The fun AppleTV+ show Helpsters is from the makers of Sesame Workshop aired a great Halloween special this week. To celebrate the show, we had a great interview with Cody, one of the Helpsters and Jordan Geary, the Senior Director of Production and Development at Sesame Workshop.
Jordan shares some great details about how Helpsters teaches children through things like coding. Cody (the star puppet from the show, chats about the benefits of helping and the sequencing they do to solve problems. The show offers great advice for children, and the overarching theme of helping others is one we need in these chaotic times.
We also have a great Halloween Helpsters Activity Packet you can download here.
Season Two includes Helpsters Halloween/Storyteller Sophia (Episode 4). The Helpsters were so busy that they forgot to plan for Halloween. Sophia is getting ready for the big day and needs help thinking of a scary story!
Check out our short interview below and read the full interview below.
So Jordan, this show comes from the makers of Sesame Street. What’s it like to work at the Sesame Workshop?
Jordan Geary: That is a fantastic question. Well, personally, it’s a dream come true because I grew up like many people did on Sesame Street. My kids watch Sesame Street. I would say professionally is kind of like working at the Harvard of kids TV, every room that you go into, it’s like the best and brightest are there. You know, people are introducing themselves. Oh, I’ve written this book. I’ve documented this paper. All of this thing was named after me, and everyone is very big and very important. And then everyone just sits down and talks about what would be best for kids. And it’s like, everyone puts themselves aside and does, I think their life’s work and a lot of these meetings. So it’s a daily pinch-me moment, to put it briefly, I guess.
The next question is for Cody, Cody, how did your group of friends meet and get together for Helpsters?
Cody: Well, see the backstory to how the Helpsters get together. See, see, that’s a subject for a graphic novel someday that there’s going to be a whole movie, a whole franchise, cause it’s a long story, and it’s way too long for a little meet and greet like this. But let me tell ya, it’s a story like the Canon of this story, boy. And then let me just tell you, just suffice it to say that we all came together because A) we’re monsters who love to help and B) we’re all great palsies. And you know, we like solving problems together. I had the best team in the world. I got my buddy, bud Scatter. I got Mr. Primm. I got Heart. We even have Jackie. It’s so amazing. And we have the best shop in the world. We have the greatest place to help people solve problems. So, you know, I’m pretty lucky.
And Jordan, what is it like working with Helpsters like Cody?
It’s fun. It’s crazy. But it’s really, really fun. I think the thing that I’ve liked the most about working with the Helpsters is they are constantly teaching me and our family audiences that there’s no problem, bigger, small. I personally need that reminder on a daily basis when I’m confronted with things that seem like they’re insurmountable, just like a lot of kids, especially kids that are dealing with a lot that’s happening in the world right now, need those reminders that you can take a big problem and break it down into some smaller problems. Come up with a plan, work with some of your friends, and overcome it. And that’s what’s really at the core of help stirs with this partnership that Sesame workshop and AppleTV+ have together is this need to help kids overcome things that seem in surmount.
And Cody. How do you and your friends help kids?
Well, we help anyone who comes through the shop. We can help kids. We can help adults. I mean, we, uh, let’s see, for example, say you lost your toe shoes and you had a big ballet concert. Well, that might not seem like a very big problem if you’re not a dancer, but if you’re ballerina Betsy, it’s a big problem. So we made a plan, and we helped her find her shoes. So, you know, we try to show people through our work that first, everything starts with a plan. If you have a problem, you see what the problem is, and you make a plan to solve that problem. And then you give jobs to your team. You decide what the jobs are. And maybe my buddy, bud Scatter is going to do one job, and maybe heart’s going to do another job. Mr. Prince is going to do another job, and I’m going to do a job.
Right? And then when you do the job, sometimes we use things like, like sequencing. That means the order in which things happen sometimes. Sometimes I need to be clear with my instructions. Sometimes we need to debug things go wrong, and you need to find the bug in the problem. And then, so you can fix it. Sometimes we look things, you know, instead of saying, well, first you do this, and then you do this, and then you do that again. And then you do that again. You can say you do this and, and then you just look it over, and over it, it makes things a little clearer. See? And then we just, we just, uh, we showed through our work how to solve problems and how anyone can do it. You don’t even have to be a monster to be an honorary Helpster.
And Jordan, how do you come up with the ideas for the problems and how to help with them?
That’s a great question. The way that we come up with the ideas is by taking things that are kid relatable. I think a lot of people that are making educational content; they try to like shoehorn in a message. They’re trying to teach the kids and then wrap it in like some pretty cellophane to help them learn about something, but something that’s really important to Sesame. And why it’s like a leading educational entertainment company is because we start off with what kids like, what would be fun for kids to see? What’s a fun story that we’d like to tell. And then once we have that, then we talk to our department and say, what can we infuse in here? That’ll take a situation. That’s recognizable to kids and make it a learning moment too. And I think that’s why a lot of kids will watch Sesame Street and might not even really realize that they’re learning is because there’s, it’s so big into what’s already happening. That they’re just having fun, they’re dancing or singing, and they’re partying. And we wanted to bring that over to Helpsters too.
Great. And, what was the Genesis of the Halloween episode of Helpsters?
