Sesame Place reportedly will no longer feature one of the most popular characters in its daily parades and meet-and-greets. The apparent decision to exclude the Muppet character is one of many changes the theme park has decided to recently implement as the company grapples with the fallout from a viral video that appeared to show one of its performers discriminating against two Black children last month.
The theme park on the outskirts of Philadelphia has been in national headlines after one of the adult costumed actors playing the role of Rosita seemed to snub two little Black girls vying for her attention during the parade attraction. The incident was caught on cellphone video and shared with the world via social media.
The Daily Mail reports its sources claim Rosita is being slowly removed because she is at the center of the controversy, becoming a PR nightmare for the brand.
On July 16, when the little girls tried to reach out to Rosita, a popular character who was brought into the “Sesame Street” universe to support their diversity programming efforts, the adult in the costume was immortalized shaking a finger at them as if to say “no.” After spurning them the performer reportedly passed them and started “hugging the little white girl” nearby.
The actor claims he/she was unable to see the children because of the way the costume is made.
Less than two weeks after that footage was released, a separate family, the Burns, filed a class-action lawsuit in Philadelphia against SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the corporate entertainment entity responsible for the operation of Sesame Place. The claim, according to the Los Angeles Times, alleges the characters “refused to engage” with their family “and all other Black guests in attendance,” discriminating against them based on their race.
Quinton Burns and his daughter Kennedi are seeking compensatory, actual, punitive, and statutory damages, including interest, exceeding $25 million.
Though the lawsuit identifies theme-park performers dressed as the Sesame Street characters, Elmo, Ernie, Telly Monster, and Abby Cadabby, it seems that Rosita, the female Muppet of Mexican heritage, is being canned.
One staff member told Daily Mail: “With recent events, Rosita hasn’t been around much anymore. She’s been taken off the parade entirely since the racism allegations.”
“None of the characters walk the street in the parade anymore, and any meet and greets for her have been called off,” the person said. “That is all because of the allegations, they don’t want anyone potentially making the same claims. Essentially, Rosita has been canceled and I don’t think she’ll be back any time soon.”
In July, after the first videos started to emerge, the park closed multiple buildings with Rosita’s image and likeness on them, the unnamed employees told the Mail. Some members of the park’s staff have said the turquoise character has been “canceled.”
Another attraction reported to be closed is Rosita’s Cocina, a signature attraction for the monster that has been out of play all summer.
“The Rosita restaurant has been closed for the last few weeks,” another Sesame Place employee anonymously shared. “There hasn’t been a real explanation as to why, but staff is assuming it could be to do with the accusations. The meet and greets have also changed recently but that could also be because of the heat with some other characters.”
Merchandise from the theme park souvenir stores, including T-shirts, mugs, dolls, stuffed animals, toys, and books featuring Rosita has disappeared from whole sections.
Another character being phased out of some parts of the park is Big Bird. One of the originals of Jim Henson’s Muppets, sources say in the dining hall of the theme park, he is being covered up with a large purple structure.
Sesame Place has not confirmed if Rosita has been “canceled,” but on Tuesday, Aug. 9, introduced a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative for its employees.
A press release noted the organization is hoping by the end of September to have all its employees participate in training developed by respected experts in civil rights “designed to address bias, promote inclusion, prevent discrimination, and ensure all guests and employees feel safe and welcome.”
Cathy Valeriano, president of Sesame Place Philadelphia, said in the statement, “We are pleased to have this team of well-respected leaders joining us. We have already begun engaging with employees, guests, civil rights groups as well as community leaders, and instituted some interim measures at the park while the review proceeds.”
“The actions we are taking will help us deliver on our promise to provide an equitable and inclusive experience for all our guests every day,” she continued. “We are committed to making sure our guests feel welcome, included, and enriched by their visits to our park.”
Rosita, who was introduced in 1991, remains a character in the upcoming TV series on HBO Max, slated to air in November 2022. She is also still on the Sesame Place app.
Born on Dec. 7, Rosita, la Monstrua de las Cuevas is forever 5 years old and is the second Muppet in the workshop’s history to speak more than one language. The first was Osvaldo the Grouch. Both of them speak Spanish.
Jim Henson, the creator of the puppets on “Sesame Street,” had a vision of diversity and used different colored fur on monsters, animals, and people to disarm difficult conversations of race, belonging, and empowerment for kids – telling his team to create a bilingual Muppet character like Rosita in 1990 before he died.