It seemed inevitable that someone would sue the creators of The Happytime Murders, a raunchy puppet murder mystery starring Melissa McCarthy. That someone is Sesame Workshop, the educational organization behind Sesame Street.
Set for release in August, The Happytime Murders is the brainchild of Brian Henson, son of Muppets creator Jim Henson, now chairman of his father’s eponymous company. As Quartz’s Adam Epstein reported, The Happytime Murders was stuck in development for a decade.
While the puppets in Happytime are not officially Muppets—Disney owns those characters now—the similarity is what makes it disconcerting (and funny) when they do things like offer sex for money. “Hey handsome,” one says to Melissa McCarthy, ostensibly mistaking her for a man. “You lookin’ for some rotten cotton?”
But it isn’t the physical similarity to the dear and wholesome Muppets that got the movie’s creators, STX Entertainment, sued. Nor was it the generous use of a Silly String-like substance in a puppet ejaculation scene—yes, a puppet ejaculation scene. Rather, Sesame Workshop objects to the movie’s tagline: “NO SESAME. ALL STREET.”
While The Jim Henson Company is involved with The Happytime Murders’ production, Sesame Workshop is not, and its lawyers want audiences to be clear on that. According to CNN, the suit states that the advertisement “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.”
Sesame Workshop also noted that it does not want its brand associated with “explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating, and even ejaculating puppets.”
Via a puppet lawyer—yes, a lawyer who is a puppet—named Fred Esq., STX said it was “disappointed that ‘Sesame Street’ does not share in the fun” but “confident in our legal position. We look forward to introducing adult moviegoers to our adorably unapologetic characters this summer.”