The Happytime Murders is a film produced by the Jim Henson Company. The film, part of the company's Henson Alternative brand, was first announced in October 2008. The Happytime Murders, an irreverent puppet comedy, plays on the classic film noir detective genre. The film is distributed by STX Entertainment for the theatrical release while Universal Home Entertainment distributes the home video release.
The film was released on August 24, 2018 in the United States and Canada to negative critical reviews and is considered to be the one of the worst films ever made.
The film is based on an original story by Todd Berger and Dee Robertson; with the screenplay penned by Berger. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Bill Barretta, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, and Elizabeth Banks.
The film received six nominations at the 39th Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Picture and Worst Actress for McCarthy, winning the latter award.
“ In a world where puppets co-exist with humans as second class citizens, puppet private eye and disgraced ex-cop, Phil Phillips, is hot on the trail of the serial killer who murdered his brother and is now targeting the cast members of the famous 90s television show, "The Happytime Gang." As the killings continue, Phil’s former flame, Jenny, is next on the list. It’s up to Phil and his ex-partner, Detective Edwards, to find the culprit, but as bad blood and old resentments resurface the clues start pointing to the only viable suspect, Phil himself. Now he's on the run with only his wits and hard headed determination, as he tries to solve, "The Happytime Murders." ”
- Melissa McCarthy as Detective Connie Edwards, Phil’s ex-partner.
- Maya Rudolph as Bubbles, Phil’s secretary.
- Joel McHale as Agent Campbell, a stern FBI agent who is working on the case.
- Elizabeth Banks as Jenny, a burlesque dancer and Phil's "former flame". She was the only human actress on The Happytime Gang.
- Leslie David Baker as Lt. Banning, Edward’s superior.
- Jimmy O. Yang as Officer Delancey
- Ryan Gaul as Officer Milligan
- Mitch Silpa as Tommy
- Cynthy Wu as Brittenie Marlowe
- Michael McDonald as Ronovan Scargle
- Ben Falcone as Donny
- Bill Barretta as Phil Phillips, Junkyard and Boar
- Dorien Davies as Sandra Jacoby
- Kevin Clash as Lyle and Mr. Bumblypants
- Victor Yerrid as Larry Phillips and Old Man
- Drew Massey as Goofer and Vinny
- Colleen Smith as Dalmatian, Carol and Cara
- Ted Michaels as Ezra and Sexist Thug
- Brian Henson as Crab
- Donna Kimball as Diane, Roxy (puppetry, voice provided by Patty Guggenheim) and Cow
- Alice Dinnean as Sheila
- Allan Trautman as Octopus and Puppet Doctor (puppetry, voice provided by Damon Jones)
Additional Puppeteers: Grant Baciocco, Greg Ballora, Tim Blaney, Kevin Carlson, Kristin Charney, Artie Esposito, Peggy Etra, Dan Garza, James Godwin, B.J. Guyer, Patrick Johnson, Sean Johnson, James Kroupa, Tim Lagasse, Bruce Lanoil, Len Levitt, Jayden Libran, Lara MacLean, Amanda Maddock, Paul McGinnis, Alison Mork, Michael Oosterom, Karen Prell, Mike Quinn, Nicolette Santino, John Tartaglia, Art Vega, Alex Villa and Russ Walko.
- Directed by Brian Henson
- Produced by Brian Henson, Jeff Hayes, Jason Lust, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone
- Screenplay by Todd Berger
- Story by Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson
- Music by Christopher Lennertz
- Cinematography by Mitchell Amundsen
- Edited by Brian Scott Olds
- Puppet Captain: Kevin Clash
- Puppet Designers: Peter Brooke, Brett Bean, Ed Eyth, Casey Miller, and Drew Pierce
- Creative Supervisor (New York): Jason Weber
- New York Puppet Fabricators: Heather Asch, David Bizzaro, Mary Brehmer, Jamie Bressler, Brian Carson, Elizabeth Cherry, Benjamin Durocher, Richard W. Dyar, Jonathan Ehrich, Victoria Ellis, James Godwin, Brian Haimes, Liz Hara, Arrow Kleeman, Joseph Kovacs, James Kroupa, Sarah Lafferty, Aria Linz, Mica Linz, Kari Love, Laura Manns, Anney McKilligan Ozar, Gabriella N. Padilla, Lily Rosen, Stephen Rotondaro, Kate Rusek, Sierra Schoening, Keely Snook, Mark A. Stys, David Valentine, Matt Witham, and James Wojtal
- Los Angeles Puppet Fabricators & Wrangling Team: Scott Johnson, Russ Walko, Andrea Detwiler, Lara MacLean, Amanda Maddock, Tom Newby, Pyn King-Sheers, Wes Humphrey, Luke Peters, Robert Pound, and Jocelyn Lynch
- Belgium / Sweden - August 22, 2018
- Argentina / Australia / Israel / Netherlands / New Zealand / Portugal - August 23, 2018
- Canada (Quebecois French) / Estonia / Finland / Latvia / Lithuania / Mexico / Spain / Turkey - August 24, 2018
- United Kingdom & Ireland - August 27, 2018
- Hong Kong / Hungary / Malaysia - August 30, 2018
- Poland / Romania / South Africa - August 31, 2018
- Chile - September 6, 2018
- Bulgaria - September 7, 2018
- Czech Republic / Denmark / Peru / Singapore - September 13, 2018
- Norway - September 14, 2018
- France - September 19, 2018
- Brazil / Colombia / Russia / Ukraine - September 27, 2018
- Germany / Lebanon - October 11, 2018
- Austria - October 12, 2018
- Italy - October 18, 2018
- Taiwan - October 19, 2018
- Middle East - November 21, 2018
- Greece - December 27, 2018
- Japan - February 22, 2019
- Thailand - February 28, 2019
- South Korea - May 23, 2019
In early 2009, Lisa Henson commented on the project, and the prospects of future Henson Alternative feature films, stating:
“ It's an adult puppet movie. It's going to be a film noir starring a puppet detective and basically it’s a spin-off of our theatre franchise Puppet Up!... We loved the live shows so much that we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do to go to the next level with that kind of comedy. So we want to do a series of Puppet Up! films which would all be in different genres. So this would be film noir detective, and if we do another one it won't be that genre – it would be a teen comedy, or a sci-fi, or something like that. So we would use the Puppet Up! improv style to do different genres. ”
In October 2010 it was announced that the project had been picked up by Lionsgate, with insiders talking about a possible January 2011 production start.
