Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird
|Sesame Street Presents:
Follow That Bird
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
|Directed by||Ken Kwapis|
|Produced by||Tony Garnett
|Written by||Judy Freudberg
|Music by||Lennie Niehaus
Van Dyke Parks
|Editing by||Evan Landis|
|Studio||Henson Associates, Ltd.
Children's Television Workshop
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||88 minutes|
(filmed in Canada)
Sesame Street: Follow That Bird (commonly shortened to Follow That Bird) is a 1985 American musical comedy adventure road movie, directed by Ken Kwapis, starring many Sesame Street characters (both puppets and live actors). This was the first of two Sesame Street feature films, followed in 1999 by The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. The film was produced by the Children's Television Workshop and Warner Bros. Pictures, and on location in the Greater Toronto Area. This is also the final Muppet film to be released before the death of Jim Henson.
Big Bird is sent to the fictional town of Oceanview, Illinois, to live with a family of dodos by Miss Finch (performed by Cheryl Wagner and voiced by Sally Kellerman), a social worker who thinks he needs to be with his own kind upon being sent to him by the feathered friends. The Dodos think exactly the same, even saying he should have a bird as a best friend instead of Mr. Snuffleupagus. This causes him much distress.
When Big Bird runs away from his new home and ends up on the news, Miss Finch tells Kermit the Frog that she will reclaim him. His friends back on Sesame Street also see the news and band together to find him. In a Volkswagen Beetle is the group of Gordon, Olivia, Linda, and Cookie Monster; Count von Count departs in his Countmobile; Bert and Ernie go out to search in an airplane; Grover flies as Super Grover (later falling into the Volkswagen); Maria, much to her dismay, has to ride with Oscar the Grouch, Telly Monster, and Homer Honker in Oscar's Sloppy Jalopy. They all head out across America in search for their beloved Big Bird. Oscar, however, decides to go his own route wanting to have some fun, which greatly annoys Maria and Telly.
Big Bird has various adventures in his attempt to get home. First, he hitches a ride with a turkey truck driver (Waylon Jennings) who tells him not to give up trying to get to his goal. He then meets two kids named Ruthie and Floyd (Alyson Court and Benjamin Barrett) at a farm and stays with them for a while. He ends up having to leave because of Miss Finch's arrival.
While out imagining his friend Mr. Snuffleupagus in a cornfield, Big Bird is spotted by Ernie and Bert in their plane. But he doesn't know that they are in it and thinks it's Miss Finch wanting to take him back to the Dodos. When Ernie steers it towards Big Bird, he flees in fright. Ernie turns it upside down to get his attention and begins singing "Upside Down World" with Bert beginning to join in singing, but when they turn it back up Big Bird is gone and Ernie blames it all on Bert.
Big Bird is also sought by two scam artists named Sid and Sam Sleaze (Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas) who operate a lousy carnival called The Sleaze Brothers Funfair. They want to capture him to put him on display. Eventually he arrives in Toadstool, Indiana (dubbed "The Mushroom City"). Shortly after arriving, Miss Finch finds him there and gives chase through the city. On the outskirts, the Sleaze Brothers have set up their carnival and Big Bird shows up asking if they have a place to hide him from Miss Finch. They then put him in their "hiding cage." Shortly afterwards, they decide to paint him blue and tout him as "The Bluebird of Happiness." However, his performance is not one of happiness but of sadness as he sings a song about wishing to be back home with his friends. However, he brings in a lot of customers as Sam is seen backstage during the performance happily counting the pile of cash that's been brought in by the many customers that he has attracted. Sid and Sam are excited because this is only the beginning. They can tell that he is going to make them rich!
After the show, two kids sneak backstage to see him. Upon noticing them, he asks them to call Sesame Street to tell his friends where he is. They do so and the next day, his friends sneak into the circus tent to try to free him. However, the Sleaze Brothers quietly wake up because Cookie Monster gets crazy by some nearby cookies and Super Grover also tried to bend the cage bars. They strap the cage to a truck and attempt to drive off with him in tow. Eventually, Gordon and Olivia give chase and succeed in rescuing him. Shortly afterwards, the Sleaze Brothers are pulled over by a police officer (John Candy) and his kid sidekick (whose apple was stolen at their carnival earlier in the film) and arrested on charges of counterfeiting, extortion, fraud, impersonating a dentist, and apple theft.
