A person dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo walks
through Times Square in New York. Photo by Reuters
Elmo and Cookie Monster have long delighted young viewers
on TV's "Sesame Street," but the recent antics of New York
street performers dressed as the beloved characters have drawn
the ire of city officials and now the show's producers.
Sesame Workshop, which owns the rights to Big Bird, Ernie and
the assorted puppet monsters on the 45-year-old programme,
said it was drafting plans to stop performers who dress up as
the characters from appearing in Times Square, where they
pose for photos with tourists and then demand tips.
"Sesame Workshop has not authorised the appearance of any
Sesame Street costumed characters on public streets in any
city," said the nonprofit group that produces the
internationally broadcast children's programme.
"We care about our fans and the image of our brand and, like
everyone else, we care about public safety on our streets."
The statement came days after a man dressed as Spider-Man was
arrested in Times Square for punching a police officer who
scolded him for demanding money from tourists.
The motley group of performers has drawn increasing
complaints from city leaders and law enforcement officials
who view them as a nuisance.
Last year, a man dressed as Cookie Monster was arrested on
suspicion of shoving a 2-year-old child whose mother failed
to tip him, and a man dressed as Elmo was arrested in 2012
after going on an anti-Semitic tirade.
Sesame Workshop said it had been meeting with other
"concerned" groups, including the companies that own the
licenses to some of the other characters appearing in Times
Square, to decide what to do about unauthorised costumed
The group declined to answer questions about its plan or say
whether it would file a lawsuit or back proposed legislation
aimed at regulating the performers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday he was considering new
licensing requirements and other rules to rein in the
"This has gone too far, and it's time to take some real steps
to regulate this new reality," de Blasio said. "Once we have
regulation, we'll be able to say very clearly to everyone who
does that work: 'Play by the rules or you won't be working