Dwayne Johnson was rumored to have met with Brian Henson in early 2011 regarding the project. In November 2010 Cameron Diaz was rumored to have been offered a starring role in the film. In February 2012 Katherine Heigl was reported to be in final negotiations to star in the film.
The initial announcement described the film as:
“ Featuring the well-known Henson style of irreverence and parody, and taking its cues from such films as Pulp Fiction and LA Confidential, "Happytime Murders" presents a twist on the film noir genre. In a world where puppets are a minority race amongst humans, a puppet detective is forced to solve a string of murders around The Happytime Gang, the cast of a beloved children's show, that is being picked off by a mysterious villain. ”
Brian Henson commented in 2011 that the film was still in development, and that the Henson Company hoped to start shooting in the Spring of 2012. He revealed the series takes place in a world where the puppets are a minority group, and that the main character is a detective that once worked for the LAPD, but was fired.
IM Global sold the film through its Opus label at Berlinale in February 2012.
Concept art for the film was released in March 2012.
Todd Berger commented on the script and pre-production in a June 2012 interview, saying:
“ I want to try to make the Heat of puppet movies. I want to be The Dark Knight or Heat but in a world where puppets and humans coexist. Brian [Henson] was like, "This mystery actually needs to be interesting so that even if you took all the comedy out of it, it's still going to be interesting to watch"... Brian has actually already been working on the main character puppet. The Creature Shop has already made a few test puppets that I've met in person that are amazing... It’s a movie in which puppets and humans coexist and a lot of the supporting characters are all puppets. So they have a puppet improv group called Stuffed & Unstrung that tours around America doing improv shows. They’re going to use a lot of those puppets but they’re also going to create a bunch of new ones. There's a whole cast of characters in the script that they're going to create from scratch... It is a full-on R - there is swearing, there’s sex, violence, murder. Maybe with some work it could be PG-13 but as of now we've embraced the R rating. ”
Lisa Henson spoke of the film at the National Puppetry Festival in 2015, claiming the film was still looking for a producer: she cited the main issue of getting the film produced was that though people who read the script (like Paul Giamatti) loved it, those who did not were skeptical of an R-rated puppet film. Shortly after this, STXfilms bought the script.
After years of silence, it was announced on May 3, 2017 that comedian Melissa McCarthy had signed on to the film as the human detective (the role apparently having changed genders since the original concepts), as well as taking a producer role alongside her husband Ben Falcone. After almost a decade in development, the film began production in August 2017.
On September 13, 2017, it was announced that Elizabeth Banks had joined the cast as burlesque dancer Jenny. It was also confirmed that Bill Barretta would be the performer for the main character Phil Phillips.
On September 15, 2017, it was announced Joel McHale had joined the cast as FBI agent.
On May 18, 2018, the first trailer was released before selected screenings of Deadpool 2 and online.
On May 2018, it was reported that Sesame Workshop had sued STX Entertainment for the tagline for the marketing of The Happytime Murders which is No Sesame. All Street. This is because Sesame Workshop feels it is damaging the Sesame Street brand. Sesame Workshop eventually lost the case.
Afterward, in one of the TV spots, the film was jokingly introduced as being "From the studio that was sued by Sesame Street..."
To be added
- Jim Henson Company Press Release: Puppets Go Film Noir with Henson Alternative's Newest Feature "Happytime Murders". October 14, 2008.
- Could Henson's "Happytime Murders" Lead to a "Puppet Up!" Film Franchise?. February 05, 2009
- Hollywood Reporter: Lionsgate nabs 'Happytime Murders', October 12, 2010
- ROCK TEAMING WITH HENSON FOR NEW PROJECT??
- Cameron Diaz Offered a Role in Dark Puppet Movie The Happytime Murders. November 9, 2010
- Variety: Katherine Heigl in talks for 'Happytime Murders'. February 3, 2012.
- An Early Look at the Film Noir Puppet Comedy THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS. March 12, 2012
- How R-Rated is Brian Henson's The Happytime Murders? June 22, 2012
- Hollywood Reporter: "Melissa McCarthy to Star in STX's Puppet Thriller 'The Happytime Murders'"
- STX Sets Dates for ‘Molly’s Game,’ ‘Happytime Murders’ With Melissa McCarthy
- Hollywood Reporter: "Maya Rudolph Joins Melissa McCarthy in STX Puppet Comedy"
- Elizabeth Banks, Bill Barretta Headed to Happytime
- Elizabeth Banks, Bill Barretta Headed to Happytime
- Joel McHale Added to List of Famous People for Happytime Murders