Friday, February 24 2012 00:00


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When I first heard about BEING ELMO: A PUPPETEER'S JOURNEY, it was after it wowed audiences and took home a Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. This exceptionally moving documentary by Constance Marks tells the story of Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo, SESAME STREET's most recognizable little red monster. Much to my surprise, the film popped up on Netflix Instant this week, so the little one and I sat down to watch it yesterday.  

elmoposterWhile Clash's story is one best told by the film itself, his rise to prominence as a puppeteer, performer, and later - one of the driving forces behind SESAME STREET, is a fascinating one, peppered with all of the elements to make for a fine Hollywood screenplay.

Many that have grown up with a creative bug will relate to Kevin's treatment from neighborhood kids and classmates. While not necessarily being "bullies," they picked at him for being different. I experienced this myself, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to getting a little teary-eyed while seeing the Baltimore neighborhood in which Clash grew up. It looked an awful lot like the Park Forest "Co-Ops" that I spent part of my own childhood living in. It wasn't good.

Among the best moments of the documentary are the rare glimpses into Clash's experiences with Jim Henson and Muppet designer Kermit Love, who had taken the young puppeteer under his wing and taught him the ways of the felt-covered "force."

While there is struggle and happiness in Kevin's tale, there is also tragedy. With a relentless workload and often-globe-trotting schedule to keep putting smiles on the faces of children far and wide, Clash's own personal life suffered - his marriage ending in divorce, and his own daughter missing out on time with her Dad.

BEING ELMO: A PUPPETEER'S JOURNEY is a film worth watching, not just for fans of SESAME STREET, but for anyone that roots for the underdog, but understands that all great victories come with sacrifices along the way.

The Rock Father™ rating: 4 out of 5 stars

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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