Oct 12 Plans to save Big Bird, the fuzzy yellow
character on U.S. public television's "Sesame Street," from
possible extinction are taking shape in the form of a
puppet-based protest next month dubbed the "Million Muppet
The demonstration is planned for Nov. 3 at the National Mall
in Washington, D.C., three days before the general election.
Before the presidential debate between Democratic President
Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney had concluded
on Oct. 3, two men who had never met each floated the Million
Muppet March idea on social media. They immediately united to
defend public broadcasting.
Romney pledged during the debate to end the U.S. federal
government's subsidy for the Public Broadcasting Service despite
his professed love for Big Bird, one of the characters on PBS's
43-year-old children's educational program "Sesame Street,"
which features the Muppets.
Michael Bellavia, 43, an animation executive from Los
Angeles, and Chris Mecham, 46, a university student in Idaho,
separately came up with the Million Muppet March idea in
Big Bird, played by actor Carroll Spinney in an 8-foot
(2.5-metre) bird costume, is strictly speaking not a member of
the group of puppet characters known as the Muppets.
Bellavia bought the Internet address
www.millionmuppetmarch.com during the debate and discovered
Mecham had already started a Facebook page by the same name.
Within 30 minutes of the end of the debate they were on the
phone with each other, planning the march.
"I figured, why just make it a virtual show of support? Why
not take this opportunity because it seemed like there was
already a growing interest in it and actually make it an active,
participatory event," Bellavia said. "I literally just said,
Both men consider themselves fans of "Sesame Street,"
perhaps the best-known program on PBS, which received $445
million of $3.8 trillion in federal budget outlays in 2012.
Coming from rural Idaho, Mecham said he was aware how
important public broadcasting was in sparsely populated areas
that receive no other signals over the air.
"Romney was using Muppets as a rhetorical device to talk
about getting rid of public broadcasting, which is really so
much bigger than Sesame Street," Mecham said. "While he was
still talking I was thinking of ways I could express my
frustration at that argument. Before the debates were over I had
put up the Million Muppet March Facebook page."
The two men said they immediately decided to work together.
Mecham is a writer who is studying political science at
Boise State University out of his interest in healthcare policy.
Bellavia is president of the animation studio Animax
Entertainment, founded by former Second City actor Dave Thomas.
They may fall short of attracting a million people, or
Muppets, to the event, but they do hope to create what Bellavia
called a "lovefest" featuring skits and musical performances
"It does seem like we might get close to the biggest ever
assemblage of puppets in one place," he said, "and probably the
most ever puppets marching on Washington."
The Million Man March was a gathering held on the National
Mall on Oct. 16, 1995 to promote civil rights, with an emphasis
on African Americans, and was led by rights advocate Louis
(Editing by Eric Walsh)