Times Square Elmos May Soon Need License to Creep People Out and Harass Tourists

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Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Landing a plum gig as a costumed character in Times Square may soon require more than a few yards of felt and the ability to steep in your own sweat for hours on end. City Councilman Andy King has drafted a bill that would require licenses and background checks for Times Square's legions of real-life cartoons, a few of whom have found themselves in trouble over the last couple of years.

"I am particularly concerned adults are dressing up in kids character costumes and pretty much harassing or even begging for money to take a picture," King told The Wall Street Journal. Easily intimidated tourists aren't the only potential beneficiaries of regulating the unauthorized cartoon characters — their corporate owners stand to benefit, too. The Journal collected complaints from Sesame Workshop, which owns Elmo and Cookie Monster, and Sanrio, owner of Hello Kitty, about how the shoddily constructed and unaffiliated characters in Times Square dilute their brands.

This isn't the first time a city councilman has taken an interest in Times Square's costumed characters. Last summer, Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. introduced strict legislation to regulate the characters. Since then, their numbers have only grown.