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Trailer Review: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

By / Posted on 17 October 2011

Being ElmoAre you ready for something adorable? Like heart-meltingly, lighten-up-your-entire-week, forget-that-you’re-a-grown-adult-and-curl-up-with-a-warm-bowl-of-cinnamon-oatmeal-for-Saturday-morning-cartoons adorable? There’s a documentary about Kevin Clash! I know, right?

What’s that? Who’s Kevin Clash? Why, only possibly the greatest puppeteer since Jim Henson. An active member of the Henson Workshop since the early 1980s, Clash’s Muppet credits include several characters in Labyrinth, Baby Sinclair on Dinosaurs (“I’m the baby, gotta love me!” / “Not the mama!”), Splinter in the first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films (Henson was not involved in the third, just as I’m sure nobody else wishes they were) and Clifford, the quintessential 90′s Muppet who even replaced Kermit the Frog to host the short-lived Muppets Tonight, the 90′s attempt at recreating the original Muppet Show. Those were all great roles, one that any puppeteer would certainly be proud of, but Kevin does have one role that has eclipsed them all. Elmo.

Yes, Kevin is the man responsible for the most lovable red furry monster of all time. The same monster whose original “tickle-me” doll became the stuff of Black Friday legend, causing moms and dads around the country to pay ridiculous sums of cash or even resort to brutal violence to obtain a doll for their children by Christmas day. Everyone loves Elmo, but precious few stop to think about the man behind the beloved ball of fur. That’s where Constance Marks and Philip Shane’s documentary — Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey — comes in.

The idea that Kevin was bullied in school for liking puppets? The fact that he went straight from school to a career as a professional puppeteer because it was all he ever wanted to do? The prospect that Jim Henson himself might have taken such a boy under his wing and allowed him to express himself and, in the process, develop the most marketable and popular Muppet in history? Kevin’s story is a truly inspiring and motivational tale about following one’s dreams and never giving up. It’s also the cutest thing in just-about-ever.

The film opens in New York City this weekend and will be touring around the country into the new year. You’d better believe we’re seeing it.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.