Friday, January 6, 2012

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

Release Date: 2011
Distribution Company: Submarine Entertainment
Directors: Constance Marks and Philip Shane
Run time: 80 minutes
Seen: Charles Theater, Baltimore, MD, Now showing on PBS "Independent Lens", Available on Neflix Watch Instantly
Recommended: YES! YES! YES!
Rotten Tomato Rating: 93%

I was so compelled to see this documentary that I went to the theater and watched it when it came out. I had never done that before. I went to the Charles Theater around Thanksgiving here in Baltimore and I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were there to see it. Parents took their children to see it as well, due to the Sesame Street topic.

I had read positive reviews about it, and the documentary did not fail. It tells the story of Kevin Clash (who grew up in Dundalk) and his journey to becoming one of the best loved children's characters.

The amazing part of his story is his parents' support of his love of puppeteering from a young age. Young Kevin was inspired by the brown fleece lining of his father's winter coat. To him, it looked like a monkey. After he had created his first puppet from scratch, he then realized that he had destroyed his father's coat. His father's response? "Next time just ask first." His parents' love and support directly influence the his journey to create the beloved character of Elmo.

This documentary blends interviews with fantastic behind the scenes footage of Clash in his modern life and of archival footage of Jim Henson and company. It follows Clash's work in Baltimore, meeting Kermit Love (puppet designer and builder), and ultimate goal of working for Jim Henson. Clash is the only performer for Elmo. There are no back-ups and Clash is the character and persona for Elmo.

The documentary was a fast and fun story. Clash's story is inspiring because of his life-long dedication to the craft and his enthusiasm for the character. His parents supported his desire to become a puppeteer. How does someone you would never recognize become something so iconic?

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