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article imageReview: ‘Being Elmo’ gets to the heart of the furry red monster Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 16, 2012 in Entertainment
‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey’ tells the story of the voice, hand and heart behind the famed furry red monster, one of Sesame Street's most adored characters.
Jim Henson's muppets are practically a childhood staple. Whether it was Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock or The Muppet Show with Kermit the Frog and friends, watching, learning and laughing with these characters is a fond memory for many people. For others, like Kevin Clash, it was an inspiration. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey recounts Clash's first experiences with puppetry and how he eventually became the man behind a sensation.
Clash came from a family of modest means and loving parents. As a child, he loved watching muppets, but as he grew older the way he looked at them changed. He began to wonder how they were made and how much was required to make them so life-like. As a teen, he made his first puppet. Local shows for kids led to a spot on a cable show which led to job with Captain Kangaroo and eventually the opportunity to work with his idol, Henson. Along the way he had other mentors and friends that encouraged and pointed him in the right direction. Then, on a day like any other, he was told to see what he could do with the little red monster muppet - and Clash gave birth to Elmo. What followed was a wave of popularity that no one could have predicted and continues to this day.
This documentary acutely accomplishes something most can only strive to achieve: at the end of the film, you feel like you know Kevin Clash. His warm personality emanates from the screen. His ambition and passion are unmistakable. Interviews with Clash, his family and friends, and celebrity fans paint a vivid picture of the man inside the cloth. And he's just such a nice guy. Combining the influences of his mother and father, he decided Elmo's niche would be love. That is the thing that makes the furry red monster so irresistible – he comes from a place of genuine goodness.
One of the more poignant scenes shows Clash and Elmo fulfill an ailing girl’s wish to meet the muppet. Elmo has been making kids smile for almost 20 years. Despite his soaring popularity, Clash insists on handling all of Elmo’s appearances himself. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the position, since as Clash’s mother reveals, “Kevin comes alive through Elmo.”
Going behind the curtain does not take away from the magic, but instead adds an understanding of the devotion that goes into each of the characters. Audiences witness the perfection with which Clash operates Elmo and his dedication to providing the muppets with a believable persona and realistic actions. He also expects the same effort from the puppeteers he trains around the world.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey gives much deserved credit to one of the most famous, and previously least recognizable, performers in television history.
Director Constance Marks will be in Toronto to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A on Friday, March 16, at the 6:30 pm show at the Bloor Cinema.
Director: Constance Marks
Starring: Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg and Frank Oz
More about Being Elmo A Puppeteer's Journey, Whoopi goldberg, kevin clash, Constance Marks, ELMO
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