Dir: Constance Marks
Starring: Kevin Clash, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg
The Film: As someone who grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppets, these wonderful puppet creations pioneered by Jim Henson have been a huge part of my life. I used to watch Sesame Street almost every day, I had books of Sesame Street, and I enjoyed the antics of Kermit the Frog and gang. This all was something that helped me to count and learn the alphabet, and it opened me up to a new world of wonders. I was so captivated by the puppets, that it never really occurred to me that they weren’t actually alive and had puppeteers creating such magic. Even now I seem to forget this, and they continue to seem real and I still watch Sesame Street (with my niece) and the various Muppet films. For Sesame Street the most popular character and one that kids have been growing up with since my time is Elmo. I find him very cute, and a wonderful character creation, his popularity knows no bounds. Even my Mum loves Elmo, and I do recall her buying my niece a little Elmo backpack. So where did Elmo begin?
That brings me to this wonderful documentary Being Elmo – A Puppeteer’s Journey. This is a great story of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo and the one who really gave him his unique personality and mannerisms. For the longest time I didn’t actually think about who controlled him, who did all the work and then I saw Kevin on TV and I just smiled. His work as Elmo brings so much joy into children’s lives, and this film really lets us see this, see who he is and how passionate being Elmo is for him. His story is a really great one, it is inspiring too and I found myself tearing up quite often because it is such a lovely story.
The film recounts Kevin’s childhood and his passion for making puppets and how fantastic it was for him to see a show like Sesame Street on television. It follows him through his teen years and his work with Kermit Love and his eventual meeting with Jim Henson. We find out what work he did before eventually ending up on Sesame Street and how Elmo came to be. It is just amazing to see this being told, and to see the old footage. I was really taken by surprise to see the early footage of Elmo before Kevin came on board, and then to see how he really brought something special to Elmo made me smile.
The film continues on and talks about the Elmo popularity and eventually how working so much kept Kevin away from his family. There is a great scene of his daughter’s 16th birthday, and it is hard not to tear up watching it. Perhaps one of the big highlights was to see Kevin call up Tau Bennett, a young boy who reflects the passion Kevin had as a kid and talk about puppeteering. Tau gets to visit the workshop as Kevin once did and it is one of those real magical moments. Kevin was once the apprentice and now he takes on and mentors others, it comes full circle.
Being Elmo is an emotional film, and it just a joy to watch and experience. Whether you are a fan or not, this is a must watch film and it will bring warmth to even the coldest of hearts. I certainly felt inspired after watching this film, and it does show that dreams can come true and to follow your heart. You really can’t go wrong with such a positive message, and a wonderfully made film. Kudos to everyone involved for making something so special, and a truly memorable experience.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. Audio is presented Dolby Digital 2.0.
This is a great looking DVD, the picture is very crisp and full of colours. The audio felt a little low and I had to turn the volume up a little more than usual, but after that it sounded great.
* Selections From Q&A Following Sundance Film Festival Premiere
* John Tartaglia Tony Award Nominee ‘Avenue Q’
* Some Thoughts From The Filmmakers
* Tau Bennett Performs in the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade
* Theatrical Trailer
This release has a nice collection of extras, and they are great to watch after the film. The Q&A is just great and Kevin’s emotions shine through and you can feel his passion. John Tartaglia recounts his very moving story and how he ended up working with Kevin. Thoughts of the filmmakers is a delight to sit and watch, their stories are fantastic and its hard not to be moved by them. Tau Bennett gets to live out his dream and performs in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, again this is just a great thing to watch and it brought me to tears.