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Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird

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Sesame Street Presents:
Follow That Bird
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed byKen Kwapis
Written byJudy Freudberg
Tony Geiss
Based onSesame Street
by Joan Ganz Cooney
Lloyd Morrisett
Big Bird
by Jim Henson
Produced byTony Garnett
CinematographyCurtis Clark
Edited byEvan Landis
Music byVan Dyke Parks
Lennie Niehaus
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • August 2, 1985 (1985-08-02) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$13.9 million[1]

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (or simply Follow That Bird) is a 1985 American musical road comedy film directed by Ken Kwapis and written by Judy Freudberg and Tony Geiss. Based on the children's television series Sesame Street created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, it was the first theatrical feature-length Sesame Street film. It stars Muppet performers Caroll Spinney, Jim Henson and Frank Oz alongside Sandra Bernhard, John Candy, Chevy Chase, Joe Flaherty, Waylon Jennings, and Dave Thomas with Sesame Street regulars Linda Bove, Emilio Delgado, Loretta Long, Sonia Manzano, Bob McGrath, Roscoe Orman, Alaina Reed, and Kermit Love in supporting roles and the voices of Laraine Newman, Brian Hohlfeld, Cathy Silvers, Eddie Deezen, and Sally Kellerman.

The plot of Follow That Bird concerns Big Bird (Spinney), who is assigned by a social worker to move away from Sesame Street in New York City, and to move in with a bird family in Illinois. Big Bird is discontent with his new family, and runs away with the intention of returning to Sesame Street, while the social worker, his friends, and two con artists attempt to find him.

Produced by Children's Television Workshop and Muppets, Inc. (one of the few Sesame Street productions they directly produced), and filmed at the Cinespace Film Studios and on location in the Greater Toronto Area, Follow That Bird was released in the United States on August 2, 1985, by Warner Bros. and received mostly positive reviews from critics. It was a box office disappointment, grossing $13.9 million.


The Feathered Friends' Board of Birds - an organization whose purpose is to place stray birds with nice bird families - discusses the case of Big Bird. The social worker, Miss Finch, is sent to Sesame Street to find and bring Big Bird to a worthy family of dodos in Ocean View, Illinois. However, he begins to feel uncomfortable with them as they all think poorly of non-birds, and reaches his breaking point when they suggest he should have a bird as a best friend instead of Mr. Snuffleupagus, who is watching over his nest back on Sesame Street.

When Big Bird leaves the Dodos' home to return to Sesame Street, he ends up on the news where Miss Finch tells reporter Kermit the Frog that she intends to find him and bring him back to the Dodos. His friends on Sesame Street also see the news and band together to locate him before Miss Finch does, and take several vehicles on their quest after Bob instructs them to head to Toadstool, Indiana to meet up with him. While on the way home, Big Bird hitches a ride with a trucker who encourages him to persevere and later meets two kids named Ruthie and Floyd at a farm, who allow him to sleep in their barn overnight. The next morning, Miss Finch arrives and he sneaks away in a haystack.

Two con artist brothers named Sid and Sam Sleaze, who operate a fraudulent carnival called The Sleaze Brothers Funfair, plot to catch Big Bird and put him on display for profit. When he arrives in Toadstool, Miss Finch does so at the same time and chases him through a parade. After escaping her, Big Bird meets the Sleaze Brothers at their carnival and asks if they have a place to hide, resulting in them putting him in their cage and deciding to paint him blue and tout him as "The Bluebird of Happiness", though he sings sadly about wishing to be back home. Despite this, he brings in plenty of customers.

After the show, two kids sneak backstage to see Big Bird, who asks them to call Sesame Street to inform his friends of his whereabouts. The next morning, his friends sneak into the circus tent and try to set him free. However, the Sleaze Brothers quietly wake up and just as Maria unlocks the cage, they drive off in their truck towing the cage with Big Bird still in it. Gordon and Susan give chase in Gordon's Volkswagen Beetle and successfully rescue him after he jumps from the moving truck. Shortly afterwards, a state trooper pulls the Sleaze Brothers over for speeding and arrests the pair on various charges.

Upon arriving back on Sesame Street, Big Bird is happy to be back home. His happiness is short-lived when Miss Finch arrives to place him with another bird family, still insisting that Big Bird would be "happier with his own kind." However, Maria tells her that he is happy on Sesame Street where it does not matter that his family consists of humans, monsters, Grouches, and other species. Considering Maria's statement and realizing how far his friends went to bring him back, a sympathetic Miss Finch officially declares Sesame Street to be his home and happily leaves with her job complete. Afterwards, Big Bird reunites with Mr. Snuffleupagus.

As everyone celebrates Big Bird's return, Oscar the Grouch gets carried around the block in his trash can by Bruno the Trashman in order to get away from everyone's happiness.


Muppet Performers[edit]

Additional Board of Bird members performed by Bob Stutt, Nikki Tilroe, Lee Armstrong, Rob Mills, and John Pattison.

Additional Muppets performed by Kevin Clash, Frank Meschkuleit, Terry Angus, Matthew Pidgeon, Stephen Brathwaite, Tom Vandenberg, Francine Anderson, Ron Wagner, Martine Carrier, Karen Valleau, Michelle Frey, Gus Harsfai, Patricia Lewis, Charlotte Levinson, Carolanne McLean, Peter McCowatt, Brian Moffatt, Myra Fried, Jani Lauzon and Sandra Shamas.

