Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Documentary


Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. Few people know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. Displaying his creativity and talent at a young age, Kevin ultimately found a home on Sesame Street. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.

If I told you the voice of Elmo came from an African-American man, 6-feet tall, with a deep voice — would you believe me? 

This documentary's been in my Netflix Instant Queue for months. I've been watching my nephew a bit the last couple of days, and his favorite character is none other than Elmo. I only added Being Elmo to my instant queue because at first glance, that sounded really interesting. But because I didn't really know much about Elmo, I didn't care to watch it then. 

But after watching several episodes of Sesame Street with the nephew, Elmo really started to intrigue me: Why is this little guy so popular with the kids? Like, do you remember the craze with the Tickle Me Elmo toys? When I was little, my mom said I watched tons of Sesame Street. And if you ask me to think of one character that comes to mind when you say Sesame Street, I'd say "Big Bird" in a heartbeat.

But today every little kid will tell you Elmo.

The documentary is engaging, touching, and beautiful. Here's the life of a master puppeteer (or muppeteer), made fun of in high school for "playing with dolls", become the voice and heart behind the adoration of so many children (many of whom desire to meet Elmo as their Make-a-Wish request).

Elmo's character actually began with a different muppeteer that gave Elmo a sort of "caveman's voice". Eventually that muppeteer gave up on Elmo and threw it in frustration at Kevin Clash, thinking maybe somebody else can bring something out of it.

Two favorite parts of the documentary are the journey about how Clash came to "discover" Elmo's personality, heart, and voice; and when Clash realizes Elmo no longer belongs to him, that this whole muppeteering just got a lot bigger than him.

The 70 minutes feel short, so I hope you get to see it soon.