‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey’ DVD Review
Documentaries have their special place in the cinematic landscape since their mission is to document real stories – whether they are events, people, or phenomena. In Constance Marks’ film Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, the man behind the famous Muppet Elmo (Kevin Clash) is documented from his childhood to his famous status today. Like last year’s critically-acclaimed hit The Muppets, Being Elmo is a nostalgic film that has the power to touch everyone. Unlike many documentaries, it doesn’t rely on negativity or heartbreak to succeed.
Growing up in Baltimore, MD, Clash always knew he wanted to be a puppeteer. This unique career choice didn’t discourage him. Instead, Clash worked as hard as he could and took every opportunity given to him in order to make a name for himself. When he got the opportunity to meet the industry greats – including Frank Oz, Kermit Love, and Jim Henson – he rocketed to Muppet stardom.
Eventually, Clash’s appearances ranged from feature film puppeteering and voice acting to the beloved Sesame Street. When a new Sesame Street character named Elmo was introduced, Clash happened to be the right voice for what would become one of the greatest children’s icons ever. Elmo-mania, whether you remember it or not, took over America. Still today, it’s tough to think of a more loving character than precious Elmo.
It’s interesting to see how much real-life Clash and fictionalized Elmo have in common. Clash appears to be one of the happiest and loving individuals to walk the Earth, making Elmo’s personality so understandable. If you want to see the closest thing to Elmo, look no further than the man who made him.
Not only does Marks show us the phenomena behind the Muppets and Elmo in particular, but she reminds us what dreams can be made of, and more importantly, how dreams can come true. Although it does show the rise of one person, she makes an effort to incorporate others into the story. One of the others is a young aspiring puppeteer named Tau. Tau’s dreams, like Clash’s, involve being a well-known puppeteer in an industry that still needs him.
The bonus features, which are impressive for a DVD, give some more insights on the movie. This includes the up-and-coming Tau as he moves up the ranks. Here is an itemized list of the extras:
Some Thoughts from the Filmmakers – The comprehensive interview segment documents how the project got off the ground. It also shows some footage that was left out of the documentary, some of which is absolutely amazing.
Sundance Premiere Q&A with Kevin and the Filmmakers – An 8-minute shaky cam presentation that shows Kevin answering press questions during the worldwide premiere.
Tau Performs in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – Billed as the “next Kevin Clash,” Tau gets his first big break when he gets to perform as a puppeteer during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It also shows what it’s like to be a performer on one of those floats.
Interview with John Tartaglia – One of Clash’s understudies, John Tartaglia, offers his abbreviated rise to stardom, which mirrors what Clash went through.
Trailers – A look at the theatrical trailer for this film, as well as some other documentaries, including The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Still Bill, The Kids Grow Up and Bob Dylan Don’t Look Back.
Director’s Bio – A quick look at Constance Marks, including her previous projects.
Overall, this film didn’t get a huge release, probably meaning it didn’t get the recognition it may deserve. There is good news, though, since this film has been available on DVD for a couple weeks. If you can get your hands on a copy, you won’t be disappointed.