There are so few theatrically released Sesame Street movies, even a Muppet could count them on one hand (with two fingers left over). Aside from 1985's Follow That Bird and 1999's Elmo in Grouchland, there's been only TV films and direct-to-video releases. That's about to change.
"It's going to be big," promises Portlandia's Jonathan Krisel, who's been hired to write and direct a still-untitled Sesame Street feature in development at Warner Bros. (a project that moved from Fox in 2015). Exactly how big, he can't say — sources say it will be in the $50 million range — but Krisel confirms that Anne Hathaway will star and that shooting could begin in late summer. The plot is being kept under wraps, but Krisel reveals that it will be a musical drawing inspiration from the show's theme song, with characters getting lost in NYC and trying to find their way back to Sesame Street.
"Sesame Street never sold out," Krisel says. "Yes, it's on diapers and it's a brand, but it never got cheesy. For 50 years, it has never lost its sheen. That's why it's daunting. You don't want to be the guy who does that to Sesame Street."
Ken Kwapis, who directed Follow That Bird before going on to shoot Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and episodes of The Office, can relate. And he has one piece of advice for Krisel, the same advice Jim Henson gave Kwapis 30 years ago: "Jim asked that on day one of photography, I gather the crew and tell everyone to raise one hand and hold it for a full minute. He wanted the crew to understand how taxing it is for a puppeteer to hold up his puppet while you're making umpteen lighting adjustments."
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This story first appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.