Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Zoe


Performed by…Zoe
Fran Brill

First appearance…
Sesame Street Season 25: Episode 3136 (1994)

Most recent appearance…

Sesame Street Season 45 (2014)

Best known role…
Sesame Street’s resident tutu-wearing, dance-loving, pet-rock-having orange little girl monster.

Best friend(s)…
Elmo, Big Bird, Rocco, Rosita, Abby Cadabby

Famous quote…
“Don’t joke me!”

Zoe is a rambunctious, fun-loving three year-old monster who lives on Sesame Street. First developed along with a whole crop of new characters as part of Season 25’s “Around the Corner” initiative, Zoe is one of the few remaining characters from that period to still remain prominently on the show (others include Rosita and Baby Natasha). Zoe was one of the few Muppets to be made into a prominent character without having first appeared as an Anything Muppet or a background character (e.g., Elmo, The Count). Zoe was developed with a character in mind and was put on screen because she was a girl character who complimented Elmo in every way–including appearance.

In her early years, Zoe did not wear any clothes other than her prized barrettes, bracelets, and necklace. Because she was introduced in to the show to counteract the predominantly male-Muppet cast, Zoe exhibited many characteristics of a little girl including her love of her doll, Mimi, and her desire to play princess with Elmo or other characters. Eventually, however, Zoe grew out of the stereotype and quickly began to possess goals and desires, including a desire to become an astronaut. Zoe also grew to develop new friendships with Big Bird (whom she once called her favorite person), Telly, Rosita, and more.

In Season 33, Zoe began to wear her tutu everywhere she went. The tutu soon became a permanent costume for her and you would be quite hard-pressed to find a time in the past eight years when she has been seen without it. Zoe’s love of ballet was added as another facet of her developing character, even garnering a special home video release called Zoe’s Dance Moves in which Zoe showcased her love of dance for all to see.

Recently, Zoe has become one of the girls again, creating something of a trio with Rosita and Abby Cadabby. The three girls are very prominent characters on Sesame Street, and at least one of them now appears in almost every new episode’s Street Story. Zoe, Rosita, and Abby have sang “Because We’re Friends” and “Guess the Seasons” together.

In Season 40, a new, smaller Zoe puppet was used because producers thought it made her look cuter. Unfortunately, all it did was make her look hideously scary–a fact that even Zoe’s performer, Fran Brill, will admit. The puppet was, thankfully, disposed of after Season 40, and the regular, much more gorgeous Zoe puppet was brought back in Season 41. However, the dwarf Zoe puppet is still seen before every episode of Sesame Street in the theme song.

Zoe’s catchphrase on the show started out as “Don’t joke me!” and is a favorite thing for her to say. She also has a Zoe-Mobile, a soapbox style car that she drives around the street occasionally. A few years ago, writer Joey Mazzarino developed Zoe a pet rock, Rocco. Rocco was established as an imaginary friend for Zoe to bring around to play time with Elmo and she proceeded to use Rocco to get Elmo to play the games or do the things she wanted to do. For instance, if Elmo wanted to play tag, Zoe would say, “Oh, but Rocco doesn’t want to play tag. Rocco wants to play hopscotch!” This caused Elmo an extreme amount of annoyance… and added another brilliant aspect to both Zoe and Elmo’s character.

Zoe continues to be a major character on the show and remains one of the characters most produced on merchandise.

Zoe has been performed by legendary Sesame Street performer Fran Brill since her development in 1993. Initially, Fran was unsure of how long Zoe would last as a character, but 17 years later, not only is Zoe still around, but she is more popular than ever. Fran eventually grew quite attached to the character and now makes countless public appearances with Zoe at screenings, book signings, and discussions.

After 17 years of Zoe’s prominence on the Street, this section seems rather redundant–but darn it if it doesn’t deserve repeating. Sesame Street needs Zoe for a number of reasons… the greatest of which is probably that she represents a wonderful, confident, uninhibited female lead character for little girl viewers to model themselves after. In a world of Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez… it’s nice for girls to have someone like Zoe to look to as a strong character who can still be a girly-girl when she wants to.

Zoe is also one of the friendliest characters on Sesame Street (and that’s saying something). When I got the chance to ask Zoe a question when I saw her live in Chicago, I asked her who her favorite friends to play with on Sesame Street are. Zoe had trouble coming up with a quality answer, since she had so many friends to get through. She mentioned Elmo, Big Bird, Maria, Baby Bear, Grover, and had to stop because she was afraid she would forget someone! Zoe is adorable and obviously loves her friends–which is yet another lesson she can teach the kids watching.

Zoe is a wonderful character who doesn’t get enough credit from hardcore, adult Muppet fans. Most of us seem to think of her as just a female Elmo, hogging screen time from the likes of Bert, Ernie, and Grover… But Zoe is so much more than that. She is a confident, determined, incredible character who loves, laughs, and learns just like everyone else on Sesame Street. You say Zoe isn’t a valuable part of Sesame Street? Don’t joke me!

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Zoe

  1. I couldn't agree more. My little girls love Zoe. She is such a good role model for girls. Zoe teaches that a girl can choose to be whatever they imagine, for example my daughters were recently watching a Halloween Sesame DVD and Zoe imagined being a basketball star and a princess. They need to keep her in the line up. Of course my daughter too love Abby but I feel strongly that society gives them to much princess and not enough inner searching. Fran does an amazing job with Zoe and her others. Love ya Zoe

  2. I'm 17 years old, and I still love Zoe! Zoe has always been my favorite! She's such a cutie! I used to always get excited whenever Zoe came up on the show. I even still have some of my old Zoe dolls. Anyway, Zoe is really important to the show. Kids need girls like Zoe to look up to, and not girls like Lady GaGa or Miley Cyrus. I really would hate to see her taken off Sesame Street. She may not be as popular as Elmo or Big Bird, but she's #1 in my book! Love you, Zoe! ♥

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