Puppets are often associated with family-friendly entertainment, but every now and then something comes along where the puppets are thrown into stories that are only suited for adults. Such is the case with The Happytime Murders, which dropped its first, definitely NSFW trailer last week with the release of Deadpool 2. After spending a decade in development, the project from Brian Henson, son of Muppet creator Jim Henson, is finally arriving this summer, but with just a few months until its release, the extreme puppet comedy has been hit with a lawsuit by the Sesame Workshop, the company behind the long-running, beloved children's TV series Sesame Street.
The suit that Sesame Workshop filed in New York on Thursday (as reported by The Wrap) alleges that The Happytime Murders' trailer "tarnishes" the Sesame brand because it promoted the movie with the tagline "No Sesame, All Street," which is deemed an unauthorized use of the Sesame Street mark. To be fair, The Happytime Murders is certainly the polar opposite of what Sesame Street is all about, from the cursing to drug use to the lead puppet character getting, shall we say, overexcited in his office while "servicing" a client. In their mind, the folks over at Sesame Workshop believe that because The Happytime Murders trailer "deliberately confuses" consumers into thinking that Sesame Workshop is associated with or has endorsed this R-rated comedy, the "threat of irreparable injury posed to Sesame's mark and brand cannot be overstated." Sesame Workshop is now seeking a permanent injunction to prevent STXfilms from using its marks to promote The Happytime Murders, as well as unspecified damages.
While I could certainly see some people who watched The Happytime Murders wondering if the movie has any connection to Sesame Street or The Muppets given how similar these puppets look to characters we've known for years, I have a hard time believing that this comedy could do irreparable damage to the Sesame Street brand. If a parent or Sesame Street enthusiast is truly concerned, it only takes a minute online to learn that The Happytime Murders is in no way a twisted spinoff of the stories of Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the rest of the gang. In any case, the lawsuit has been filed, so I imagine STXfilms isn't pleased to have to deal with this as it's also trying to market The Happytime Murders effectively in these remaining months. Fortunately, the company has its finest legal mind on the case, who also happens to be a puppet.
Set in a world where puppets live among humans as second-class citizens, The Happytime Murders follows Melissa McCarthy's Detective Connie Edwards teaming back up with her ex-partner-turned-private investigator Phil Phillips, pupeteered and voiced by Bill Barretta. Together, they have to track down the serial killer who murdered Phil's brother and is now targeting the stars of the 1980s TV series The Happytime Gang. The human cast also includes Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie David Baker and Jimmy O. Yang.
The Happytime Murders opens in theaters on August 17. If you're interested in what non-puppet movies are being released, look through our 2018 release schedule.