The creators behind R-rated puppet comedy The Happytime Murders have recruited lawyer Fred, Esq., a puppet, to issue an official response to the lawsuit filed by Sesame Workshop, who claim trademark infringement over Happytime’s “No sesame, all street” tagline.
“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,” the statement reads.
“‘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.”
The statement is signed “Fred, Esq., lawyer for STX Entertainment.”
Happytime Murders director Brian Henson, who previously directed beloved big screen Muppet tales The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, is the chairman of The Jim Henson Company and the son of esteemed puppeteer and Muppets creator Jim Henson.
The elder Henson, who passed away in 1990, boarded Sesame Street in 1969 where he helped create Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Count von Count, and Cookie Monster.
Sesame’s suit claims the defendants made a “deliberate effort to appropriate the Sesame Street mark, and its trusted brand and goodwill, to promote their R-rated movie, The Happytime Murders, by way of a violent and sexually-explicit trailer.”
“SESAME STREET is a registered trademark of Sesame, an organization with a long and storied history of ‘helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.' 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,’” the suit reads.
“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.”
Happytime Murders is produced under The Jim Henson Company’s Henson Alternative, which focuses on mature and adult fare. Both companies are separate from and have no association with The Muppets Studio, home to characters like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, which is wholly owned by the Walt Disney Company.
Sesame expresses concern over the “threat of irreparable injury posed to Sesame’s mark and brand.”
“Sesame has worked for nearly 50 years to build, cultivate and maintain trust with its audience of parents and young children built on its reputation for wholesome educational programming,” the suit reads.
“That trust, although built over a span of generations, is too easily lost and is now in jeopardy. Defendants threaten to inflict serious, irreparable damage to Sesame’s mark and brand by associating their adult movie with Sesame Street.”
Mentioned in the suit are “social media posts, emails and public comments” that indicate the tagline has “confused and appalled viewers because of what they believe to be a serious breach of trust by Sesame by supporting this movie.”
Sesame goes on to allege the actions of the Happytime producers have “diluted and defiled Sesame’s beloved Sesame Street children’s television show and SESAME STREET trademark” by associating the children’s brand with the raunchy R-rated comedy.5comments
Happytime centers around puppet private investigator Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) who reunites with human ex-partner Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarth) to track down a serial killer who murdered Phil’s brother and is now targeting cast members of 1980s television series The Happytime Gang.
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, and Leslie David Baker, The Happytime Murders opens August 17.