Back on Sesame Street, Big Bird is happy to be back home but then looks on as Miss Finch arrives to announce that she has found another bird family for him. Maria convinces her that he can be, and is, happy there on Sesame Street—that it does not make any difference that his family consists of humans, monsters, cows, Grouches, Honkers, and the other varieties of eclectic species there. What matters is that they are family. After considering what she's heard and realizing how far his friends went to try to bring him back, Miss Finch declares that Sesame Street is his home. He is also reunited with Snuffy, who watched his nest while he was away. Gordon brings the Volkswagen (which was partially eaten by Cookie Monster) to Luis to see if he can fix it. As Sesame Street goes back to normal, Oscar is carried around the block in his can by Bruno the Trashman in order to get the happiness of Big Bird being back on Sesame Street out of him.
At the beginning of the end credits, the Count begins to count the movie credits (in a nod to the original series. He calls Joan Ganz Cooney, the co-creator of Sesame Street, "mom" when her name is credited as one of the executive producers). By the end of the credits in a brief "bonus scene" he announces 278 credits and does his trademark laugh accompanied by a thunderclap (no lightning flash was present as was in his usual running gag).
- Joe Flaherty as Sid Sleaze
- Dave Thomas as Sam Sleaze
- Alyson Court as Ruthie
- Benjamin Barrett as Floyd
Cameo guest stars
- Paul Bartel as Grouch Diner Cook
- Sandra Bernhard as Grouch Diner Waitress
- John Candy as Police Officer
- Chevy Chase as newscaster
- Waylon Jennings as Turkey Truck Driver.
Humans of Sesame Street
- Bob McGrath as Bob
- Roscoe Orman as Gordon
- Linda Bove as Linda
- Emilio Delgado as Luis
- Sonia Manzano as Maria
- Alaina Reed as Olivia
- Loretta Long as Susan
- Kermit Love as Willy
- Caroll Spinney as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and Forgetful Jones
- Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog, and Ernie
- Frank Oz as Bert, Grover, and Cookie Monster
- Jerry Nelson as Count von Count and Herry Monster
- Richard Hunt as Gladys the Cow, Feathered Friends
- Pam Arciero as Grundgetta
- Martin P. Robinson as Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, Grouch Diner Patron
- Fred Garver as Barkley, Feathered Friends Parrot, Owl
- Noel MacNeal as Madame Chairbird
- Kathryn Mullen as Feathered Friends Magistrate, Grouch Diner Patron
- Cheryl Wagner as Miss Finch (performer)
- Trish Leeper as Mommy Dodo (performer)
- Gord Robertson as Daddy Dodo (performer)
- Shari Weiser as Marie Dodo (performer)
- Jeff Weiser as Donnie Dodo (performer)
- Bryant Young as Mr. Snuffleupagus (rear end performance)
- Sally Kellerman as Miss Finch (voice)
- Laraine Newman as Mommy Dodo (voice)
- Brian Hohlfeld as Daddy Dodo (voice)
- Cathy Silvers as Marie Dodo (voice)
- Eddie Deezen as Donnie Dodo (voice)
- "The Grouch Anthem" – Oscar, Grouch chorus
- "Ain't No Road Too Long" – Waylon Jennings, Gordon, Olivia, Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Grover, Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, Oscar, Maria, Telly, Olivia, Miss. Finch, Honker
- "One Little Star" – Big Bird, Olivia, Mr. Snuffleupagus
- "Easy Goin' Day" – Big Bird, Ruthie, Floyd
- "Upside-Down World" – Ernie, Bert
- "I'm So Blue" – Big Bird
- Sesame Street theme - Randy Newman and Bill Cobbs
The film was a critical success upon its release. The Orlando Sentinel called the film "a flip and funny road picture for children that doesn't let its kind heart get in the way of its often biting wit." Walter Goodman observed in The New York Times that "by and large, the script by Tony Geiss and Judy Freudberg and the direction by Ken Kwapis don't strain for yuks; what they seek, and more often than not attain, is a tone of kindly kidding."
Conversely, Gene Siskel called the film "an unfunny little trifle" and wrote in the Chicago Tribune that "the bird at best is probably only a supporting player, and forcing him to center stage for much of the movie gets to be a drag after a while. He's big and yellow and kind, but that's it. And that's not enough for a star."
In spite of the near-universal critical acclaim, the film was a box office bomb grossing only $2,415,626 on its opening weekend. By the end of its theatrical run, its total gross was $13,961,370.
The film was released on LD, and VHS in 1986, 1993, and 1997. A DVD release followed in 2006, which was later re-issued as a special "25th Anniversary Edition" in 2009, with new bonus features and cover art.
- "Except For Wit, Wisdom, Big Bird Film Is All Heart". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- "FILM: BIG BIRD ON THE BIG SCREEN WITH THE 'SESAME STREET' GANG". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-28.
- "Center Stage Too Broad A Province For Big Bird". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- "Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-04-28.
- "Follow That Bird". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird at the Internet Movie Database
- Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird at the TCM Movie Database