Two weeks ago, the trailer for the very adult The Happytime Murders starring Melissa McCarthy and plenty of rude puppets was released. It’s like The Wire taking a detour through Sesame Street. The makers of Sesame Street think the same, and they’re really upset about it.
The Wrap says that Sesame Workshop has filed a lawsuit against STXfilms, the production company responsible for THM. They really don’t like how close THM is to infringing on the Sesame Street brand. The puppets definitely have a Sesame Street look about them, and then there’s the movie’s tagline, No Sesame. All Street.
THM doesn’t exactly do a whole lot to distinguish itself from Sesame Street, either. The film is directed by Brian Henson, Muppet creator Jim Henson’s son. The main puppet, Phil Phillips, is voiced by longtime Muppets performer Bill Barretta. Bill’s most recent Muppets work was on the 2015-2016 ABC show The Muppets. The movie also centers around the murders of puppets from an 80s children’s series called The Happytime Gang.
Sesame Workshop also doesn’t like the “graphic, adult-themed” subject matter, such as the scene above featuring puppet Phil Phillips cumming what appears to be shaving cream. Sesame Workshop thinks that people are going to mistake THM for a sweet movie about Muppets and will be horrified to see puppet hookers and puppet corpses. They’ve tried to get STXfilms to stop making the Sesame Street comparisons.
“We regret that our fans and families have been confused by STX’s marketing campaign. The promotion of The Happytime Murders should succeed or fail on its own merits, not on a cynical, unlawful attempt to deceive and confuse the public into associating it with the most celebrated children’s program in history.”
Sesame Workshop is suing for trademark infringement, among other things, and they want to see a judge block THM from using the Sesame Street name in its marketing. They’re also seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
STX has responded to Sesame Workshop’s lawsuit with a statement, and they clearly don’t really care.
“STX loved the idea of working closely with Brian Henson and the Jim Henson Company to tell the untold story of the active lives of Henson puppets when they’re not performing in front of children. While we’re disappointed that Sesame Street does not share in the fun, we are confident in our legal position. We look forward to introducing adult moviegoers to our adorably unapologetic characters this summer.”
I get Sesame Workshop not wanting the words Sesame Street associated with puppet-fucking, but who are these people who might confuse THM with good old-fashioned family fun? There’s a gun in the poster, and the word murder in the title. The only person who would confuse The Happytime Murders with Sesame Street might be Cookie Monster having a flashback to the time Ian McKellen taught him about self-control. “Oh, me happiness was definitely murdered the day that man took me cookie away.”