The makers of Sesame Street on Wednesday lost a bid in Manhattan federal court to block a raunchy new R-rated film with Muppet-like puppets from using a promotional trailer that references their wholesome children’s show.
U.S. District Judge Vincent Broderick, in a ruling from the bench, said there wasn’t enough evidence that the adult-themed Melissa McCarthy “Happytime Murders” puppet film confused viewers or tarnished the Sesame Street brand by using the slogan, “No Sesame. All Street” in its trailers.
Instead, Broderick said, the slogan was technically a “humorous, pithy” disclaimer of any connection with the children’s show’s producer, Sesame Street Workshop.
“The trailer in no way indicates that plaintiff is in any way associated with the film,” the judge said.
The STX Entertainment movie, directed by the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson, was described by the company’s chairman as a film showing that when “Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy go home at night and there are no cameras around and no children, it’s filthy.”
The company said it had used the “All Sesame. No Street” slogan in trailers played at 270 movie theaters in New York alone, as well as on thousands of posters and in an internet campaign that would cost $1.4 million to recall and re-craft.
A lawyer for Sesame Street said the filmmakers could have easily used other slogans — ranging from “Naughty Puppets” to “Puppets Act Freaky” — instead of a slogan that exploited Sesame Street’s trademark.
But Broderick said that he saw no evidence that Sesame Street was losing viewers or advertisers because of association with a lewd puppet movie, and predicted that any harm will quickly dissipate by August when the promotion gives way to the film’s release.
“The trailer is not the movie, and once the film is being played, the trailer becomes less of an issue,” the judge said.