Screenshot: The Happytime Murders

In a lawsuit notable mostly for once again allowing us to use the rich, evocative phrase “puppet jizz” in a headline, Variety reports that Sesame Workshop—the company that produces and owns the rights to Sesame Street—is suing Melissa McCarthy’s new R-rated comedy The Happytime Murders over its advertising campaign. Specifically, the non-profit organization seems angry at one of the film’s taglines, “No sesame, all street,” which, it contends, is likely to confuse fans into thinking that the determinedly vulgar project is somehow affiliated with its beloved educational brand.

(Brief sidebar: Although The Happytime Murders is being directed by Brian Henson and produced by The Jim Henson Company, there’s no actual affiliation at this point between the Henson brand and Sesame Street, despite their decades of association. Sesame Workshop purchased the rights to its puppet characters back in 2000—from a third party German company that briefly had ownership of all the Henson brands, weirdly enough—while Disney purchased all of the “Muppet” trademarks back in 2015. No Muppets were harmed in the making of this sidebar.)

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The lawsuit makes it clear that Sesame isn’t looking to shut the movie down, just to put a little more distance between its violence, drug use, and gallons of felt semen and its own products and the kids who love them:

While the trailer at issue is almost indescribably crude, Sesame is not trying to enjoin defendants’ promotion or distribution of their movie. It is only defendants’ deliberate choice to invoke and commercially misappropriate Sesame’s name and goodwill in marketing the movie—and thereby cause consumers to conclude that Sesame is somehow associated with the movie—that has infringed on and tarnished the Sesame Street mark and goodwill.

For its part, distributor STXFilms doesn’t seem especially bothered by the fact that Big Bird is mad at it; the company issued a statement today, noting that, “While we’re disappointed that Sesame Street does not share in the fun, we are confident in our legal position. We look forward to introducing adult moviegoers to our adorably unapologetic characters this summer.” 

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