"Sesame Street" writer Tony Geiss dies at 86

Mon Jan 31, 2011 2:03am EST
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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Tony Geiss, a writer and lyricist who helped give life to the animated characters on "Sesame Street," died January 21 in Valhalla, N.Y., aged 86.

His cousin confirmed the news to the New York Times, citing complications from a recent neck injury.

Geiss spent over three decades working as a staff writer and a composer for "Sesame Street," the award-winning kids show that features Jim Henson's Muppet characters in short skits and animated sequences. Geiss invented several Muppets of his own, including the Honkers and Abby Cadabby, and helped come up with the concept and theme song for "Elmo's World," a segment featuring the furry red monster.

His contributions to the TV show earned him 22 Daytime Emmys screenwriting and songwriting.

"Tony's brilliant words, his sense of humor, his musical virtuosity, and his respect for children in this country and around the world, brought laughter, love and learning together for generations," the Sesame Workshop said in a statement.

Geiss also wrote for a number of popular films geared toward young audiences, including "The Land Before Time," an animated 1988 film about orphaned dinosaurs, several of its direct-to-video sequels, and Steven Spielberg's 1986 children's movie "An American Tail."

Geiss' wife of 60 years, Phyllis Eisen, died December 2009. There are no immediate survivors.