WARNING: Movie trailer contains explicit language, violence and sexual themes.
The creators of Sesame Street are suing over a new movie trailer that they claim suggests certain puppets live depraved, brutal lives when offstage – snorting hard drugs through licorice straws, selling sexual favors to humans and succumbing to gun violence.
Set for release in August, The Happytime Murders does not actually feature Big Bird, the Cookie Monster or any other resident of 123 Sesame Street, where puppets have been teaching children basic math and decency since 1969. But the movie is directed by the son of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson and is set in a fictional Los Angeles, where former stars of a children’s puppet show are being gunned down for unknown reasons.
Sesame Workshop are to sue STX Entertainment in federal court on Thursday, claiming the production company has “diluted and defiled” the beloved Muppets’ reputations.
The film is R-rated, and includes scenes in which:
– A puppet in a spiked collar, vaguely resembling an emaciated Fozzie Bear, offers to perform oral sex for 50 cents on the movie’s star, Melissa McCarthy.
– A squid puppet and a llama puppet are both decapitated by shotgun blasts.
– Two puppets have sex “that culminates in [a] scene where a puppet is depicted copiously ejaculating for an extended period,” as the lawsuit describes the trailer, accurately, though the ejaculate appears to be silly string.
The trailer does not infringe on any trademark, and merely depicts “the untold story of the active lives of Henson puppets when they’re not performing in front of children,” reads a statement from the Happytime creators. “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.”
Behind the scenes, STX’s actual human lawyer has taken the legal threat somewhat more seriously. David Halberstadter wrote Sesame a long letter last week, in which he sounded incredulous that anyone could possibly confuse the wholesome world of Big Bird and Cookie Monster with the puppet dystopia of “Happytime.”
Halberstadter also reminded the humans behind Sesame Street that they have a long history of parodying other people’s intellectual property, including Twin Beaks, A’s Anatomy, and Orange is the New Snack.