Two pubcasting fans in different cities who separately conceived plans for a “Million Muppet March” (later renamed Million Puppet March) in support of public broadcasting have teamed up to try to organize the event on Nov. 3 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Michael Bellavia, 42, of Los Angeles, and Chris Mecham, 46, of Boise, Idaho, were watching the presidential debate on Oct. 3 when Republican nominee Mitt Romney said that he would end subsidies to PBS if elected.
“We just merged the two into one effort,” said Bellavia, president of Animax Entertainment, an animation production studio in Los Angeles. Bellavia said Animax created the "Elmo's Potty Time" game for Sesame Workshop in 2006.
As of midday Wednesday, the Facebook page had more than 11,000 “Likes.” Some 415 people indicated on the event page that they planned to go, with 151 more listed as possible attendees.
On the Facebook page, Mecham also shared a letter he'd received from Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson, who said in part: “I am a member of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for the funding of CPB. Rest assured, I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Subcommittee to ensure CPB receives adequate funding.”
Bellavia said he invited PBS and Sesame Workshop to join the campaign, but each declined due to the political nature of the controversy. “We’d love it if all the people who work there could participate in some manner,” he said.
“We’re trying to stay as much out of politics as possible,” Bellavia added. “We’re just using the Muppets as opportunity to support public broadcasting.”
Mecham said that Sesame Street, Electric Company and Zoom were “a big part of my childhood.”
“The educational mission of public broadcasting is so important,” he said. “Everyone should have access to free educational TV over the air, without having to subscribe to cable. To me, it’s an issue of social justice and fairness.”
Mecham is pursuing a political science degree at Boise State University.
Neither of the two have event-planning experience. They’re in contact with the National Park Service to find out how to proceed.
The march has so far received some high-profile media attention, with mentions on HuffPost Live, NPR, CNN, TV Guide and the National Review.
UPDATE: On Oct. 16, the two changed the name of the event to the Million Puppet March, "to be more inclusive of all puppetkind," they said. In an Oct. 15 email, Jodi Lefkowitz, spokesperson for Sesame Workshop, which holds rights to the Sesame Street Muppets, told Current: "Sesame Workshop has not granted permission to the Million Muppet March organizers to use our characters or intellectual property. We are continuing to review their use of our characters and trademarks."