Cinepub


Documental: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey by Jamie

I never used to get on with Elmo. Like many people who watched old school Sesame Street I felt that he overshadowed some of the shows core classic characters and was generally pissed off with the little red monsters dominance over all aspects of the Street’s merchandising and marketing but I will admit that my impression of the character has softened recently mainly because of videos like this one:

What further helps to soften my image of my once most hated Muppet is the documentary I just watched, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, a film that covers the life and career of Kevin Clash, the man who would come to voice and perform the titular character. I shall not try to be spoilery in my review although it’s generally difficult to spoil a documentary unless it’s something like ‘Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father’. Anyway, on with the review.

Kevin Clash grew up in a relatively poor area in Baltimore and from a young age he found himself obsessed with puppets and puppetry. He used to sit glued to the television watching Captain Kangaroo and when, at age 9, Sesame Street came on the air that his obsession really took off and by age 10 he had built his first puppet out of his father’s best coat.

Kevin’s obsession grew and grew and he soon had a catalogue of eighty-five puppets and was performing shows in the local area, first for his mother’s day-care class and eventually schools. This led to him being teased by his fellow high school classmates but rather than be discouraged, he stuck at it, doing the thing that he loved no matter what anyone else said. He caught the eye of a local TV producer and soon got his first big break in the world of local television and the name calling soon turned to admiration and he was voted most likely to become a millionaire in his high school year book.

Kevin perfected his puppetry by mimicking the actions he saw on Sesame Street, learning to make a puppet move as though it were a real, living human being and he learnt to make the puppets themselves by watching as many specials by Jim Henson on the subject as he could. He finally got to meet one of his heroes, Kermit Love (Muppet building Master), on a school trip to New York and he helped the young man perfect his craft. It wasn’t long until Clash was attracting the attention of Henson himself and the rest is red felt covered history.

The film obviously goes into a lot more detail with regards to Clash’s life and career but I’ll leave the rest of that for you to discover for yourself. What I will say is that it a surprisingly inspirational and moving story for being about a man who performs a child-voiced Muppet. There were a number of occasions when I did feel tears welling up in my eyes, notably when discussing his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the discussion of Jim Henson’s death (including clips from Henson’s memorial which always makes me a bit weepy). It also makes you feel like a little kid again, especially when you see the kids meeting Elmo and largely just ignoring the fact that there is clearly a man standing behind, operating him. They just fixate on the puppet as if nothing else in the world matters and their faces light up and you get to share in that sense of wonder too.

It is seriously the perfect film to watch at the beginning of a New Year, an inspirational tale of a man who had a dream, stuck to it, achieved it and even managed to go on to continue the spirit of his hero. If I have any criticisms it’s that the film’s a little short at around one hour and fifteen minutes and there’s no mention of the TV show Dinosaurs which I loved… Although Clash did play the series most annoying aspect, Baby Sinclair. Despite these factors, I’m going to give this film five pints out of five just as it’s given me a new appreciation for Elmo and what he’s really all about.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: