Millions of fans met her yesterday, but Sesame Street's first new female Muppet in 13 years has her big debut today.
Little fairy-in-training, Abby Cadabby, today goes to school.
"We're so excited about Abby's character," says Sesame Street executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente. "Her magic is incidental. What she's knocked out about is reality. She's excited about the same things we want to excite our audience, like writing letters with a crayon."
With sparkly pigtails, a trio of freckles on each cheek and a magic wand that doubles as a cell phone, Abby "poofs" onto the series as it enters its record 37th season in 120 countries. Parente - "I'm the first executive producer to grow up with Sesame Street" - explains the new three-year-old is the daughter of a fairy godmother, "a working mother.
"She's also a new species, and that gives us the chance to show how differences can be accepted. It also helps with the fear of new things, like starting school."
For Abby, classes are held at the Fairy Tale Community School under the tutelage of Mrs. Goose, played by singer-actress Shirley Jones. Show and Tell is first on the scholastic schedule and student Mary steps up with her little lamb, who performs some pretty hilarious impersonations. Abby gets in on the action - a lesson in joining - with her magic wand/phone.
Adding Abby to the already large Muppet cast (nearly 25 regulars) was not an easy decision, says Parente. "Too many characters can be a problem for kids to build a relationship."
But a girl character opened new doors for the show. "There's not a lot out there that models healthy female relationships," she says. "There's a mean-girl syndrome, so this was a good opportunity to show how girls get along in healthy ways."
Abby's unique abilities are a good fit with the emphasis on literacy in Sesame Street's "back to basics" direction this year. Her magic spells are rhymes but, being a little girl, she needs help.
"She has to find the right word that rhymes to get herself out of a jam," says Parente, adding the 1964-72 series Bewitched (remember Sam's cousin Sabrina?) did come up as Abby's character was developed.
Other highlights this year include celebs Jamie Foxx ("My ears don't point," he says. "That proves you're not Jamie Fox," says a fox Muppet with the same name), Amy Sedaris and Alex Trebek, as well as parodies Scramalot, The Breakfast Club and Survivor: Musical Chairs.
10:30 a.m. weekdays, WNED.