to you in just a sec.
Ms. Parente, I wanted to ask you about appearance, because I understand that for Muppets, this is very important. The size of the eye, the cast of the eye, the way the mouth is formed. Even something like the eyelashes. So, tell us how you actually developed what Abby would look like and what happened when you actually first presented that prototype to focus groups, the young kids who would eventually be watching the show.
PARENTE: You know, we haven't had a new character on the show in over 12 years. And so a lot goes into making a decision to have one. And when we actually developed her, we tried a number of things. And she started off very earthy, in a fairy sort of way. And we were really after with what would connect best with kids.
ABBY: What, huh?
NORRIS: Abby, are you with us?
ABBY: Just a minute. Yeah. I reviewed the alphabets.
ABBY: Did you know that turtle starts with the letter T? I got all the way to T.
NORRIS: And, you know turtle has two T's in it. Turtle.
NORRIS: T-L-E, I think it is. Turtle.
ABBY: Yeah, you're good.
NORRIS: Abby, thanks so much. It's been great talking to you. All the best to you.
ABBY: Yeah, you too.
NORRIS: Carol-Lynn Parente, it's been great talking to you, too. Thanks so much.
PARENTE: Thank you.
NORRIS: That was Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of Sesame Street, along with Abby Cadabby, the newest resident on the program. Her debut is Monday. Abby has a secret identity when she's not on Sesame Street. On the streets of Manhattan, she's known as Leslie Carrara-Rudolph.