Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

Being Elmo - Early Poster

Being Elmo was first premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The film received warm-hearted reviews by critics when it was released and currently has 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert noted "We...learn a lot of the tricks behind giving the muppets such distinctive personality." The New York Post reported: "One of the chief pleasures of Sundance is wandering into a movie that you think couldn't possibly amount to anything much and being knocked out by it. The documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," which should make Kevin Clash a household name, is an inspiring and joyous celebration of art, skill, determination and making kids happy... Clash is a remarkable talent, a true master of his field, and the importance of what he does is considerable. Sick children apparently have asked to meet Elmo as their dying wish. If you can watch one such encounter without crying, you're a stronger man than I. Clash, pro that he is, doesn't cry. Because where there is Elmo, there must be happiness.” Look at OKC praised: "As director Constance Marks proves in her detailed and surprisingly emotional documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey,” Clash's love of the art form eventually led him to create one of the most popular characters in children's television." 

Elmo & Kevin

Kevin Clash, whose characters include Elmo, Hoots the Owl and Baby Natasha, is Sesame Street’s Senior Puppet Coordinator and Muppet Captain as well as Sesame Workshop’s Senior Creative Consultant.

He began building puppets at the age of 10 and performed on Baltimore’s Harbor Front and local television as a teenager. Clash’s first television work was for the CBS affiliate in Baltimore. He came to Sesame Street after attracting the attention of Muppet™ designer Kermit Love. Clash’s film credits include Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I and II, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets from Space and Elmo in Grouchland.

In September 2006, Clash released his autobiography, My Life as a Furry Red Monster, What Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love, and Laughing Out Loud.

In 1969, a little street filled with laughter, learning and promise launched a revolution in children’s television. Sesame Street stands out as the most thoroughly developed and researched preschool television program and media offering, with a comprehensive curriculum that focuses on the development of the whole child. Sesame Street has introduced generations of children to information and experiences ranging from nutrition and space exploration to lessons about cooperation, friendship and diversity with the help of the beloved Muppets including Elmo, Big Bird and Cookie Monster.  Honored with more Emmy® awards than any other television show in history, Sesame Street continues to set the gold standard for excellence in educational media, giving children the best head start in school and life.

 Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization, produces local Sesame Street programs that are seen in over 140 countries.  Beyond television, Sesame Street content is created for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment.  Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning.


Since 1969, Sesame Street had given Jim Henson's Muppet creations exposure; however, Henson began to perceive that he was pigeonholed as a children's entertainer. He sought to create a program that could be enjoyed by young and old. Two specials were produced and aired that are considered pilots for The Muppet Show. Neither led to the sale of a prime-time network series. However, the prime-time access rule had just been enacted, which took the 7:30 to 8pm ET  slot from the networks and turned it over to their affiliates. CBS suggested it would be interested in Henson's proposal as a syndicated series it could purchase for its owned-and-operated stations, to run one night a week in that time slot.

Lew Grade, head of the British commercial station ATV, offered a deal to Henson that would see his show produced at the ATV studios in Elstree, England. ATV, as part of the ITV network, would broadcast the show to other ITV stations in the United Kingdom, and its distribution arm, ITC Entertainment, would sell the show in the United States and around the world. Henson put aside his misgivings about syndication and accepted.

The Muppet Show is a British-American television program produced by puppeteer Jim Henson and featuring Muppets. After two pilot episodes were produced in 1974 and 1975, the show premiered on September 5, 1976, and five series were produced until March 15, 1981, lasting 120 episodes. The program shows a vaudeville  - or music hall-style song-and-dance variety show, as well as glimpses behind the scenes of such a show. Kermit the Frog stars as a showrunner who tries to keep control of the antics of the other Muppet characters (and his temper), as well as keep the guest stars happy. The show was known for outrageous physical slapstick, sometimes absurdist comedy, and humorous parodies. Each episode also featured a human guest star. As the show's popularity rose, many celebrities were eager to perform with the Muppets on television and in film.

Many of the puppeteers from The Muppet Show also worked on Sesame Street. Muppet performers over the course of the show include Jim Henson, Frank Oz , Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Louise Gold, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell, Brian Muehl, Eren Ozker, Bob Payne, and John Lovelady. Jerry Juhl and Jack Burns were two of the show writers.

Being Elmo Release Poster

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey was written by Phillip Shane and Justin Weinstein and directed by Constance Marks.

RATED PG, 80 min, Dolby Digital, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio.


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