If you were scandalised at the sight of swearing, ejaculating muppets in the trailer for The Happytime Murders, then it turns out you’re not alone – Sesame Workshop, the non-profit group behind Sesame Street, are suing the creators of the film, ostensibly for trashing their kid-friendly brand with R-rated filth.
The Happytime Murders is directed by Brian Henson, son of the late Jim Henson, whose production company also had a hand in things. Melissa McCarthy plays a detective investigating a series of muppet killings in a decidedly adult setting and the tag line is: ‘No Sesame. All Street.’
This is the crux of the lawsuit, with the plaintiffs saying that the film’s marketing campaign seeks to capitalise on the reputation and goodwill of the beloved kids’ program, and that The Happytime Murders may have the potential to confuse audiences and bring harm to the brand.
Trade publication Variety got their hands on a copy of the lawsuit, which reads, in part:
“While the trailer at issue is almost indescribably crude, ‘Sesame’ is not trying to enjoin defendants’ promotion or distribution of their movie. It is only defendants’ deliberate choice to invoke and commercially misappropriate ‘Sesame’s’ name and goodwill in marketing the movie – and thereby cause consumers to conclude that ‘Sesame’ is somehow associated with the movie – that has infringed on and tarnished the ‘Sesame Street’ mark and goodwill.”
The lawsuit comes with screengrabs of social media reactions to the film’s trailer, one of which said: “I’ll never look at muppets/sesame street the same way.” Sesame Workshop are seeking an injunction to prevent STX Films from using the ‘No Sesame’ slogan, as well as unspecified damages.
The studio responded to the suit with a fairly snarky statement, saying:
“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. 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.”