Available on April 3rd
Ryan Dosier - Every once in awhile a film comes along that is equal parts inspiring, heart-warming, tear-jerking, funny, fun, and beautiful. One of the few films I've come across recently that has all of these characteristics and so many more is Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey. This near-perfect piece of filmmaking is the work of dedicated and talented folks like director Constance Marks, producer Corinne LaPook, and a whole host of others who did all they could to bring the incredible story of Kevin Clash to the public. As you all (should) know, Being Elmo is currently available on Netflix Instant as well as on iTunes digital download, but on April 3rd (this Tuesday) you'll be able to watch Kevin's amazing life-journey any time you want when the film comes to DVD!
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey on DVD from the filmmakers, whom I can't thank enough for their continued generosity. I don't know that I, personally, have ever expressed my thoughts on the film itself. There's not enough time for a full, detailed review here (which this film absolutely deserves), but I think I can get my point across by saying that Being Elmo is the greatest documentary I have ever seen--not just Muppet/Sesame Street related. The film has inspired me in more ways than I can express. Following the magical journey of Kevin Clash from child to puppeteer to TV actor to Muppeteer to major Muppeteer to Elmo to producer to director to mentor is truly, truly incredible. No matter your own feelings on Elmo, Kevin Clash is a man to adore and aspire to be. In fact, by the end of the film when Kevin is mentoring young puppeteer Tau Bennett, it is nearly impossible to not be inspired by Kevin and not fall in love with him.
As for the DVD itself, it contains an amazing collection of behind the scenes footage from the film, further interviews, appearances, and more. Of course, it will just leave you wanting more (because as insatiable fans, it's our job to want more, more, more), but what is here is absolutely amazing. I'll break down the collection of features below...
Some Thoughts from the Filmmakers
This is the longest special feature at 15 minutes, but it is absolutely incredible. There are interviews with the men and women who made this film possible as they talk about (and show off) footage that didn't make it into the film. There are some truly tear-jerking moments here, such as Kevin meeting a fan whose life he influenced greatly, some amazing moments, such as Kevin's mother talking about mowing the lawn (trust me on this), and some laugh out loud, hysterical, perfect moments, such as Bill Barretta stopping his interview to call Kevin and berate him about crab cakes. Yes. Crab cakes. You have to see it to believe it. It's awesome.
Sundance Premiere Q&A with Kevin and the Filmmakers
This is another really cool feature, and one that I think appeared on YouTube back when the Sundance Film Festival was happening. It features some truly moving moments from Kevin as he talks to the audience who saw one of the first screenings of the film. He brings out Elmo for some fun with Tau and his puppet and it includes the moment where Elmo makes a pregnant woman's day. Another wonderful inclusion on this DVD!
Tau Performs in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
This is the most magical of the features on the disc. At only four minutes long, it is still just completely moving and perfect. It features young Tau Bennett as we get to watch him live his dream of performing with the Muppeteers on the Sesame Street float in the Macy's parade--just as Kevin did when he was younger. The feature gives us moments with Matt Vogel, Tyler Bunch, Fran Brill, Carmen Oshbar, Loretta Long, Roscoe Orman, and so many others. But the true magic comes from Kevin and Marty Robinson. Kevin, who greets Tau excitedly and helps him get situated on the float, and Marty, who performs Telly while Tau performs Baby Bear. Marty is hysterical as Telly and Tau has a ton of fun right next to him. It is truly amazing.
Interview with John Tartaglia
When I first saw that this feature would be included on the DVD, I was confused and wondered how it would fit... but it fits so, so beautifully. John Tartaglia, Tony Award-nominated puppeteer explains how he was inspired by Jim Henson and then in turn by Kevin Clash. Kevin went on to mentor John, giving John unprecedented insight. This interview is both insightful and entertaining. John is a Muppet fan who made it big and it's a true treat to hear his stories.
The bonus features for Being Elmo on DVD, and the content int he film itself, almost make up for the lack of Muppeteer presence in The Muppets bonus features. Being able to see these artists at work is just incredible. The candid, one-on-one interviews with folks like Fran Brill, Bill Barretta, Marty Robinson, Caroll Spinney, and even Frank Oz are just pure magic in the film. I could sit for hours and just listen to them talk.
But the true joy of this DVD is Being Elmo itself. It is a work of true artists bringing the story of another true artist to the public. Kevin Clash's story may be old news to some of us Muppet fans, but even so, you are guaranteed to learn something while watching this. Likewise, you are guaranteed to tear up, laugh out loud, get shivers, and be inspired by Kevin's incredible life story and all the good he has done for the world.
In the film, Kevin says that his goal was to make Elmo about love. He obviously succeeded, but so have the makers of Being Elmo. They have shown the world that not only is Elmo about love, but so is Kevin. His love for Elmo, his love for Sesame Street, his love for Jim Henson, his love for his fans, his love for his family, his love for his co-workers, his love for puppetry, his love for people all shine through like glorious stars as you watch the film. Moments where Kevin sees a sick child or talks about Jim or shows other puppeteers the ropes are the reason this DVD is a must-own for every Muppet fan.
If you haven't already, I highly suggest pre-ordering Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey on DVD from Amazon or just saving up $20 to buy it on April 3rd. You will never regret it and you are sure to treasure this work of art in your collection.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org