Ryan Dosier – Today on The Muppet Mindset we get an insider’s look at the new documentary, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey all about Kevin Clash. Our friend Chase Beecher was kind enough to stop by and give us some of the details about seeing the film, meeting Elmo and Kevin, and talking with some of the Being Elmo production team. It’s a great, insightful look into this film. So, without further ado, here’s Chase Beecher!
CHASE: No. Thanks for having me! I am good. Well, this couch sure is lumpy. Let me nestle in. That is better. Oh dear, a spring. Springs. Plural. Is this Pepsi in this mug? Blech. You can get me some fresh water, Ryan…
RYAN: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk to us a bit about your experience at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Can you talk to us about your Sundance experience as a whole?
CHASE: Being a resident here in Salt Lake City, UT, I hate to say this, but this is my first time really checking out the “world famous” Sundance film fest. Oh yeah, the residents here love to go stargaze and party and whatever, and I have never really gone. Never seen films up there. For some reason I thought they were all sad movies about tin cans, or little cats who wanted to dress up in their mother’s socks. It’s not like that at all! (Well, maybe a few films about kitties and socks.) There are some great films here with good, quality actors. It has a great independent spirit, of you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. It’s great. Around Thanksgiving,when it was announced that this project was going to be here I knew I had to go. I just had to. I was not going to let something like this get this close to home without me getting in on the action. It’s Kevin Clash and Elmo for cryin’ out loud! It also opened up Sundance to me, too. I will not miss it again. It sure is cold, though. I will wear a warmer coat next year. Maybe two coats. And Mittens.
RYAN: You got to see Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey while at the festival—something tons of Muppet fans should be jealous of. Tell us about this new Kevin Clash documentary.
CHASE: I feel like “The Golden Boy!” Muppet fans should be jealous, and if they are not, they are going to be after I tell you about this wonderful film. It tells the wonderful story of a young Kevin Clash and how he got to be where he is now–a brilliant performer, producer, director, and charitable guy. The filmmakers followed Kevin around for six years, so there is a lot in this 85 minutes! It starts by telling us about a young Kevin, who becomes passionate about puppetry and sticks with it, and chronicles his journey along the way. It shows us Kermit Love mentoring a young Kevin in archival footage and tells us his journey through meeting Jim Henson and working on Labyrinth, and finally stumbling across a little furry red monster named Elmo, after Richard Hunt didn’t know what to do with him. The film shows us home movies with his family (Elmo on the way to the hospital on the day Kevin’s daughter was born was priceless) and also takes us to France, where Kevin is training performers on the French version of “Sesame.” The film ends with Kevin calling up a young boy, inviting him up to Sesame Workshop to learn the ways of a Muppet performer. Kevin is passing it on. It was perfectly bookended.
RYAN: What were some of your favorite parts of the documentary?
CHASE: Wow. This is going to be tough to narrow down. Can you give me a second to think? (15 min later) Okay Okay, I got a few. I think just the pure and simple fact that there is a documentary about a Muppeteer out there is fantastic. They are notoriously shy, quiet folk, so this is huge. I loved the few “Sesame” bloopers they had. Elmo yelling “You wanna piece a’ me?” to everyone and then biting a talking piece of cheese is brilliant. Way better than the Katy Perry blooper. Kevin telling his story about meeting Jim Henson after a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He was introduced by Kermit Love, and then was not allowed to get a word in edge-wise by Kermit! It is a very funny story. We then get to see Kevin’s audition tape for the Henson Company, which is priceless. A few of the Muppeteers are interviewed, Fran Brill, Bill Barretta, Marty Robinson, and Frank Oz. Frank gives Kevin one of the best compliments, I think anyone working in the Muppet company can receive. He says that Kevin is a one of a kind performer, and that he is now part of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the performers. Can it get better than that? I am sure I have more favorite parts, but I don’t want to give away the whole movie, and bore the audience!
RYAN: Amazingly, you got to meet Elmo and Kevin Clash in person. Did you get to talk to Kevin at all? What was it like to meet him?
