Big Bird in China

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Big Bird in China
Big Bird in China.jpg
Big Bird in China video cassette cover
Written by
Directed byJon Stone
StarringCaroll Spinney
Music byDick Lieb
Original language(s)English
  • Kuo Bao-Xiang
  • Xu Ja-Cha
  • David Liu
Editor(s)Ken Gutstein
Running time75 minutes
Audio formatMono
Original releaseMay 29, 1983 (1983-05-29)

Big Bird in China is a 1983 American television special produced by Sesame Workshop, The Jim Henson Company and CCTV. It was originally broadcast on May 29, 1983 on NBC. It talks about where Big Bird and Barkley came to visit their good friend Xiao Foo. Two great musical tunes "We're Going To China" followed by "Who Hai Nee". [1] The special was based on the popular television series Sesame Street. Big Bird, Barkley and Little Xiao Fu travel through China to find Feng Huang, the Phoenix bird.

The production was released on VHS from Random House Home Video, in 1987, and on VHS and it re released on VHS from Paramount Home Video, in 1996 and on DVD from Sony Wonder on February 10, 2004. Although the voice of Telly Monster was Brian Muehl, Martin P. Robinson re-dubbed Telly's lines for the DVD version when Big Bird goes right to China. The DVD lacks about a minute of the original production, in which Big Bird is looking for someone who speaks "American," though it can be seen on the VHS version.

This television special had a sequel known as Big Bird in Japan.


The story starts in New York City's Chinatown, where Big Bird peeks at an old scroll with a picture of a beautiful phoenix on it. The shopkeeper explains that the phoenix is magical and lives in China. To find the phoenix, Big Bird will first have to find the four places pictured on the scroll. Big Bird thinks, "Well, what a good thing it would be if a great big American bird went to meet that beautiful Chinese bird! I mean, she could tell me everything about China, and then I could come home and tell everybody here!" He sets out with Barkley on a boat and makes it to China.

Highlights include Chinese landmarks like the Great Wall of China and Beijing, Big Bird learning the "little duckling dance", and a song to teach Chinese words. A character called the Monkey King helps Big Bird and Xiao Fu on their quest. Meanwhile, Oscar the Grouch decides to try to dig his way to China from his trash can, but when he gets to China, he finds it boring and goes straight home.


In his memoir, Caroll Spinney (the puppeteer who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch) notes that he was inspired to pitch the special to CTW after visiting China on a tour with Bob Hope.[2] This first trip was to film the Bob Hope on the Road to China, a two-hour NBC special airing September 16, 1979. The special featured Big Bird, along with the likes of Shields and Yarnell and Mikhail Baryshnikov, with musical numbers by Peaches & Herb and Crystal Gayle.[3] It was produced by James Lipton.[4]

Spinney devised the storyline and suggested locations for Big Bird in China. However, the program's credits do not acknowledge this and instead state, "Created by Jon Stone". Spinney also notes that, when filming on location in Beijing, Guilin, and Suzhou, he experienced much tension and difficulty due to animosity from Stone.[citation needed]



  • Won the 1984 Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program[5]


Lisa Ou, who played Xiao Foo, did not understand a single word of English when she acted her scenes. She memorized the sounds.

Film production took place in 3 cities: Beijing (the Great Wall, animal sculpture), Guilin (the Glass Chessboard, headless buffalo), Suzhou (the story teller).

Scenes at the Great Wall took place early morning around 4AM due to heavy tourism crowds.

This is the only film Lisa Ou acted in.



  1. ^ Stengel, Richard (1983-05-30). "Innocent Abroad, with Feathers". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
  2. ^ Spinney, Caroll; J. Milligan. The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch) Lessons Learned from a Life in Feathers. Villard Books.
  3. ^ "Cleveland Memory Collection : Item View - Bob Hope and Big Bird". Cleveland State University. 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
  4. ^ Getlen, Larry (2007-02-22). "Memory Lane - Every Picture Tells a Story in James Lipton's Home". New York Post. News Corporation. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
  5. ^ "Past Winners Database - 1983-1984 36th Emmy Awards". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
  6. ^

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