When Kevin Clash was a little boy he dreamed of living in Disney World.
He watched Sesame Street obsessively. He built his own puppets. Jim Henson was his hero.
That little boy grew up to be Elmo.
"I grew up watching Ernie and Bert, and Grover and all those guys. Grover was my favourite, and he's still my favourite. That was my generation. Now, my daughter's generation is Elmo," Clash told Entertainment Tonight.
The inspirational documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, coming to theatres later this fall, follows Clash's journey from puppet-loving kid to Emmy-Award-winning performer.
When Kevin Clash graduated from high school, he headed straight to New York to pursue his puppeteering dreams.
The old adage proved true: his great luck came as his years of preparation met opportunity.
During his early days on the set of Sesame Street, he was handed a new little red monster yet to be claimed by a puppeteer. Richard Hunt, the voices of Beaker and Scooter, had been Elmo for a few shows, and hated it. One day, he tossed the puppet to Clash.
"This was one of those lucky days that I was in the Muppeteer greenroom by myself, and he threw it to me and he said, 'Come up with a voice.' And I said (in Elmo's voice), 'Hi everybody, it's Elmo!' and he said, 'Okay, fine,'" Clash told TIME.
That little red puppet became an icon in its own right, with Clash providing the voice and heart for the lovable monster for the past 25 years.
"I knew that Elmo should represent love," Clash, now 50, says in the film, directed by Constance Marks.
Clash's story is one of joyful perseverance. Dreams do come true, if you "focus on what makes you happy," he attests.
During one of Clash's many press rounds for the documentary, he took the time to make a pregnant lady's day.
Watch the adorable moment below:
Everyone loves Elmo.