The last thing Sesame Street wants viewers to think about is Big Bird doing it. This brings them into pretty direct conflict with The Happytime Murders, a new movie, premiering this August 17, 2018, which features a large cast of Sesame Street-style puppets in a plethora of explicit situations. After the trailer dropped on May 18, Sesame Workshop, producer of the seminal children's series, filed a lawsuit against the new movie, claiming it would tarnish their brand.
The trailer for The Happytime Murders makes one thing clear: these are not your children's muppets.
Sesame Workshop was less than thrilled by the movie's promised antics, however. They filed a suit against STX Productions, its producer, claiming audiences would confuse the beloved children's brand with the newer, sexually prodigious pieces of felt. The suit reads:
Defendants' widely-distributed marketing campaign features a just-released trailer with explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating, and even ejaculating puppets, along with the tagline 'NO SESAME. ALL STREET.'
Sesame Workshop claims that STX productions is intentionally misleading audiences into thinking there's a connection between Sesame Street and The Happytime Murders. To be fair, the tagline to the film IS "No Sesame. All Street." The suit continues:
Defendants do not own, control or have any right to use the SESAME STREET mark. Instead, they are distributing a trailer that deliberately confuses consumers into mistakenly believing that Sesame is associated with, has allowed, or has even endorsed or produced the movie and tarnishes Sesame's brand.
In the suit, Sesame Workshop claims they have no problem with the film being produced, only that it seems to be referencing Sesame Street in the advertising:
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, learned last Friday that the name Sesame Street is being used to market a graphic, adult-themed movie. We were surprised and disappointed that Sesame Street, a show dedicated to educating young children, is being exploited to market this R-rated film. We immediately contacted the film's distributor, STX Films, and requested that they remove our name from the film's marketing. They declined to do so. We take no issue with the creative freedom of the filmmakers and their right to make and promote this movie, rather this is about how our name is being misused to market a film with which we have no association. We regret that our fans and families have been confused by STX's marketing campaign.
STX issued a statement in response through Fred, Esq., a puppet lawyer from the film:
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. 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.
It seems the residents of the street are about to become embroiled in a legal battle. Let's just hope Oscar isn't called to take the stand—that's a hostile witness if I've ever seen one.