Melissa McCarthy’s muppet detective film The Happytime Murders will be allowed to keep referencing both “sesame” and “street” in its promotional material, after a US judge ruled against the owner of the Sesame Street brand.
The R-rated film from The Jim Henson Company stars McCarthy and a host of Henson muppets, following the story of two detectives as they investigate a series of murders in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles.
The trailer, which features muppets drinking alcohol, swearing, using drugs, and offering themselves for sex, uses the tagline “no sesame, all street” — a line Sesame Workshop sued to have removed, arguing the public would think the movie was supported by Sesame Street.
But US District Judge Vernon Broderick ruled Sesame Workshop had not demonstrated that moviegoers were confused or that sponsors or parents were complaining, instead saying the slogan was a “humorous, pithy way” to distinguish the film from the wholesome children’s show.
The makers of The Happytime Murders – which was directed by Brian Henson, the late Jim’s son – issued a statement saying they were pleased with the ruling.
“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 honour 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.”
— Happytime Murders (@HappytimeMovie) May 23, 2018
The Jim Henson Company originally created the puppets for both Sesame Street and the Muppets, but the rights to the Sesame Street characters were sold to Sesame Workshop, while the Muppet brand was bought by Disney.
The Henson Company has continued to produce content, including through Henson Alternative – the Company’s label for content “created specifically and exclusively for grown-ups” – like The Happytime Murders.