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“Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” – Review (POSITIVE)

December 11, 2011

The humanity & soul of a puppeteer can be seen through its very own creation. The man behind “Sesame Streets” very own loveable monster, Elmo, Kevin Clash, is the perfect subject regarding that sentiment. “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” tells the remarkable tale about a boy with a dream, and the passion behind that dream.

The movie gives a clear indication regarding how a young black, pre-teen boy, from Baltimore, who loved “Captain Kangaroo” & “Sesame Street” journeyed to his own personal nirvana of Elmo’s world. Kevin, his family, and colleagues sit down and discuss this journey. Ever since Kevin was a boy his hero was Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets. Kevin would sit in front of the television watching “Sesame Street” or “The Muppet Show” pondering to himself, how these puppets were created, and how their performance was so vivid.

From the start of his pre-teen age, he would fashion his own puppets, and perform little shows for his brothers and sisters, leading to doing local shows for kids in the greater Baltimore area. It was local TV personality, Stu Kerr, discovered Clash and gave him his first start on his show. Kevin wanted to work for Jim Henson. He searched out for Muppet designer, Kermit Love. Meeting him would lock Kevin’s life into the dream of dreams. Out of sheer circumstance Kevin would become a puppeteer for the “Sesame Street” float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and being recognized for his talents by Henson all by the age of 18. The rest is history.

The movie takes us into the magical world of Muppet puppeteering. How they’re built, how they work, and how the human counterpart brings the puppet to life. Kevin has dedicated his life to these creations and more importantly his greatest creation (the title of the film says it all), which was puppet created by someone else, who couldn’t figure out how to use him in the first place. To Kevin, Elmo is the embodiment of love, but more importantly, Elmo is a part of Kevin’s parents. The unconditional love they gave him when he was young, when all he wanted to do is play/create with puppets.

The Muppet studio caught my eye. The different fabrics used, eyeballs, mustaches, costumes, it was endless. The training that Kevin teaches to incoming puppeteers was quite motivating; it’s all in the hands. The hands, the arms, they have to be relaxed in order to create a fluent character. You, heck, even I thought it was easy to perform a puppet, but how the Muppet people do, it’s more like a science to getting it down.

“Being Elmo”, is a behind the scenes look of one the most important figures of “Sesame Street”, but it’s message could’ve derived from the show itself; never give up on your dreams, if you have that passion never let it go. It’s delightful to get a documentary like that, which sadly, the Academy didn’t recognize as a contender for the upcoming Oscars. Too bad, at least Sundance recognized it.

GRADE: A

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2011 8:17 pm

    This has a very uninteresting subject, but it’s received so many positive reviews I have to see it!

    Nice work and cool blog!

    • December 12, 2011 10:09 pm

      It’s actually a very interesting subject. I’ve always wondered what kind training these puppeteers had to do, to ‘make it’ as a muppet performer. But Kevin’s life story juxtaposing that portion was absorbing as well. Do see it when you can.

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