CHASE: I did get to meet Kevin very briefly. He is a very large man! I am 6’4 and it takes a lot to make me feel small. I accidentally stepped on his foot, which I felt terrible about. He was so mobbed he didn’t notice. Elmo and Kevin are real rockstars! It was surreal to even see them let alone met them. Seeing your first real Muppet is… well, they haven’t made words for it yet. Well, Muppetational. That’s the word. Elmo was on my shoulder! I did get to talk to Kevin just for a second. The film was real emotional for him. I can tell you this. Clifford WILL be in the new Muppet movie. That is all I can say. I really don’t want him to beat me up. That dude is built!
RYAN: You got a great picture with Elmo as well. How much fun was it to get to stand alongside Elmo and feel like a five year old?
CHASE: Judging from talking with me, it’s not hard to tell that acting like I am five is a stretch for me, man! I flipped when I got close to Kevin and Elmo! Elmo put his arm on me. His eyes were next to mine, and we chatted! I kept looking at Kevin and then back to Elmo. Time froze. I was meeting my first Muppet in person! A thousand things went through my brain! His fleecy fur touched my neck! His hand swatted me! We both smiled really big for the camera! THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER! I didn’t expect to be so emotional meeting my first Muppet, but I was. I hear this happens. I will confess! I may have cried a little after! Go ahead. Make fun! So, I guess that means when I meet Kermit and Piggy, get the smelling salts because I WILL faint. Everyone stand back, and have a hankie…
RYAN: Did you have any other Elmo experiences at Sundance while you were there? Did you attend any of the Q&A sessions with Kevin and Elmo?
CHASE: I did attend the premiere screening that Kevin and Elmo were at. I did not tape it. There was just a special, warm, sweet, vibe in the room it felt inappropriate. It was a very emotional event for Kevin. It is out there on YouTube. He talks about how emotional it is seeing his life up there on the screen. I would get teary too, man. He took a few questions and then brought out the furry, red guy. People lost their minds! He first popped up to pose with a pregnant woman. That is out on YouTube. Seeing people light up when Elmo comes into the picture is fantastic. The old, the very old, the young, the very young, and everyone in between, they all have an inner child just come bubbling out. They get giddy. Kevin gets mobbed. Kevin is the most anonymous celebrity. Of course, people only see him as the one “holding Elmo up.” The “Being Elmo” team was cruising around Park City in a red SUV with eyes and an orange nose on it. That was pretty sweet. I wonder if they called it the “Elmo Wagon?” I would have, and I did.
RYAN: Elmo got to live his dream and go skiing, did you?
CHASE: Gee, I wish I had been there for that. I wonder which resort he hit up. Wouldn’t it be great to go skiing with fur? You would never get cold! But, really I have size 18 feet. Almost as big as Big Bird. Almost. I attempted to go skiing once in junior high, but the ski boots were all too small. ALL the ski boots in the whole place! I spent my day in the lodge crying over a cup of hot coca. That’s the way to get the girls in the 7th grade!! Tears and chocolate! Now I just go bare foot, slap some Vaseline on the bottom and go down the hill until I can’t feel my toes anymore. Don’t worry, I haven’t got frostbite yet. Boy, is it exhilarating! It’s kind of a redneck way to do it, but it’s the only way for a big foot-ed guy like me!
RYAN: Based on what you saw at Sundance, what do you think the chances are of seeing Being Elmo released on DVD for the masses?
CHASE: I am 100% sure it will see DVD, if not a limited release. The director and editors told me that there is so much that they had to leave out, that the DVD will be stuffed with special features. One editor said there is enough to make about five more documentaries! “Kevin Clash: The Miniseries” will now return on PBS, I can hear it now… The audience was really excited as well and wants to see it distributed. The director said the best thing to do is to let distributors know that you want to see it, by tweeting and Facebooking about it and by visiting the film’s website, beingelmo.com. Thanks for having me Ryan! Can you help me out of this couch? It has sunk to the ground. You can check out all my videos at youtube.com/chasebeechershow and follow me at twitter.com/chasebeecher, chasebeechershow.blogspot.com or find me on Facebook! now, can I have money for a cab? (here is the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chase-Beecher/278362726924)
Special thanks to our friend Chase Beecher for this great chat about a great film!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier