Over 50 ‘Sesame Street’ Specials Missing On HBO Max 

sesame street specials missing hbo max

Please welcome guest writer, Josh Shepherd. We’re thrilled to have him!

Fusing early education concepts, music, and fun, Sesame Street has since 1969 expanded to become the leading brand in children’s edutainment worldwide. 

Generations of kids (like me!) grew up learning letters, numbers, and much more from Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Elmo, and a diverse ensemble cast of human characters. However, whether your childhood was in the 80’s, 90’s, earlier or later, many of the memorable Sesame programs we grew up with are nearly impossible to find.

As Sesame Street recently marked its 50th anniversary, several specials have helped fans to look back (and forward) including remarkable documentary Street Gang—recently added to HBO Max—and recent-years-focused 50 Years of Sunny Days

In 2015, Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop) began to partner with TV network HBO to produce and distribute Sesame Street programs. This deal was renewed and expanded in 2019, with the announcement of new streaming service HBO Max—which would be the exclusive streaming home for Sesame Street content, both present and past programs. 

To their credit, all Sesame Street episodes produced since 2005 have been added to HBO Max in addition to 142 select episodes from earlier seasons. It’s roughly 650 episodes (out of over 4,500 produced in total), along with about a dozen specials and films. Oddly, HBO Max currently removes Christmas programs post-December—which fans should let them know is a bad move.

HBO Max subscribers constantly tweet at the streamer to add more legacy Sesame episodes, and hopefully more will come in batches. Still, some of the show’s most creative stories can be found in specials—nearly all out-of-print and unavailable, except for grainy YouTube videos. Sesame Workshop owns most specials, with a few likely co-owned by The Jim Henson Company. 

Regardless of rights ownership, with a bit of investment HBO Max could be a much more appealing destination for Sesame Street and Muppet fans. Listed chronologically within each category, here are over 50 Sesame Street specials currently missing on HBO Max. A final category lists a “future wish list” that notes certain reasons why those may be unavailable. 

Last Updated: February 1, 2022

Educational Specials

Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (C) 1983

Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983, 60 minutes)

This Emmy-nominated special features the Sesame gang visiting the renowned New York City museum, including after-hours hijinks. 

Sesame Street Visits the Hospital (1990, 33 minutes)

Starring Maria (Sonia Manzano) prominently and featuring songs co-written by her, she accompanies Big Bird when a virus causes him to visit the hospital. 

Sesame Street Visits the Firehouse (1991, 24 minutes)

Gordon (Roscoe Orman) watches over Elmo as he learns about firefighting and helps kids know what steps to take in a crisis.

When Parents Are Deployed (2006, 30 minutes)

Recent special from Sesame Workshop is designed to help military families. 

Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times (2009, 60 minutes)

Recent special from Sesame Workshop addressing relevant social and family issues.

Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change (2009, 30 minutes) 

Recent special from Sesame Workshop addressing relevant social and family issues.

When Families Grieve (2010, 60 minutes)

Recent special from Sesame Workshop addressing relevant social and family issues.

Growing Hope Against Hunger (2011, 56 minutes)

Emmy Award-winning special from Sesame Workshop addressed issues of food insecurity.

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration (2013, 56 minutes)

Recent special from Sesame Workshop addressing relevant social and family issues.

Around the World with Sesame Street

Big Bird in China (C) 1983

Big Bird in China (1983, 75 minutes)

Co-produced with China Central Television, this special pairs Big Bird up with young Lisa Ou as they visit the Great Wall and other iconic locations.

Big Bird in Australia (1984, 60 minutes) 

This rare special features highlights from a live concert held on a showboat in Melbourne, with several segments including Big Bird and Oscar. 

Big Bird in Japan (1988, 60 minutes)

Co-produced with NHK, this sequel to the China film has Big Bird and Barkley touring various sites in Japan. 

Sesame Street Stays Up Late (1993, 56 minutes)

This New Year’s Eve special hosted by Elmo features clips from Sesame Street productions around the world. 

Fiesta! (1998, 34 minutes)

Rosita leads the Sesame gang in putting on a musical carnival to celebrate Latino culture.

Holiday Specials

Michael Jackson speaks with Oscar the Grouch in A Special Sesame Street Christmas | (C) 1978

A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978, 48 minutes)

Broadcast on CBS the same year as Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, this special retells the classic Charles Dickens story with Oscar as Ebenezer Scrooge. Guest appearance: Michael Jackson.

Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978, 60 minutes)

This celebrated Emmy Award-winning special was briefly on HBO Max last Christmas season. 

Elmo Saves Christmas (1996, 57 minutes)

This entertaining musical production was briefly on HBO Max last Christmas season. 

A Magical Halloween Adventure (2004, 42 minutes)

Elmo and friends join the Amazing Mumford at a Halloween party thrown by magicians.

This prime-time special narrated by Ben Stiller reveals when Christmas almost didn’t happen. 

A Sesame Street Christmas Carol (2006, 47 minutes)

This Sesame Workshop production was briefly on HBO Max last Christmas season. 

Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas (2016, 60 minutes)

This special produced for HBO left the service following the Christmas season. 

Musicals and Dramatic Stories  

Sing! Sesame Street Remembers Joe Raposo and His Music, 1990

Sing! Sesame Street Remembers Joe Raposo and His Music (1990, 58 minutes)

Emmy Award-nominated special celebrates longtime Sesame Street composer Raposo (1937-1989) who wrote more than 250 songs for the show. 