The Genesis is that a bunch of us are Halloween geeks, myself included. No one is sad or that Halloween this year is going to be different than me just because it’s such a time of creativity for kids. It’s such a time for nostalgia. It’s a time where you get to, I guess, almost kind of audition to be somebody else. And it’s also just a really great teamwork and community building time. And we all looked at this holiday and said, how could we not tell a story around this? Because all of us, when we think about some of our fondest memories as kids, we think about Halloween, we think of winter holidays and all of the fun kind of silly things like telling scary stories and throwing Halloween parties that go along with that.
How Helpsters uses coding to teach children important lessons
And Cody, Some kids are back in school in person, and others are learning at home. Some kids will be trick or treating for Halloween, and others won’t cause here; what can you tell kids about the best way to adjust when the plans change or just don’t work out how you imagined?
Well, we have a lot of that right now. You know, sometimes you just have to adapt, and you gotta use get to use your imagination and your brain. Cause I know you have one. I know you can think of ways to make things better. For example, there was this one time. See, I wanted to go to see the cherry blossoms in the park, but the parks were all closed. So I made my own cherry blossom tree, and you know, it was so lifelike. I could almost smell the cherry blossoms. There are so many creative ways that you can use your mind to think of new ways to celebrate Halloween. Like we made ghost treats, right? We were just me and a buddy, but Scatter. And what we did is we peel the banana, okay. We have to have the right sequence to do this.
If you do this in a sequence, it might not look like a ghost treat. So first, you peel the banana, and then next, you break the banana in half. And then next you put two little chocolate chips on for the eyes and next you put on one chocolate tip to make a little mouth. And then last, you put a Popsicle stick, and we had a whole bunch of little go streets, and they look like a little ghost choir going. It was great. So, you know, that might not be that traditional trick or treat. And we used our heads because we didn’t know what kind of tree we forgot. It was Halloween. I know we forgot about Halloween because time has no meaning anymore. And so we didn’t have any treats around, and we had to think of what can we treat? And we came up with it because we used our heads. It feels good to use your head. Jordan, what would you like your audience to learn from Helpsters?
One of the biggest things that we’re attempting to get our kid audiences to learn the big picture is some precoding techniques. Precoding sounds very, very scary. It’s really not. There’s a lot of foundational things that are in coding that kids just do on a daily basis. Things like putting things into a sequence, things like looping, like Cody had just mentioned before, where you just do something over and over and over again. But that’s not it. I mean, beyond that, we also want to have kids learn about teamwork. We want to have them learn about task persistence. And the way that you do that is just organically through the episode. You have the characters or the monsters or the customers who come in, get hit with an insurmountable problem that the audiences will just say, well, there’s no way they’re getting past this, and they’ll work together to overcome that.
Then just beyond those curricular things, I think the other thing that we’re looking to really get across on this show is you don’t have to do everything by yourself. You don’t have to be alone. If you have something that affects you could just go out and talk to somebody or ask for help. Every episode that we have starts with a customer coming in and asking for help. And the more it, especially during this time that we can model that for kids, that if they’re feeling something inside, they can go to their parents or to a caregiver, or even to their friends and say, I think I could use some help. And I want to talk to you about this. That would be something, especially during this time. I think we’d feel really good inside that we help them learn that
Cody. What is the best part of being a Helpster?
Oh, Oh, there are so many great things about being a Helpster. I mean, number one, I get to check tick things off of boxes and lists. That is so satisfying when you make a list of things to do, and you tick them off when the jobs are done. That’s great. And I really love saying all the jobs I’ve done, but you know, what the best part is? The best part is that warm feeling you get when a customer says, thanks. Yeah, we did. Because first of all, I’m very proud of the work that we do. And second of all, you have no idea. You ever give someone the best present in the world. Well, that present when you help someone. It’s so great to talk about this all day, but I’m sure you have better things to do.
Jordan, can you tell us some of the other special guests we can expect to see this season?
Yes, absolutely. So, we have Talib Kweli Greene. We have Cookie Cornelius, who is played by Danny Trejo, um, with Jason Mraz. We have, jeez, a ton of people. I think what was really fun about working on Helpsters or what is really fun about working on Helpsters is that when you say, Hey, I’m working on a show for Sesame Workshop and AppleTV+, we have the show where we just want to help kids. And in fact, the monsters that we’re working with they’re called the Helpsters. You’d be surprised how quickly people jumped at the chance. I think also it helps that we’re our end game is not to sell toys. Our end game is not to have the most like famous big show out there. It’s really just to help kids to have quantifiable proof that we’re making the lives better for kids out there.
And when that’s your end goal, when that’s your end game, when you’re explaining to a celebrity or a talent that you have a musical talent that you have, that that’s what you’re trying to accomplish. They can say, ‘okay, I’m going to be on the show. And at the end of the day, not only is it going to be something that I feel really good and warm about, but it’s something that one day I can show, or even now I could show my kids have them benefit from and make me a better parent or brother or neighbor to the kids who need it out there.’
Cody Jordan, thank you guys so much for answering these questions and being a part of our press conferences afternoon.
It was so nice to answer those questions. We love questions. We love answering them.
Great questions too. Thank you guys.