For weeks now, while randomly flipping through Netflix Instant Queue, I feel like the documentary called Being Elmo has been all over. After seeing the cover of this film at least once a day, my curiosity finally got the better of me and today I decided to make the This Week on Netflix film Being Elmo. Though I am not normally not all that interested in documentaries, I was pleasantly surprised with the tone this film managed to take. Telling the story of the man that is Elmo, the documentary strikes a perfect balance with its humorous and serious material.
It is difficult to define who exactly is the subject of Being Elmo. The film is as much about the man controlling Elmo, Kevin Clash, as it is about the red furry Muppet that has taken the world by storm. The reason I make this claim is simply due to the way the story is set up. Starting when Kevin Clash was a child, the film traces his growing obsession with entertaining through puppets. Creating his first, fully working puppet at the age of twelve, Kevin spent his free time studying Sesame Street and practicing working his puppets. Creating character after character, Kevin eventually started doing small shows in his neighborhood and for local parties. Kevin’s skill continued to grow and he began doing larger and larger shows, even a few benefits for his fellow classmates.
Kevin was quickly noticed by a local news station and from that point on, his rise to stardom took off. Working his way up the ranks, Kevin continued to be hired for larger and larger television shows. Working for both the Great Space Coaster and Captain Kangaroo, Kevin became a well known puppeteer. During his rise to stardom, Kevin was given the opportunity to work with some of his puppeteer idols including Kermit Love, who built most of Jim Henson’s puppets, and even the master puppeteer Jim Henson himself. Asked to work on Henson’s Dark Crystal but forced to decline the offer due to his television shows, Kevin first officially worked for Henson on his film Labyrinth. After showing his skill during the film, Kevin was eventually offered a full time position on Sesame Street.
If it were not for Kevin, the lovable red Muppet Elmo would have never existed. Kevin had nothing to do with the creation of the puppet, which was rare for the man who had constructed hundreds of different puppets and characters. Originally voiced by another puppeteer and given a deeper, more cave-man-like voice, Elmo’s first owner despised the character he had creature for the puppet so much that he eventually gave up the puppet. One a whim, Kevin gave the puppet a new voice and a new identity and Elmo was born.
A character meant to represent love, Kevin had no idea of how quickly Elmo would take the world by storm. Not just limited to the United States, Elmo became a viewer favorite, bringing children and endless amount of joy and in some cases hope. One of the most requested Make A Wish Foundation wish, Kevin spends much of his time travelling the world with Elmo to bring joy to children that desperately need it. His busy schedule eventually caused a rift between him and his daughter so Kevin began to split up his time more evenly. Still traveling the world with Elmo and acting as a crucial piece of the Sesame Street program, Kevin still spends most of his time bringing the world’s most recognizable character to life.
As I stated earlier, I normally don’t gravitate towards documentaries but I found this film to be very interesting. Giving the background story of what served as many viewers’ childhood, the film really shows the heart and soul that goes into being a puppeteer. I give this film a 7 out of 10 and recommend it for any family that grew up with the Muppets of Sesame Street. Showing not only how the beloved character Elmo was created but also how he affected the world, this film focuses the camera on the unknown celebrity who has the most recognizable hand in the world.