Heck, I even cried watching the trailer!
From the website:
Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. Few people know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. Displaying his creativity and talent at a young age, Kevin ultimately found a home on Sesame Street. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.
The documentary starts with Kevin Clash’s childhood… He grew up in a low-income African-American neighborhood in Baltimore, MD, with pollution and dead fish in the nearby waterway.
He was just amazed by the Wonderful World of Disney – Tinkerbell and the magic of Disney. He also loved watching Captain Kangaroo – “a magical place, as opposed to the type of place where [Clash] lived.”
He was a kid (9 years old) when Sesame Street debuted and he was just BLOWN AWAY …. and proceeded to watch every single thing he could find about and by Jim Henson.
After watching a bunch of Sesame Street and Jim Henson how-to-build-puppets TV specials, Clash (still a kid) saw his dad’s trench coat, looked at the lining and thought “That would make a great monkey.” …. Then proceeded to cut up the coat and sew a puppet! Bless his heart! Only got into a *little* bit of trouble – and then his dad helped him build a stage so he could put on puppet shows for his neighborhood kids and local schools ….
In high school he was making his own puppets – around 85 puppets! Instead of playing basketball or hanging out with his friends, he was sewing and making up characters and got a job doing a big puppet on the local TV show.
Honestly, he seems like he must have been such a good kid (The interviews with his mom are adorable She is SO proud!)
He was able to go to New York City for a school trip in high school, snuck away from his friends and got to meet Kermit Love – a Muppet designer and builder. After Clash’s adorable mother did the leg work to find Love’s contact info and reach out to him.
Love taught Clash all kinds of tricks and tips for his puppet building, answered all kinds of questions, and just seems genuinely generous. It’s amazing how much Love worked to help Clash – from introducing him to Jim Henson to showing him the “Henson stitch” to make higher quality puppets!
The story of him meeting Jim Henson is just so inspiring. Watch the documentary
He went from high school right to New York to work for Captain Kangaroo!! Ah-mazing!!!
He got a second TV show, he got a film offer (that he had to turn down because of his 2 TV shows), continued with Captain Kangaroo …. until it got cancelled.
And right about then, he was offered another film role and finally began to work with Jim Henson on the film Labyrinth …. I will always be sad that I never got to meet Jim Henson....
After working on Labyrinth, Clash made his way into the Sesame Street cast (evidence of just working hard at what you love!)….
There’s so much more to the story … how he did on Sesame Street, how he got started with Elmo, how the character became huge….
But I won’t recount the whole thing
Amazing man. Now that he is an executive producer of Sesame Street and in his earlier 50s, he’s doing what he can to mentor other young puppeteers … Amazing.
The best part, to me, is that Clash just simply followed what he loved. Starting with puppeteering in general to creating Elmo’s character specifically (the monster on Sesame Street that so simply represents love)….
“When a puppet is true and good and meaningful, it’s the soul of the puppeteer that you’re seeing.” (voiceover quote from the film that I *think* was Frank Oz speaking)
Like I said, I LOVED this documentary …. But, I think I will love any documentary about any Muppet/Henson puppeteers
(One thing I do wonder is why there is so much footage of Kevin Clash when he was YOUNG. Like leaving his parents’ house to move to NYC. Who had the video camera in 1978 in that family?? The only thing I can think is that a lot of it is ‘dramatic reenactment’ done after the fact, but before Kevin started looking too old)
Honestly, I’m kind of in love with Kevin Clash
Watching Being Elmo plants a seed of inspiration to :
- Read Kevin Clash’s autobiography – My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud
- Read Carroll Spinney’s autobiography – The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers
- Watch old Sesame Street episodes (I have some DVDs!)
- check all my Muppet DVDs for behind-the-scenes special features
- scour YouTube for Jim Henson videos (interviews, puppet-building specials, etc)
- Read all my Jim Henson books. I love love love him. And I have an idea for a book to write about him/the Muppets