The "Million Muppet March" will be a "lovefest," with skits and musical performances, rather than a confrontational protest or anything along the lines of "Occupy Sesame Street."
The demonstration to show support for Big Bird and public broadcasting is set for Nov. 3 –three days before the presidential election — at the National Mall in Washington D.C. It may not actually draw a million people, organizers admitted.
"But it does seem like we might get close to the biggest ever assemblage of puppets in one place," organizer Michael Bellavia told Reuters, "and probably the most ever puppets marching on Washington."
Republican challenger Mitt Romney pledged during his first presidential debate with President Barack Obama to end the U.S. federal government's subsidy for the Public Broadcasting Service. Romney made the pledge 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.
Bellavia is president of the L.A. animation studio Animax Entertainment, founded by former Second City actor Dave Thomas. He came up with the idea for the "Million Muppet March" during the debate, about the same time that Chris Mecham, a 46-year-old Idaho university student, apparently did.
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.
Both men are fans of "Sesame Street" and PBS, which received $445 million of the $3.8 trillion in federal budget outlays in 2012.
Mecham is a writer who is studying political science at Boise State University out of his interest in healthcare policy.
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. Without a large population base, more isolated regions could well have trouble finding enough private donors to fund local stations.
"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."