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
|Edited by||Evan Landis|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
(filmed in Canada)
Sesame Street Presents: 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 filmed at the Toronto International Studios, and on location in the Greater Toronto Area. This is also the final Muppet film to be released before the deaths of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt. This film also featured Alyson Court who would go on to play Loonette the Clown in The Big Comfy Couch, which also aired of PBS Kids in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The members of the Feathered Friends' Board of Birds (consisting of the Madame Chairbird, a sparrow, a turkey, a puffin, a robin, and an owl) discuss their situation about Big Bird and hope that they can find a bird family to put him with. The group's social worker Miss Finch (performed by Cheryl Wagner and voiced by Sally Kellerman) is sent to Sesame Street to find Big Bird a worthy bird family and bring him to the selected family. Miss Finch brings Big Bird to the fictional town of Oceanview, Illinois to live with a family of dodos. The dodos think exactly the same, even saying he should have a bird as a best friend instead of Mr. Snuffleupagus (who is currently watching over Big Bird's nest). 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 before Miss Finch does. 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 Big Bird, after telling him to do something he has always been told not to do. Jump from the moving truck. Shortly afterwards, the Sleaze Brothers are pulled over by a police officer (John Candy) and his kid sidekick (whose apple was stolen at the Sleeze Brothers' 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 and looks on as Miss Finch arrives. Miss Finch tells Big Bird that she has found another bird family for him. Maria convinces her that he can be, and is, happy there on Sesame Street where that it does not make any difference that his family consists of humans, monsters, cows, Grouches (to their dismay), 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. Big Bird is then reunited with Mr. Snuffleupagus. 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 the co-creator of Sesame Street Joan Ganz Cooney "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, Bruno the Trashman
- Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog, Ernie
- Frank Oz as Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster
- Jerry Nelson as Count von Count, Herry Monster, Two Headed Monster Left Head, Sherlock Hemlock, The Amazing Mumford, Biff, Simon Soundman
- Richard Hunt as Gladys the Cow, Feathered Friends Member, Two Headed Monster Right Head, Sully, Forgetful Jones
- Pam Arciero as Grundgetta
- Martin P. Robinson as Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, Grouch Diner Patron, Buster the Horse, Poco Loco, Slimey
- 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)
- Sound: Bryan Day, Michael LaCroix
- Supervising Sound Editors: Richard L. Anderson, Charles L. Campbell
- Sound Editors: Allan Bromberg, Steve Bushelman, Paul Timothy Carden, Warren Hamilton, Bob O'Brien, Mark Pappas. Allan Schultz, Sherman Waze
- Assistant Sound Editors: Michael Murphy, Stephanie D. Singer
- ADR Mixer: Christian T. Cooke
- ADR Editor: Beth Bergeron
- Sound Re-Recording Mixers: Rick Kline, Kevin O'Connell, Don White
- Special Sound Effects: Alan Howarth
- Foley Artists: John Kelly, John Roesch
- Foley Recordist: Carolyn Tapp
- Foley Recording Mixer: Ken King
- Foley Mixer: Greg Orloff
- Technical Director of Sound: Donald C. Rogers
- "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
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."
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 movie was filmed on location in Ontario, Canada, and at Toronto International Studios. The street set was built to look more realistic in this movie. The expanded street set includes a music store, a fire station, an auto body shop, a bakery, a bookstore and a grocery store. Early on, the Sesame Street people noticed that Oscar's trash can on the set was too new and clean looking, so the crew had to bang it up to make it dirty. After filming the sequence with Big Bird on the farm with the kids, the filmmakers discovered that the film was badly scratched and unuseable. The cast, crew and performers had to return to the same location, but it was months later, and it happened to be winter. Many of the green leaves the audience sees are spray-painted, and after each take the kids would run to put their coats on. Also: while filming Bert and Ernie's "upside-down world" song, Jim Henson and Frank Oz were actually in an upside-down biplane eighteen feet from the ground.
The film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1986, 1993, and 1997. A DVD release followed in 2002, 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.
- "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
- Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird on Muppet Wiki, an external wiki