Judge rules against makers of ‘Sesame Street’ over film’s use of “No Sesame, All Street” tagline

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WASHINGTON — The maker of the raunchy, R-rated film “The Happytime Murders” — featuring foul-mouthed, violent, ejaculating puppets — praised a federal judge’s decision allowing the movie to use the tagline “No Sesame. All Street.”

The statement from Burbank, Calif.-based STX Entertainment came after U.S. District Court Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan rejected a bid by the nonprofit maker of “Sesame Street,” Sesame Workshop, to block use of the tag on grounds it would mislead viewers into believing the movie is associated with the beloved preschool program.

STX said the movie honors the late Muppets creator, Jim Henson, and his son, Brian Henson, chairman of the Jim Henson Co. and the director of the upcoming film.

“We fluffing love Sesame Street and we’re obviously very pleased that the ruling reinforced what STX’s intention was from the very beginning — to honor the heritage of The Jim Henson Company’s previous award-winning creations while drawing a clear distinction between any Muppets or Sesame Street characters and the new world Brian Henson and team created,” said the STX statement, attributed to a “puppet lawyer” identified only as “Fred, Esq.

Broderick, ruling from the bench during a hearing on Wednesday, said the movie’s tagline clearly distinguished it from “Sesame Street” in a “humorous, pithy” way.

The judge rejected Sesame Workshop’s argument that the movie tarnished the reputation of “Sesame Street” as “Debbie Does Dallas” harmed the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, who succeeded in stopping adult movie theaters from showing the pornographic flick. Broderick called the comparison invalid because “The Happytime Murders” is not porn.

His ruling came in response to a 25-page lawsuit filed last week by Sesame Workshop demanding that the movie not use the “All Sesame. No Street.” tagline.

“Defendants do not own, control or have any right to use the Sesame Street mark,” Sesame Workshop attorney Mary Mulligan wrote. “Instead, they are distributing a trailer that deliberately confuses consumers into mistakenly believing that Sesame is associated with, has allowed, or has even endorsed or produced the movie and tarnishes Sesame’s brand.”

Like many critics of the film on social media who have expressed outrage over use of the tag, Mulligan said it’s easy to see why “The Happytime Murders” is rated “R.”

“Scenes from the movie shown in the trailer depict repeated foul language by humans and puppets; drug use by humans and puppets; puppet prostitutes offering sexual favors to a human; gun and other types of violence; and puppet sex that culminates in scene where a puppet is depicted copiously ejaculating for an extended period,” she wrote.

Mulligan noted that “Sesame Street,” which started in 1969, reaches more than 190 million children worldwide and has won 188 Emmy Awards, the most in television history.

“Defendant’s actions have diluted and defiled Sesame’s beloved Sesame Street children’s television show and Sesame Street mark by associating their trailer with Sesame Street,” Mulligan wrote. “Indeed, it appears that Defendants chose their “No Sesame. All Street.” tagline with the hope and intention of commercially appropriating Sesame’s mark and associated goodwill and implying an association that does not exist to promote the release of their movie.”

“The Happytime Murders,” starring comedian Melissa McCarthy, debuts Aug. 17.

This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.