A billion dollar children's show empire will lead a march of puppets on the Mall on November 3 to demonstrate support for continued government assistance to PBS stations.
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 March."
The demonstration is planned for November 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 October 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 response.
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, 'It's happening.'"
The most liberal estimates show that only about 12% of the PBS budget comes from the taxpayer. For Sesame Street, it's about half that. One wonders why a show that has sold marketing rights for more than a billion dollars, takes in hundreds of millions in donations from corporations, foundations, and private citizens, and sells more than a hundred million dollars in merchandise every year needs to have the taxpayer foot the bill for any of it.
Time for Big Bird to fly on his own.