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Death to Smoochy



Smoochy gets the kiss-off from kiddie show

Toronto's Ricky the Rhino is locking horns with the makers of
the film Death to Smoochy over its very un-Barney-like behaviour


Special to The Globe and Mail

Wednesday, March 27, 2002 – Print Edition, Page R1

TORONTO -- Toronto filmgoers attending the opening of the Warner Bros. picture Death to Smoochy on Friday afternoon will have to step past a legion of pint-sized protesters waving placards that read: "Say NO to VIOLENCE against kids shows!" and "Don't give kids the WRONG IDEAS!"

The protest organizers are outraged that the film mixes children's television with violence, particularly the message sent by the widely used image of a kids' show character lying dead on a slab in the movie's publicity posters.

Death to Smoochy is a black comedy starring Robin Williams in which a kids' show host (Williams) goes postal after being fired. Danny DeVito directs and co-stars, along with Edward Norton as Smoochy, a sickly sweet Barney-coloured rhinoceros who appears in due course to get iced in a most unequivocal manner.

"Death to Smoochy is 'crossing the line' on a subject matter which has a tremendous impact on the young, developing minds of our nation," states a release from organizer Karen Barker, "on behalf of concerned parents and children."

"We are also extremely surprised and disappointed that Robin Williams, who is adored for his positive roles in good wholesome family entertainment, has chosen to be a character in this controversial film."

Acting as "spokesperson" on demonstration day will be Ricky the Rhino, a blue rhino of Smoochy proportions who stars in the kids' show Ricky's Room, shot in Toronto and airing on several PBS affiliates, including WNED Buffalo, which services Southwestern Ontario.

The show's producer, Jeff Deverett, is supporting the protest and said he is in the early stages of legal action against Warner Bros. because of the similarities between Smoochy and Ricky. He'll be there on Friday with his four kids in tow.

"When the World Trade Center fell, it was like a movie happening," he says. "But when a mascotted character like Barney gets his head blown off, that's real. It's real violence on their level. To [kids], this movie is Sept. 11."

The movie is R-rated in the United States and rated Adult Accompaniment in Ontario, and while Deverett concedes that the movie's not meant for kids, he points out that the advertising is out there, as is the Web site.

"I guarantee you that if you take any three-year-old who knows Ricky and show them the Smoochy poster, they'll say, 'That's Ricky.' And that's grounds for a lawsuit."

Deverett's own kids mistook Smoochy for Ricky. In fact ("This I wasn't crazy about," he admits), he had his 12-year-old son show his three-year-old son the Smoochy Must Die Web site. "There are games on how to kill Smoochy, taking a baseball bat to his head, shooting his limbs off, dropping things, crushing him, all kinds of stuff. He opened up a couple of those things, which are the things we're opposed to, and you should have seen my three-year-old's face. He was obviously devastated."

Barker, who choreographs Ricky's Room, says she began to get complaints from kids and parents who had gone to the Smoochy Web site, thought Smoochy and Ricky looked alike and were offended. "[The Smoochy Web site] has cartoon characters, bubble music, it even opens like our TV show," she notes.

While she believes the similarities are coincidental, "to them it was pretty much the same thing. We work really hard to do positive programming, and this wasn't a good choice for the movie."

Warner Bros. has acknowledged that it has received from Barker a mission statement (along with an enclosed Beanie Baby). "We cannot stop you from opening your movie," it reads, "but we will do whatever we can to make sure that moviegoers boycott your film. In order to avoid this protest, we would like Executive representatives of your company to issue a public apology to all of the families, parents, and especially children who have been (or will be) offended by the premise and style of your film. This is not a 'threat', but rather a friendly suggestion that will help appease our anger."

Barker's statement does not mention that she is affiliated with Ricky's Room, which, Deverett concedes, "maybe was an error in judgment."

And speaking of errors in judgment, Deverett acknowledges one himself. When parts of the film were being shot in Toronto in early 2001, he sent the film's producers a package of material about Ricky's Room, with a letter suggesting that they exploit their characters' similarities for "creative and fun ways to work together."

"I didn't know anything about the movie -- well, I knew it was going to be a parody on children's TV, but it had Robin Williams in it, who generally plays good roles," he now says.

He concedes that all of this may make his current complaint, and the protest itself, look a bit disingenuous. But anyone who thinks he's trying to play off Smoochy for publicity for Ricky has got it all wrong.

"They can say, 'true legal action' or 'publicity stunt,' but it's on the scale that we can afford to make our statement. We go there, we picket for a couple of hours, and go home."
Warner Bros. is considering its response.

This thread will most likely spawn into violence on screen debate.

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
protests against movies only add to their publicity and appeal.

their transparent attempt at free publicity makes them look silly. the fact that they are using young children makes them either really manipulative or really dumb.


TRIBE Member
yeah good way to divert the real issue! if you fell that strongly about the movie why not take it up with lawmaker instead of trying to stop something already moving....Cowards they took the easy way out and got their children to fight the fight... this is lame

I thought people had better things to do, damn houseparents! Get a job!



TRIBE Member

What really pisses me off is not the movie, but the fact that these parents are going to drag their young kids out to protest against it... using children as pawns to further your own agenda is rediculous...

I think I'm going to go watch this movie just to yell at some of these moronic parents...
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Originally posted by Loki God of Mischief
"But when a mascotted character like Barney gets his head blown off, that's real. It's real violence on their level. To [kids], this movie is Sept. 11."

Funniest thing I've read all day.


TRIBE Member

what's even funnier is the fact this was filmed in Toronto... and I'm not saying anything but they did a scouting trip for this flick a couple years ago and when they came smoochy wasn't a rhino.
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If you censored out the swearing, satire & stereotypes, there would be no point to this movie.

Saw it last night, no protesters, I was truly disappointed. Though I did see great parenting skills by many of the audience members that brought their 12 year old kids to this movie. I honestly don't know what these parents were thinking.

The movie was hilarious (maybe in my sick twisted little way), though this is not a movie for everyone to race out to see.

Subsonic Chronic

TRIBE Member
Give someone something to complain about and sure enough they'll be there with bells on. It's an R-rated movie, what the hell are they bitching over?

Abd I've gotta laugh at this:

"When the World Trade Center fell, it was like a movie happening," he says. "But when a mascotted character like Barney gets his head blown off, that's real."

This makes NO SENSE!