Mr. Snuffleupagus: A Retrospective

On May 9, 2014 by Tim Newman

Mr Snuffleupagus - close up

Last night, during conversation I attempted to say “Theo Paphitis”. It’s a tricky name to say late at night and it came out more like “Feo Pathefis” or something. My lady friend asked me if I was talking about the mammoth off of Sesame Street, I said: “what mammoth?” And then in unison we remembered dear Mr. Snuffleupagus and I decided he deserved further mention seeing as I hadn’t probably considered him for over a decade.

Mr Snuffleupagus - snuffy

Aloysius Snuffleupagus, to give him his full name, or snuffy, was a mammoth like fur ball without ears or tusks. He was Big Bird’s best mate and had a little sister called Alice. Snuffy lived in a cave near Sesame street with his family, but his species was said to have originally hailed from a small Hawaiian island. For years rumours abounded that he was Jim Henson’s reference to weed smokers. Henson obviously denied such loose talk.

Mr. Snuffleupagus gets a Guinness World Record for having the longest eyelashes of any puppet, and until those meddling Fraggles showed up he was the biggest regularly used puppet on TV.

Mr Snuffleupagus - Mommy Snuffalupago

Initially only Big Bird would see Mr. Snuffleupagus, he was kind of an imaginary friend.  Before Snuffy was revealed, the adults would never believe Big Bird when he spoke of him. As the episodes went on, the adults became more and more frustrated with Big Bird when he blamed occasional mishaps on his “imaginary friend”. The writers were mirroring children’s penchant for imaginary friends of course.

In the early days Snuffy had almond shaped eyes with thin pupils and short eyelashes, this was deemed to scary for kids so his eyes got bigger and rounder and his eyelashes became massive.

Mr Snuffleupagus - early days

Snuffy In The Early Days

Snuffy was only revealed to the adults in their 17th series in 1985. It was episode number 2096 to be precise. After some close calls and farcical japes the adults finally met Mr. Snuffleupagus; they apologised to Big Bird and promised always to believe him in future. 

The reasons for Snuffy’s eventual unveiling are quite interesting. One of the guys that played Snuffy – Martin P. Robinson – came clean about the motivations in an interview on a Canadian TV show some years later. Snuffy’s reveal was due to a number of high profile paedophilia cases that had been shown on TV programmes such as 60 Minutes. In these cases that came to light the children had been too afraid to mention the activities to their parents as they feared they wouldn’t be believed. The producers of Sesame Street didn’t want kids to think that parents wouldn’t believe them if they told them about something which seemed unbelievable but that really was true. So Snuffy was revealed.

Mr Snuffleupagus - Aloysius and Big Bird

Throughout the years Mr. Snuffleupagus has been played by a number of people: Jerry Nelson who also did the voice for Count von Count; Richard Hunt who also did Scooter and Beaker; Michael Earl, who went on to do the original Shrek voice and Martin P. Robinson who built, designed and performed the puppets for Little Shop of Horrors.

Mr Snuffleupagus - Aloysius and Big Bird 2

Aloysius Snuffleupagus began his life as a sad and dreary character with a habit of speaking nonsensically, but over the episodes he slowly made more sense and cheered up a touch. His family grew to include Mommy Snuffleupagus (living in Cincinnati, Ohio), Daddy Snuffle, his sister Alice, Aunt Agnes Snuffleupagus, Granny Snuffle, cousins Abigail Snuffleupagus and Señor Snuffleupago (little known fact: Señor Snuffalupago, his Mexican cousin, had a huge wooden sombrero. It was so heavy it broke Snuffy’s internal frame work when it was first worn), and Uncle Abe.

Mr Snuffleupagus - Alice sister


Please be upstanding as we raise a glass to this Muppet stalwart: Aloysius Snuffleupagus…

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