The biggest reveal of Constance Mark’s Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011) happens in the middle of the film. Puppeteer Kevin Clash is going back to his hometown in Baltimore while searching for ways to persuade his production bosses in the popular children’s show Sesame Street that he can win the role of Elmo.
Elmo, at the time, has no clear personality; a sketch still in the drafts. “There has to be a niche in the character,” he learned.
It wasn’t long enough before Clash thought of the one thing missing in the show, that there has to be a character who should represent love. That Elmo could be that symbol.
Kevin’s parents George and Glady Clash, to which he described are the most lovable and caring people in his life, became the inspiration for the character. Of course, the character appealed to many.
Everyone, not just children, around the world leaned towards Elmo as an instant favorite. Merchandise involving the character turned into a prized possession, and most importantly, Sesame Street found a character that would define them.
But Being Elmo, the documentary, is not entirely about the impact of Elmo, but a heartwarming narration of its creator Kevin Clash’s passion for puppetry.
Kevin started creating puppets at a young age. While many of his age found his newfound hobby as childish and absurd for their tastes, he did not hesitate to stop. When there was an opportunity for him to visit New York, he immediately set an appointment to meet his idol, legendary puppeteer, Kermit Love.
Kermit enabled Kevin to become his protégé, teaching him about the ins and outs of the puppetry, giving him the opportunity to work for Captain Kangaroo and eventually, a role in Sesame Street.
The success of Kevin Clash is a heartwarming story of an underdog who dared to continue doing his passion. Being Elmo allowed its viewers to vividly see how Kevin became better with his craft, and that with being a master of the craft entails a responsibility to pass on the heritage.
Fast forward. Kevin rose as a director and producer for Sesame Street, with Elmo at a continuous rise of popularity. A kid called and set an appointment with him to visit the set of the show. Returning a favor from his mentor Kermit, he temporarily brought the kid under his wing and showed him the basics of puppetry.
From here, Being Elmo blossoms into a story of legacy, about how some things can only transcend through the act of generosity and trust. About how everyone, like Elmo, can make the biggest difference to the next generation by serving as a symbol of love and hope.