Cracks aka "Crack Master" (found animated "Sesame Street" short; 1975)
The short's opening shot.
Date found: 24 Dec 2013 (English) / 15 Mar 2017 (Spanish) / 28 April 2019 (Hebrew)
Found by: Anonymous and Dycaite (English) / Patriot712 (Spanish)
Cracks (also known as Crack Master) was an animated Sesame Street short that aired for its first time on December 31st, 1975. The short gained notoriety in the late 2000s due to its mysterious disappearance from the show, having abruptly stopped airing in 1980 with no official reason ever having been offered.
The official description of the short (as found in documentation sourced from the Children's Television Workshop archives at the University of Maryland, College Park) reads "A girl lying in bed imagines she sees a crack in the wall (DIVERGENT THINKING) (TIME 1:29)." 'Divergent thinking' references the educational goals for the short, based around creative ideas and by extension problem-solving.
It is narrated in a dreamlike rhyming sing-song by Dorothy Moskowitz (later of the indie-electronica group United States of America). As indicated it tells the story of a young girl kept indoors on a rainy day, passing the time by spinning fantasies about the 'crack creatures' (a camel, a hen, and a monkey) she sees in various cracks in the walls of her house. The creatures come to life to greet her, and together they set out to find the source of mysterious noises in the attic. Instead of 'a new crack friend' they encounter the unnerving 'Crack Master', a large, distorted face that bellows angrily at the group, moments before crumbling to the ground. The narrator makes the point that Crack Master "destroyed himself trying to be mean", as everyone disperses back to their respective walls and - since the rain has stopped - the girl runs out to play, promising to "go and see the cracks again, someday."
In late 2008, the short re-entered the pop-culture consciousness via Internet posters reminiscing about seeing it as children, and in particular how scary the Crack Master had seemed to them.
One of these posters, a man by the name of Jon Armond, spearheaded a search. It quickly emerged that the Sesame Workshop not only had entirely dropped the short but were extremely reluctant even to discuss it. No official explanation why has ever been provided, but it's thought a combination of the short's unsettling undertones plus emerging sensitivities around the word 'crack' [ie. cocaine], especially in the context of an obviously low-income environment, made a discreet scrubbing from Street history imperative.
Armond did, however, come into possession of a copy of the short from a mysterious source - though with hefty strings attached: he was forbidden from sharing his acquisition with anyone and was under no circumstances to reproduce it for public viewing. While he freely offered and held showings in his home (and, on a select few occasions, to small audiences elsewhere) he upheld his contractual obligations and refrained from uploading the short online, much to the dismay of many. He relented to the extent of recording a 9-minute 'audio documentary' on the short in 2009, including a word-for-word reading of the script. This was shared with a handful of people that he'd previously been in contact with and eventually found its way to YouTube.
Armond was unable even to confirm the short's correct title or the names of those involved in its creation. To this day the identities of its executive producers and animators are still completely unknown. For a time, famed animator Cosmo Anzilotti was rumoured to have worked on it, though when questioned he denied any involvement - or at least the memory of it. All Moskowitz can recall is being summoned for a gig in a recording studio, where a woman in white handed her a script and asked her to improvise a musical narration (which does help explain the dreamlike atmosphere that gives the short both its charm and notoriety).
In the years following Armond's acquisition, several Latin American lost media enthusiasts came forward with claims that the short had aired in the 1990s and 2000s on the Spanish dub of Sesame Street, Plaza Sesamo. This version was uploaded to YouTube by user AT Productions (Patriot712 on the Lost Media Wiki) on March 15th, 2017, with a higher quality VHS recording being released on March 31st, 2017.
After conducting an extensive search effort of his own - involving letters and emails to both Sesame Workshop and the archives of their predecessor, the Children's Television Workshop - Lost Media Wiki founder Dycaite was sent a copy of the original English-language short by a generous anonymous source on December 24th, 2013. It was uploaded to YouTube shortly thereafter and has since garnered nearly a million views.
It has been confirmed by blogger Jennifer Bourne, aka Namowal (who was among those who privately screened Armond's copy) that the version sent to Dycaite is not the same one that Armond had been provided with, as the latter was taken from an actual episode of Sesame Street and began with a brief glimpse of a previous skit. By contrast, Dycaite's version appears to have been directly sourced from an official archive of some kind, beginning with a formal title card complete with production code and runtime. This cataloguing system fits well within the original format of Sesame Street, which featured an extensive library of short animations that would be re-aired at random over several episodes.
Cracks aired only 12 times in the original series, from 1975-1980. It aired in the mid-1990s (probably 1993-1995) on Plaza Sesamo. Hebrew, Turkish, Portugese and French dubs have also been found, and it's probable there are other international versions as well.
|Season 7||0818||December 31st, 1975|
|0848||February 11th, 1976|
|0903||April 28th, 1976|
|Season 8||0928||December 1st, 1976|
|0979 (repeat of 0698)||February 10th, 1977|
|1016||April 4th, 1977|
|Season 9||1067||December 13th, 1977|
|1140||March 24th, 1978|
|Season 10||1239 (repeat of 0964)||February 8th, 1979|
|Season 11||1323||December 5th, 1979|
|1386 (repeat of 1091)||March 3rd, 1980|
|1430||May 2nd, 1980|
The short's release caught the attention of numerous media outlets, notably The Huffington Post, who described it as "eerie" and "haunting".
On February 19th, 2019, Studio 360 devoted a podcast episode to an attempt to track down the short's origins. Kurt Andersen discovered that it was produced by "P Imagination", which led him to Moskowitz and a few other names: Mel Martin composed the saxophone portion of the soundtrack, and Peter Scott was the radio producer.
- Jon Armond's 2009 audio documentary on the short.
- MEGA mirror of the anonymous source's original file.
- Rundown of Episode 979 (February 10th, 1977), as found in the Children's Television Workshop archives. Retrieved 04 Mar '15
- Cosmo Anzilotti's response to a letter from Dycaite regarding the short. Retrieved 04 Mar '15
- Blog post by Namowal on the short's unearthing. Retrieved 04 Mar '15
- The Huffington Post article on the discovery of Cracks. Retrieved 20 Feb '19
- Studio 360 podcast on Cracks. Retrieved 20 Feb '19