What would you give in order to live your dream? What would you sacrifice to become the best in your field? Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey follows the story of Kevin Clash, an ordinary kid from Baltimore that moved to New York City right out of high school in order to pursue his dream of working with Jim Henson. One day, a frustrated puppeteer on Sesame Street tossed a furry red monster puppet at Kevin, and said, "Here, he's not working for me. See if you can get anything out of it." And the Elmo we know and love today was born.
Kevin was successful on Sesame Street and worked with his idol, Jim Henson, on several side projects as well. One day in 1984, Richard Hunt, the puppeteer who was using the Elmo puppet at the time tossed him to Kevin and said, "See if you can get anything out of him." Kevin began developing the current Elmo character and voice immediately, and it exploded in popularity.
One of the things that amazed me about Kevin's story is just how many events that happened in his life would probably never happen today. For example, he tells the story of how he took a field trip to New York City with his school. He couldn't afford to travel there by himself, so this was the only way to visit. He talked about going to meet with Kermit Love, creator of many of Jim Henson's Sesame Street puppets. This would never happen today! No school would let a boy leave the group to walk the streets of New York to meet a bearded man that made puppets. "The risk is incalculable!" they would probably say, and a child's dream would be stifled.
Another part of the story that really struck me was how devoted Kevin is to the Elmo character, performing thousands of events and touring with him all over the world. It really cost him a lot to bring all of that joy to our kids. In the movie, he talks about how he wishes he could have that time back to spend with his own daughter, and as a dad, that part of the movie just kills me. I know I did the same thing during my daughter's first year. I chose work instead of family, and I regret it. I now recognize how fortunate I am to be able to be an at-home dad. If you haven't seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It's not often that there is a documentary that you can watch with your children and both be equally entertained. This is a movie that every parent should see. It will make you want to push your kids to chase their dreams, and make you appreciate the talent and dedication of people like Kevin Clash that bring your child hours of entertainment on wonderful shows like Sesame Street.