The day has turned from sunny to dark on Sesame Street as a New York City judge ruled in favor of the Melissa McCarthy-starring comedy, Happytime Murders. Sesame Street took issue with the use of a slogan that referenced the show, which is what resulted in a lawsuit being filed late last week.
The Happytime Murders is a film about two detectives, one human, and one puppet. They team up to investigate the serial deaths of former cast members of a fictional TV show entitled The Happytime Gang. The cast includes many comedy juggernauts such as McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, and Elizabeth Banks. And to promote the hardboiled film, the Happytime Murders' posters used the tagline, "No sesame. All street," and therein lied the problem.
The Sesame Workshop took issue with the sesame and street references in the Happytime tagline and sued STX Productions for its use. They claimed that connecting Sesame Street to the murder mystery of Happytime was tarnishing their brand and feared moviegoers would believe that they endorsed the R-rated film. THR reports that a judge listened to both sides of the argument today and ruled in favor of Happytime Murders. The judge ruled that Sesame Workshop had not effectively proven that fans were confused by the two properties. The judge also noted that advertising sponsors and parents had not complained about the use of the tagline. STX provided Screen Rant with a statement from Fred Esq. that can be read below:
We fluffing love Sesame Street and we’re obviously very pleased that the ruling reinforced what STX’s intention was from the very beginning - to honor the heritage of The Jim Henson Company’s previous award-winning creations while drawing a clear distinction between any Muppets or Sesame Street characters and the new world Brian Henson and team created. We believe we accomplished that with the very straightforward NO SESAME, ALL STREET tagline. We look forward to continued happytimes as we prepare to release Happytime Murders this summer.
When Sesame Workshop decided to sue Happytime Murders' studio STX Productions, the studio executives responded in classic puppet fashion; they released a statement issued by their "lawyer," a puppet named Fred Esq. Fred, who first thanked fans for their positive reception of the film's trailer and expressed regret that Sesame Workshop had not felt the same way. He then informed Sesame Workshop that STX Productions was confident in the face of the lawsuit.
Sesame Street is no stranger to parody, having dabbled in it itself. Late last year, Sesame Street released a parody video with a lesson about sharing that riffs on Netflix's popular supernatural series. The video featured Cookie Monster as the Cookiegorgon looking for food in the Snackside Down, and the kids of Stranger Things teach the Cookiegorgon how to share his snacks. The video even came complete with an appearance from Barb. A similar parody featured Cookie Monster as The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes. While it makes sense that Sesame Workshop would feel uncomfortable with Happytime Murders putting a violent face on their trademark by using a tagline as a reference their own, the concern seems confusing when considering the franchise has already been linked to other somewhat violent series like Stranger Things and The Walking Dead, though neither of those are R-rated movies.
- The Happytime Murders (2018) release date: Aug 24, 2018