He’s red. He’s fuzzy. And he’s one of the most beloved characters on television today. For those who perhaps haven’t already figured it out who is being referenced here, it’s Elmo! Yes, Sesame Street’s Elmo. Elmo is just as well known and beloved–if not more than–Big Bird, Oscar The Grouch and the rest of the gang on Sesame Street. And now, thanks to docurama films and New Video, fans and families world wide finally get a glimpse behind the scenes at the man who has made Elmo a house hold name in the documentary, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”
“Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” is a wonderful, touching look into the life and career of a man who is a star unlike any other. Kevin Clash is the very body behind Elmo. His love of the craft and art of puppetry has made what would have otherwise just have been another puppet into a worldwide phenomenon. Yet in it all, audiences see in this documentary, a man who is entirely humble, and wants only to entertain. It’s his love for his art that has brought joy to children and adults the world over, including a young terminally ill child. It’s that same love of performing and entertaining that brought tears to the eyes of not only that child, but to those of Clash himself. And it’s that same love that has even given Elmo his very own segment in the “new” version of Sesame Street. That love of the art of puppetry all began thanks to the legend himself, Jim Henson.
Audiences will be enthralled as they experience Clash’s journey from backyard puppet shows to a spot on Captain Kangaroo to his amazing start with Jim Henson’s company after having turned down job offers from Henson himself twice. Yes, twice. Most people wouldn’t get a second chance after turning down such a legend only once. But for whatever reason, Henson believed so much in Clash that he gave Clash a third offer. He offered to let Clash work on his movie, “Labyrinth.” Clash took the job, and impressed Henson so much that he was offered a spot on Sesame Street. The story of how Clash eventually became the voice and life of Elmo is just as interesting as the story of how he reached that point. What’s even more interesting is the impact that he has had to this day as Elmo’s puppeteer. There are lots of funny moments in that story. And there’s also an equally touching story of the impact that he and Elmo had on a young, terminally ill child. Seeing the tears welling up in his own eyes as the little girl smiled while she hugged Elmo will bring even the strongest person to tears, too.
While the documentary about how Kevin Clash came to basically be Elmo is so impressive, one can’t ignore the bonus features included in the documentary. One might think what could bonus features add to this documentary. But the bonus features here really do add a whole extra dimension to Kevin’s story. Audiences learn that a lot of Elmo was influenced by Clash’s own parents. His parents constantly showed love and support to him. That love is reflected in Elmo’s love for children. What’s more, even in public audiences see how genuine Clash is about wanting to make children smile. It’s another truly touching moment. On the opposite hand, one of the funniest moments comes when it’s explained that his mother’s love of something as simple as mowing lawns was infused into Elmo. That childlike love of the simple things in life made Elmo relateable to young audiences.
Elmo’s relateability to young audiences is wonderfully exhibited in a combination of the bonus features and the final sequence of the documentary. As the documentary closes, Clash welcomes a young viewer into his office who he took under his wing, just as Kermit Love took Kevin under his own wing years prior. That young man got his first taste of fame as he joined Clash and the other Sesame Street Puppeteers in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. He was the actor behind the Baby Bear character in the parade.
“Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” is a wonderful piece of family entertainment. It does hold a “PG” rating though. However, parents should note that that is mainly thanks to a clip from the Rosie O’ Donnell Show. The clip was taking during the height of the Tickle Me Elmo craze. A star had asked her about getting a Tickle Me Elmo doll. To that, she joked that she felt like a drug dealer. Other than that brief moment, “Being Elmo” is an otherwise wonderful documentary for parents and kids alike.
So much could be written and spoken of this documentary. But doing so would take entirely too long and would take far too much space. So audiences would be best to experience it for themselves. From the story itself, to the equally entertaining bonus features, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” is one of the best documentaries of 2012, if not the best.
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