Who likes Sesame Street? Well, who didn’t growing up? However, one thing that the folks down on Sesame Street don’t like is when other puppets show up on the entertainment scene, making a mockery of puppetkind by putting them in compromising adult escapades, with controversial acts including snorting ecstasy and puppets seen engaged in wild office sex. Welcome to ‘The Happytime Murders’ written by Todd Berger and directed by Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son). It’s all enough to make Bert and Ernie blush, not to mention become extremely offended, all in one fell swoop.
The film stars Melissa McCarthy on assignment as an ex-LAPD detective turned private eye, taking on a case of investigating a string of homicides ravaging the cast of a popular 80’s children’s puppet show, as they’re murdered one by one.
However, with all these lewd and misbehaving puppets going around in their own feature film coming out on August 17th, 2018, the people behind Sesame Street didn’t take kindly to the fact the people may mistake the puppets in the film for Sesame Street (or The Muppets for that matter), and thus, serviced STX Entertainment with a lawsuit.
But on Wednesday a New York judge ruled against Sesame Street’s suit against the film, allowing ‘The Happytime Murders’, to keep their tagline, “No Sesame, all street.”
The Sesame Workshop had argued that it was not made clear in the trailer, or in social media posts, that they were not involved in the new film. Clearly, Sesame Street were concerned with the subject matter of prostitutes, murder, swearing, gambling and drugs use, but to no avail.
Let’s take a look at the trailer now and see what ‘The Happytime Murders’ is all about, shall we?
Now, some would say that it’s in bad taste, but perhaps some people find this sort of thing quite hilarious, and that of course, must be the target audience for this film. The legal action from Sesame Street against the distributor of the yet to be released film was shot down by US District Judge Vernon Broderick, allowing STX Entertainment to continue using their Sesame tagline in promoting the R-rated film, resulting in a bitter blow for the Sesame Workshop.
The lawsuit was filed last week in a bid to end the use of the “No Sesame, all street” tagline, after the Sesame Workshop argued that it would confuse the public into thinking it was a Sesame Street collaboration.
However, STX Entertainment stated after the ruling, “‘We fluffing love Sesame Street and we’re obviously very pleased that the ruling reinforced what STX’s intention was from the very beginning – to honor the heritage of The Jim Henson Company’s previous award-winning creations while drawing a clear distinction between any Muppets or Sesame Street characters and the new world Brian Henson and team created.”
Meanwhile on the side of Sesame Workshop, their legal side have stated, “The threat of irreparable injury posed to Sesame’s mark and brand cannot be overstated.”
With Sesame Street arguing that it isn’t made clear in the trailer that the Sesame Workshop weren’t part of the film production, stating, “Defendants’ widely-distributed marketing campaign features a just-released trailer with explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating, and even ejaculating puppets, along with the tagline ‘NO SESAME. ALL STREET.”
“Defendants do not own, control or have any right to use the SESAME STREET mark. Instead, they are distributing a trailer that deliberately confuses consumers into mistakenly believing that Sesame is associated with, has allowed, or has even endorsed or produced the movie and tarnishes Sesame’s brand.”
Moreover, Sesame Street stipulated that they would lose their ability to “cultivate and maintain trust with its audience of parents and young children.”
“Defendants threaten to inflict serious, irreparable damage to Sesame’s mark and brand by associating their adult movie with Sesame Street.”
The film is directed by Brian Henson, and while he is indeed Jim Henson’s son, this has nothing to do with the Jim Henson company, Sesame Street, or such as previous films by Brian like ‘Muppet Treasure Island’ and ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’, but Sesame Street had sought a permanent injunction preventing the use of the trademark in connection with the films marketing. They wanted unspecified damages as part of the lawsuit, which they will not receive.
It all seems rather ironic that Sesame Street would go after a film made by its creator’s son, just because it includes a reference to a franchise his father made during this “unofficial” Muppet movie. Then again, Disney does own the rights to the Muppets, so perhaps this is more their doing.
It seems like Sesame Street and The Muppets will have to make do with an X-rated comedic crime film, inspired by their monopoly on the puppet scene, which will be released into the world on August 17th of 2018, regardless of the judge’s ruling yesterday in New York City.
Story by The Narrator
Featured Photo Credit: IndieWire