Rock & Roll! (1990, 32 minutes)

Compiling over a dozen hilarious rock-parody songs, this special is framed as a DJ call-in show. 

Sesame Street Jam: A Musical Celebration (1994, 50 minutes)

This Emmy-nominated special serves as a concert counterpart to the other 25th anniversary program.

Elmopalooza! (1998, 45 minutes)

This prime-time special from Radio City Music Hall features David Alan Grier and Jon Stewart in leading roles alongside Elmo, with Gloria Estefan, Jimmy Buffett and others as musical guests.

CinderElmo (1999, 65 minutes)

This dramatic program stars Kathy Najimy, Oliver Platt, and Keri Russell, gender-swapping the usual Cinderella story as downtrodden Elmo tries to win the heart of the princess. 

Elmo’s Musical Adventure: Peter and the Wolf (2001, 48 minutes)

Featuring a score by the Boston Pops Orchestra, this special adapts the classic Russian story. 

What’s the Name of That Song? (2004, 50 minutes)

Super Grover must find one song the whole world can sing together. 

Iron Monster and Sesame Heroes (2010, 48 minutes)

This popular program features various superhero-related segments from the show. 

Preschool Learning 

Big Bird Gets Lost, 1998

The following specials released as home-video exclusives are self-explanatory.

A New Baby in My House (1994, 30 minutes)

Elmocize (1996, 30 minutes)

Learning to Share (1996, 30 minutes)

Telling the Truth (1997, 30 minutes)

Big Bird Gets Lost (1998, 41 minutes)

The Great Numbers Game (1998, 30 minutes)

Three Bears and a New Baby (2003, 55 minutes) 

Happy Healthy Monsters (2005, 30 minutes)

Elmo’s Potty Time (2006, 45 minutes) 

Count on Sports (2008, 30 minutes)

Bedtime with Elmo (2009, 30 minutes)

ABCs with Elmo (2010, 30 minutes)

Wild Words and Outdoor Adventures (2011, 54 minutes)

Monster Manners (2014, 30 minutes)

Be a Good Sport (2014, 124 minutes) 

Retrospectives and Behind-the-Scenes 

Behind the Scenes at Sesame Street

This Way to Sesame Street (1969, 28 minutes)

Two days before Sesame Street’s first episode aired, this promotional special introduced what would come.

Sesame Street at Night? (1977, 30 minutes)

Celebrating the show’s 1,000th episode, this special features clips of 100 celebrity appearances. 

A Walking Tour of Sesame Street (1979, 29 minutes)

Host James Earl Jones celebrates ten years of the educational program with clips and guests.

The Sesame Street Experiment (1989, 15 minutes)

A PBS special so rare it’s even unavailable on YouTube, Museum of the Moving Image has played this in years past. 

Big Bird’s Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake (1991, 59 minutes)

The first Sesame special to be produced following Jim Henson’s untimely passing, it features over two dozen guest stars and several musical segments. 

Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! (1994, 48 minutes)

Emmy-nominated special features clips and about a dozen guest stars.

Sesame Street Film Festival (1996, 38 minutes)

Big Bird introduces various animated short films seen on Sesame Street over the decades. 

The Street We Live On (2004, 55 minutes)

This Emmy-nominated clip show features Elmo’s World segments prominently. 

Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days (2009)

While this 5-hour DVD set mostly features clips from classic Sesame sketches, some available on HBO Max, it also includes a least an hour of unreleased behind-the-scenes interviews and clips.

Future Wish List Specials 

Julie Andrews and Big Bird in Julie on Sesame Street

Due to rights issues, outdated content, and other factors, these programs are unlikely to release soon HBO Max—though longtime fans continue to seek out quality versions of these too. Specials in this category are not counted as part of the 50 missing. 

Julie on Sesame Street (1973, 51 minutes)

Actress and singer Julie Andrews taped this musical special on Sesame Street, with rights unclear.

Out to Lunch (1974, 60 minutes)

In this collaboration with the Electric Company, the casts of both shows take over ABC News.

Sesame Street Goes to Prison (1977, 27 minutes)

This special features several Sesame Street songs though not any Muppet characters.

Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting (1989, 47 minutes)

This Emmy Award-winning special was hosted by Bill Cosby.

A&E Biography: Sesame Street (2001, 60 minutes)

The long-running documentary series produced an episode about Sesame Street. With enough demand, HBO Max could work out a deal to distribute this program. 

The World According to Sesame Street (2006, 100 minutes)

Co-produced with Participant Media, this documentary shows how versions of Sesame Street were created for three developing countries. With enough demand, HBO Max could work out a deal to distribute this program.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011, 77 minutes) 

Acclaimed documentary that premiered at Sundance Festival featuring puppeteer Kevin Clash. With enough demand, HBO Max could work out a deal to distribute this program. 

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (2014, 86 minutes)

A feature-length portrait of the below Muppet performer who originated Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, released four years before his passing in 2018. With enough demand, HBO Max could work out a deal to distribute this program. 

Which special do you want to see release on HBO Max? Are other essential Sesame Street specials missing here? Comment on this article via Facebook and Twitter, and updates will be made as needed. 

To learn about missing Muppets specials on Disney Plus, read this companion article

Freelance journalist Josh M. Shepherd writes about culture, faith, and public policy issues.

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Josh M. Shepherd
Freelance Writer | + posts

Freelance journalist Josh M. Shepherd writes about culture, faith, and public policy issues. His work has been published by outlets including What’s On NetflixThe FederalistFamily Theater Productions, and Faithfully Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.