The creators of Sesame Street are not happy about The Happytime Murders. The Sesame Workshop has filed a lawsuit against STX Entertainment with claims that the marketing campaign for the R-rated Melissa McCarthy puppet flick could damage the Sesame Street brand. Brian Henson, son of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson, directed the film and the Jim Henson Company also helped produce it with Henson’s daughter Lisa as an executive producer, according to Variety.
The Happytime Murders centers on the murders of a fictional puppet cast from a 1980s television show. McCarthy’s character and her blue puppet partner play detectives investigating the murders. The newly released trailer, which describes the film as “a filthy comedy,” includes references to drug use and sex. But the point of contention seems to come with The Happytime Murders trailer’s tagline: “No Sesame. All Street,” which the suit claims leads audiences to believe there is a connection between the movie and the long-running kiddie show.
According to Variety, in the suit filed in New York federal court, Sesame Street creators argue that the tagline will confuse audiences into thinking the children’s brand was involved in the violent film. The suit says The Happytime Murders marketing campaign “seeks to capitalize on the reputation and goodwill of Sesame Street.”
In the lawsuit, Sesame Street creators are asking that The Happytime Murders pull its advertising, in addition to unspecified damages.
An STX spokeswoman issued a statement (via a puppet lawyer) in response to Sesame Workshop’s lawsuit, saying the following.
“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.”
Sesame Street will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The beloved children’s program has introduced children to Jim Henson’s “Muppets” including Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Ernie and Bert, Elmo, and Henson’s signature puppet Kermit the Frog. The Muppets first appeared on Sesame Street in 1969 and were so popular that they spawned a primetime TV variety show, The Muppet Show, in 1976. Jim Henson died in 1990 at age 53.
The Happytime Murders stars Melissa McCarthy, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, and Maya Rudolph. The film is scheduled for an August 17 release.
You can see the trailer for The Happytime Murders below. Warning: Explicit content.