In the last couple of weeks I have had the pleasure to view two new films (on DVD) that I found very touching. Thanks to the Cincinnati Library for being such a GREAT library and adding these DVDs to their already amazing collection
The first is a documentary following the puppeteer Kevin Clash, you know, the man beneath the world’s most famous furry red monster. The film is titled “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey”, and what a journey (and treat) this film is. I found myself close to tears as the story is told of how a child from a working class Baltimore family follows his dream all the way to Sesame Street. I remember when I was around 10 years old and read about Kevin in an issue of National Geographic’s World magazine for children in the 1970′s, and thinking “Wow! He makes his own puppets”. Who knows where I would be now if I had followed that road back then? Keeping in mind that I grew up watching “classic” Sesame Street I first found Elmo to be annoying. Neither of our children became very attached to the puppet, yet we do have a number of toys and things with his likeness printed on it around the house. Over time I have accepted Elmo, and found humor in his appearances both on and off Sesame Street. I was pleased that the filmmakers captured a very real look at this very talented and successful puppeteer’s life when he is not performing Elmo. He’s a human being following his dream, just like many of us. Here’s the trailer. I give this **** and recommend that you see it.
The next film that I enjoyed is also about a puppeteer (imagine that!), well puppetry was just a part of the volume of work completed in the lifetime of the film’s key figure, Fred Rogers. “Mister Rogers & Me: A Deep and Simple Documentary Film” is the work of brothers Benjamin and Christofer Wagner, and what a wonderful piece of work it is. At the start of the film Benjamin recalls his time spent as Fred Rogers real life neighbor and then takes to the road to speak to some of the people that Fred Rogers was friends with in his life time. You may have heard of a few of them; Susan Stamberg, Tim Russert, and Found Magazine’s Davy Rothbart . Each person had wonderful memories to share about the person Mister Rogers was and how his work touched their lives.
I was one of the early viewers of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” as a young boy in the 1960′s and like Sesame Street it was the puppets that pulled my young eyes to the television screen everyday. My childhood had some difficult times, and I can recall wishing to live in “The Neighborhood” or “The Land of Make Believe”, since everything seemed so more appealing to me back then. Now, as a father of two children, I try to keep Fred Rogers simple yet very true words of wisdom in my everyday life. The Wagner brothers have created a very simple and honest film that helps continue to spread Fred Rogers wisdom to a world that I feel could really use more neighbors like him more than ever. Here is the trailer. I give the film **** and a cardigan sweater.
Watching these films made me reflect on a few things; My own childhood, both the good times and the not so good times. The past 8 years of fatherhood, and my work as a puppeteer. One thought stayed with me, and that is we are here on this planet a very short time. We should do something that we love and share it with others. If you watch either of these films, I’d love to know what you think about them. Drop me a message at www.facebook.com/wumpmucketpuppets