Humans of Sesame Street[edit]


The film was filmed on location in Ontario, Canada (Bolton, Schomberg, Woodbridge and Georgetown), and at Toronto International Studios (now Cinespace Film Studios) in 1984. The street set, rebuilt to make it look more realistic than in the television series, was expanded in the film to include a music store, a fire station, an auto body shop, a family clinic, a bakery, a bookstore, and a grocery store.

According to Noel MacNeal, after filming the footage of Big Bird on the farm with Ruthie and Floyd, the filmmakers discovered that the film was badly scratched and unusable. The actors, crew, and performers promptly had to return to the same location months later in winter, whereupon many of the green leaves in the film are spray-painted and after each take, the kids would run to put their coats on. Early in production, the crew noticed that Oscar's trash can looked too new, so they banged it up and dirtied it to match the one in the television series.

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.

After filming wrapped, the filmmakers did not believe that the voice of Cheryl Wagner, who had performed Miss Finch while voicing her simultaneously, seemed appropriate for the character, so her voice was dubbed over by that of Sally Kellerman.

Before Ken Kwapis was chosen to be the director of the film, John Landis (who had previously performed Grover in the "Rainbow Connection" finale in The Muppet Movie) was asked by Warner Bros. to direct the film. He liked it, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with Into the Night.

Due to having a criminal record, Northern Calloway was banned from entering Canada for the film's production causing his character David to not appear.

This is the only Sesame Street feature film to star both Henson (as Kermit the Frog and Ernie) and Richard Hunt and the last Muppet film to involve them before their deaths in 1990 and 1992.



  1. "Sesame Street Theme" (Written by Joe Raposo, Jon Stone, and Bruce Hart)
  2. "The Grouch Anthem" – Oscar the Grouch and the Grouch chorus (Written by Jeff Pennig, Jeff Harrington, and Steve Pippin)
  3. "Ain't No Road Too Long" – Waylon Jennings, Gordon, Olivia, Cookie Monster, Grover, Count von Count and Big Bird (Written by Jeff Pennig, Jeff Harrington, and Steve Pippin)
  4. "One Little Star" – Big Bird, Olivia and Mr. Snuffleupagus (Written by Jeff Moss)
  5. "Easy Goin' Day" – Big Bird and Ruthie (Written by Jeff Pennig, Jeff Harrington, and Steve Pippin)
  6. "Upside Down World" – Ernie and Bert (Written by Jeff Moss)
  7. "All Together Now" – Alabama (Written by Wood Newton and Michael Noble)
  8. "Workin' on My Attitude" – Ronnie Milsap (Written by Eddie Setser and Troy Seals)
  9. "I'm So Blue" – Big Bird (Written by Randy Sharp and Karen Brooks)


Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird
Soundtrack album by
ProducerJim Henson
Steve Buckingham
Sesame Street chronology
Sesame Street Christmas Sing-Along
Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird
Christmas on Sesame Street
Track list
Side One

1. "The Grouch Anthem"
2. "Big Bird's Goodbye/The Runaway" - Big Bird, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Kermit the Frog
3. "Ain't No Road Too Long"
4. "Big Bird on the Farm/One Little Star" - Big Bird, Ruthie, Floyd, Olivia, and Mr. Snuffleupagus
5. "Easy Goin' Day"

Side Two

6. "Don't Drop Inn/Workin' on My Attitude" - Ronnie Milsap (Written by Eddie Setser and Troy Seals)
7. "Upside Down World"
8. "I'm So Blue"
9. "The Chase/Sesame Street Theme" - Big Bird, Gordon, and Olivia
10. "All Together Now"


Critical response[edit]

The film was a critical success upon its release. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 92% based on 12 reviews, with an average score of 6.40/10.[2]

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."[3] 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."[4]

Box office[edit]

The film underperformed at the box office[5] due to having opened the same day as Fright Night and Weird Science and faced heavy competition from other films such as Back to the Future, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Disney's The Black Cauldron and National Lampoon's European Vacation among other films.[citation needed] It grossed $2,415,626 on its opening weekend. By the end of its theatrical run, its total gross was $13,961,370.[6] This production, along with other unsuccessful ventures, hurt the Children's Television Workshop financially during the 1980s, though they did recover afterwards.[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

The film was first released on VHS and LaserDisc in 1986 and was re-released onto VHS three times by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment starting in 1993, then a second time in 1999 and the third time in 2002 and also on DVD (the opening of it starts with the Warner Home Video logo and a text on a black screen says, "This film has been modified as follows from its original version: it has been formatted to fit your screen", in which it appears in some different movies on DVD). Another DVD release followed in 2004, which was re-issued as a special "25th Anniversary Edition" in 2009 with the original theatrical widescreen version and the new bonus features and cover art intact.[7]


  1. ^ Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  3. ^ "Except For Wit, Wisdom, Big Bird Film Is All Heart". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on June 20, 2015. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  4. ^ Goodman, Walter (August 2, 1985). "FILM: BIG BIRD ON THE BIG SCREEN WITH THE 'SESAME STREET' GANG". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  5. ^ Hunt, Dennis (August 23, 1985). "EXERCISING JUDGMENT ON STOCKING NEW VIDEOS". Los Angeles Times. didn't fly high at the box office but it should soar when released to the home-video audience.
  6. ^ "Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird (1985) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  7. ^ "Follow That Bird". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on July 31, 2023. Retrieved June 1, 2012.

External links[edit]