Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Sesame Street' creators sue over raunchy puppet film

Jim Henson made ‘Sesame Street’ puppets and ‘The Muppets’
Jim Henson made ‘Sesame Street’ puppets and ‘The Muppets’

Harriet Alexander

The creators of 'Sesame Street' have launched legal proceedings against film company STX Entertainment, arguing that the marketing campaign for a Jim Henson Company-produced new foul-mouthed puppet film tarnishes the 'Sesame Street' brand.

Sesame Workshop, the charity which was founded "to use the medium of television as a tool to help children learn", enlisted Mr Henson to make the puppets in 1969.

Mr Henson, who died in 1990, went on to create 'The Muppets' and 'Fraggle Rock', and founded the Jim Henson Company, now run by his son Brian.

Sesame Workshop has filed a suit in New York against STX Entertainment, alleging that its marketing campaign for 'The Happytime Murders', featuring naughty and foul-mouthed Henson puppets, tarnishes the 'Sesame Street' brand.

The film tells the story of a puppet cast from a 1980s television show that begins to get murdered one by one, prompting a police investigation that ropes in Melissa McCarthy's character and her puppet partner to look into the killings.

Brian Henson directed the picture and the Jim Henson Company also helped produce.

The recently released trailer and other promotional materials make clear the film is decidedly adult in tone, with scenes of drug use and sex by puppets with a tagline that reads: "No Sesame. All Street."

Sesame Workshop wrote to STX Entertainment on May 18, ordering it ceases using the 'Sesame Street' references. On Thursday, it filed court papers accusing the marketing campaign of seeking "to capitalise on the reputation and goodwill of 'Sesame Street'.

"While the trailer at issue is almost indescribably crude, Sesame is not trying to enjoin defendants' promotion or distribution of their movie.

"It is only defendants' deliberate choice to invoke and commercially misappropriate Sesame's name and goodwill in marketing the movie - and thereby cause consumers to conclude that Sesame is somehow associated with the movie - that has infringed on and tarnished the 'Sesame Street' mark and goodwill."

The lawsuit also contains screengrabs of social media reactions.

One tweet read: "I'll never look at muppets/sesame street the same way."

An STX spokeswoman said: "While we're disappointed that 'Sesame Street' does not share in the fun, we are confident in our legal position." (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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