The R-rated puppet movie that has left the relationship between Sesame Street and The Jim Henson Company hanging by a string was born out of one raunchy concept: “When Kermit and Miss Piggy go home at night and there are no kids around, it’s filthy.”
That’s the explanation by STX Films chairman Adam Fogelson in court papers, who explained he came up with the dirty idea for “The Happytime Murders” in collaboration with its director, Brian Henson.
A new lawsuit filed by Sesame Street against the studio has revealed that the film has created tension between the Henson Company, which created the Muppets like Big Bird, Elmo and Cookie Monster, and the kids show.
Fogelson said in papers filed in Manhattan Federal Court that the film would reveal a little known “truth” about the puppets.
“Even though the Henson Company puppets are adults who interact in an appropriate manner with children during the day, at night … well, they lead very adult private lives,” Fogelson said.
A trailer for the film starring Melissa McCarthy was released on May 18 in 5,100 theaters nationwide, depicting Muppet-like characters doing drugs, shooting guns and in one memorable scene, having sex.
Sesame Street sued, saying the slogan in the trailer, “No Sesame. All Street,” confused fans and irreparably damaged its wholesome brand.
But in new papers filed over Memorial Day weekend, Fogelson and the film studio argue that the controversy stems from the Henson Company doing damage control due to Sesame Street executives’ reaction to the trailer.
STX says Henson execs were aware of the slogan before its release and were closely involved in the editing for the trailer.
“For example, there were ongoing and detailed discussions between STX and Henson Company with respect to various aspects of the trailer, including how to depict in the trailer a scene in which a male puppet appears to ejaculate for an extended period of time. This effect was achieved with the use of ‘Silly String,'” Fogelson said.
Court papers include an email exchange in which Keri Moore, an executive vice president at STX, gave Henson several different versions of the puppet sex scene: “No Silly String,” “All the Silly String,” “A little less than all the silly string.”
“If you want to go no silly string. I would use the other take for when he’s about to have a second orgasm because there is more silly string on the walls and it’s a better performance,” Henson wrote Moore on May 7.
STX says that it will have to spend at least $1.5 million if it is ordered to withdraw all promotional materials for the movie.
A hearing on Wednesday is expected to focus on whether the tagline, “No Sesame. All Street,” represents an effort by the movie to associate with Sesame Street, rather than a statement distancing itself from the show.