Sesame Workshop, the company that produces beloved children’s show Sesame Street, has filed suit against the creators of upcoming film The Happytime Murders, claiming misuse of the Sesame Street brand. The new film, which stars Melissa McCarthy, is set in “the underbelly of Los Angeles” in a world where humans and puppets coexist.
At issue in the suit, according to The New York Times, is a trailer released in May ahead of the film’s August release. The trailer features drug use, graphic sex, and prostitution. It also includes the tagline “No Sesame. All Street.”
The tagline, according to a statement from Sesame Workshop, amounts to Sesame Street being “exploited to market this R-rated film,” and could confuse consumers. Though the film contains no Sesame Street or Muppet characters, the trailer also prominently displays director Brian Henson’s previous credits as director of several Muppet movies. Brian Henson is the son of Muppet creator Jim Henson. “Muppet” commonly refers to a broad roster of puppet characters that appeared both on Sesame Street, and a variety of other films and television shows.
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Sesame Workshop, according to the Times, is asking that the new film’s producers release “corrective advertising” to prevent potential confusion between the properties. The producers of The Happytime Murders released a statement saying, “While we’re disappointed that ‘Sesame Street’ does not share in the fun, we are confident in our legal position.”
It’s worth noting that “The Happytime Murders” takes inspiration from more than just Sesame Street. The Muppets themselves often hinted at adult themes, and that idea was first taken to its logical conclusion by none other than Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. Jackson’s 1989 film Meet the Feebles included puppet sex, gore, crime, and depravity almost certainly more extreme than anything viewers will see in The Happytime Murders.