Promotion for a new raunchy puppet crime comedy has the group behind the beloved children's TV series "Sesame Street" in Oscar-the-Grouch mode -- and they're suing on claims the film "tarnishes" the educational show's brand.
The movie "The Happytime Murders" -- starring Melissa McCarthy, who partners with a puppet detective to solve a string of grisly murders -- are promoting their film slated for an August release under the tagline, "NO SESAME. ALL STREET."
"We were surprised and disappointed that Sesame Street, a show dedicated to educating young children, is being exploited to market this R-rated film," the nonprofit Sesame Workshop said in a statement, referring to the film's restricted maturity rating.
In the suit filed against production company STX Entertainment in Manhattan federal court, the Sesame Workshop organization says a just-released trailer's implied association with the children's show is "irreparably harming Sesame and its goodwill and brand."
"Scenes from the movie shown in the trailer depict repeated foul language by humans and puppets; drug use by humans and puppets; puppet prostitutes offering sexual favors to a human; gun and other types of violence; and puppet sex that culminates in scene where a puppet is depicted copiously ejaculating for an extended period," the lawsuit reads.
The group said they contacted the film's distributor asking they remove the "Sesame" name from the movie's trailer as well as marketing material but that STX "declined."
The trailer is showing in select cinemas and is available online for those over the age of 18.
Court documents include screenshots of social media reactions conflating the new adult puppet film with the educational program aimed at teaching young kids colors, numbers and the alphabet.
A cheeky statement from STX widely circulated on US media -- attributed to a lawyer puppet named Fred, Esq. -- said 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."
The Sesame Workshop is suing for undisclosed damages and an order to force alternative marketing of the movie.
The American childhood staple "Sesame Street" -- which premiered in 1969 to high viewership and glowing reviews -- features a cast of Jim Henson's Muppets including the bright yellow Big Bird and the furry red monster Elmo, known for his falsetto voice.