Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

31 May

Director: Constance Marks (2011)

Kevin Clash – recognise the name? Most likely not. Elmo? Most definitely. As one of the world’s most popular children’s television characters, but also clearly a puppet with someone’s hand up its back, it seems strange that it is only now that this man’s name is finally coming into the public knowledge – thanks to Being Elmo. Premiering at Sundance in 2011, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey is an emotional documentary celebrating the man behind the red-furred wonder, Sesame Street’s Elmo.
Hailing from a poor family in Baltimore, Maryland, Kevin Clash has always been mesmerised by muppets, spending his childhood with his face pressed against the television watching his favourite characters before dedicating himself to creating his own, as perfect as those on the TV. But what separates Clash from other superfans is that his enthusiasm for the muppets he adored was not for personal gain but more to bring the same joy that enriched his life to others. Sound a little twee? It’s about furry puppets, why are you watching it if you don’t want a bit of heartwrenching?
Stitching his own puppets and putting on shows for the neighbourhood children soon enough caught the attention of the right people and not long into his teenage years Clash met Kevin Love and Jim Henson. And the rest is history.

There is something strange about seeing the veil so openly lifted to reveal the ‘real’ behind the imaginary worlds that entertained us all as children, but through this documentary we begin to understand the ways in which it’s not so much the characters that find the people but the people that make the characters.

Saving Elmo from the slush pile of Sesame Street characters, Clash singlehandedly created such a touching and affecting character that dying children want to meet him as their dying wish. You’re not going to get that with those Peppa Pigs or whatever the kids are watching these days. Watch, cry, and never feel guilty about wanting a tickle from Elmo.


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