Sesame Street’s creators are arguing how they built the show into a cultural phenomenon over the past half a century, solidifying a “reputation for wholesome educational programming” in the process.
A judge scheduled a hearing next week to consider a request for immediate relief by Sesame Workshop, which sued last Thursday in federal court in Manhattan for unspecified damages and an order forcing the film to be marketed differently.
The movie, titled The Happytime Murders, is scheduled for release Aug. 17. McCarthy plays a human detective who teams up with a puppet partner to investigate puppet murders.
The lawsuit says the Sesame Street brand will be harmed by a just-released movie trailer featuring “explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating and even ejaculating puppets” along with the tagline “NO SESAME. ALL STREET.”
STX Productions LLC, in a statement issued in the name of “Fred, Esq,” a lawyer puppet, said it was looking forward to introducing its “adorably unapologetic characters” to adult moviegoers this summer.
“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,” Fred the Puppet Lawyer said.
“Happytime Murders is the happy result of that collaboration and we’re incredibly pleased with the early reaction to the film and how well the trailer has been received by its intended audience.
“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.”
Lawyers for Sesame Workshop asked the judge to order STX not to use any of Sesame’s trademarks and intellectual property, including the phrase, “NO SESAME. ALL STREET,” in marketing the film.
Sesame Workshop said that the marketing materials were confusing viewers into thinking Sesame was involved with or endorsed “this subversion of its own programming — thereby irreparably harming Sesame and its goodwill and brand.”
In a release before the film was made, STX said it would be produced by The Jim Henson Company’s Henson Alternative banner, On The Day Productions, and STXfilms, along with individuals including Brian Henson, Lisa Henson, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, among others.
—With files from the Associated Press