Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird
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|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||Van Dyke Parks|
|Edited by||Evan Landis|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$13.9 million|
Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (commonly shortened to Follow That Bird) is a 1985 American musical road-comedy film, 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 Children's Television Workshop, Jim Henson Productions and Warner Bros. Pictures, and filmed at the Toronto International Studios, and on location in the Greater Toronto Area. The film received positive critical reviews but was a box office disappointment, resulting in a slight loss for the Children's Television Workshop.
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 group's social worker Miss Finch is sent to Sesame Street, New York City, to find Big Bird and bring him to a worthy family of dodos in Oceanview, Illinois. However, Big Bird begins to feel distressed in living with the dodos as they all think very poorly of non-birds, and the last straw for Big Bird comes when the dodos suggest he should have a bird as a best friend instead of Mr. Snuffleupagus, who is watching over his nest on Sesame Street.
When Big Bird runs away from his new home to head back to Sesame Street, he ends up on the news. Miss Finch tells reporter Kermit the Frog that she intends to reclaim him. His friends on Sesame Street also see the news and band together to find him before Miss Finch does, and take various vehicles on their quest. Bob instructs them to head to Toadstool, Indiana where they should meet up with Big Bird.
Along the way home, Big Bird hitches a ride with a trucker who encourages him not to give up. He later meets two kids named Ruthie and Floyd at a farm and sleeps in their barn overnight. The next morning, Miss Finch arrives and Big Bird sneaks away.
After that, Big Bird comes across a cornfield, and is spotted by Bert and Ernie in their biplane. Big Bird, however, is unaware that they are in it and thinks that it is Miss Finch. When Ernie steers it towards Big Bird, he flees in fright. Ernie turns it upside down to get his attention and begins singing, with Bert soon joining in, but when they turn it back up Big Bird is gone.
Big Bird is also sought by two sadistic con artists, the brothers Sid and Sam, who call themselves Sleaze Brothers and operate a fraudulent carnival called The Sleaze Brothers Funfair. They want to capture him to put him on display. Eventually Big Bird arrives in Toadstool. 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, so they put him in their cage. Shortly afterwards, they decide to paint him blue and tout him as "The Bluebird of Happiness." However, his performance is one of sadness as he sings about wishing to be back home. Despite this, he brings in a lot of customers.
After the show, two kids sneak backstage to see him. Upon noticing them, Big Bird asks them to call Sesame Street to tell his friends where he is, which they do. The next morning, his friends sneak into the carnival and find him. However, the Sleaze Brothers quietly wake up. Just as Linda unlocks Big Bird's cage, the Sleaze Brothers drive off in their truck with the cage (and Big Bird still in it) in tow. Gordon and Olivia give chase in their Volkswagen and succeed in rescuing Big Bird, after he jumps from the moving truck. Shortly afterwards due to speeding, the Sleaze Brothers are pulled over by a police officer and are arrested on various charges.
Back on Sesame Street, Big Bird is happy to be back home until Miss Finch arrives. She admits to Big Bird that the Dodos were not perfect for him but says she has found him another bird family. Maria tells her that he is happy on Sesame Street where it does not make any difference that his family consists of humans, monsters, grouches, and other species. After considering what she has heard and realizing how far his friends went to bring him back, Miss Finch declares that Sesame Street is his home and leaves satisfied. At the end of the film, Oscar the Grouch is carried around the block in his trash can by Bruno the Trashman in order to get over everyone's happiness.
- Caroll Spinney as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bruno the Trashman
- Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog, Ernie
- Frank Oz as Bert, Cookie Monster, Grover
- Richard Hunt as Gladys the Cow, Feathered Friends Member, Sully
- Jerry Nelson as Count von Count, Herry Monster, Biff
- Kathryn Mullen as Feathered Friends Magistrate, Grouch Diner Parton #1, Muppet Girl
- Pam Arciero as Grundgetta
- Martin P. Robinson as Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, Grouch Diner Patron #2, Poco Loco, Board of Birds member
- Bryant Young as Mr. Snuffleupagus (back end performance)
- Fred Garbo Garver as Barkley, Feathered Friends Turkey, Feathered Friends Owl
- Cheryl Wagner as Miss Finch (performer)
- Sally Kellerman as Miss Finch (voice)
- Trish Leeper as Mommy Dodo (performer), Board of Birds member
- Laraine Newman as Mommy Dodo (voice)
- Gord Robertson as Daddy Dodo (performer)
- Brian Hohlfeld as Daddy Dodo (voice)
- Shari Weiser as Marie Dodo (performer)
- Cathy Silvers as Marie Dodo (voice)
- Jeff Weiser as Donnie Dodo (performer)
- Eddie Deezen as Donnie Dodo (voice)
- Tim Gosley as Homer Honker, Board of Birds member
- Noel MacNeal as Madame Chairbird
Additional characters are performed by: 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, Sandra Shamas, and Kevin Clash.
Humans of Sesame Street
- Bob McGrath as Bob Johnson
- Roscoe Orman as Gordon Robinson
- Linda Bove as Linda
- Emilio Delgado as Luis Rodriguez
- Sonia Manzano as Maria Rodriguez
- Alaina Reed as Olivia Robinson
- Loretta Long as Susan Robinson
- Kermit Love as Willy
- Joe Flaherty as Sid Sleaze
- Dave Thomas as Sam Sleaze
- Alyson Court as Ruthie
- Benjamin Barrett as Floyd
Cameo guest stars
- Waylon Jennings as Truck Driver
- Sandra Bernhard as Grouch Diner Waitress
- Chevy Chase as Newscaster
- John Candy as State Trooper
- Paul Bartel as Grouch Diner Cook
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Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird was filmed on location in Ontario, Canada (Bolton, Schomberg, and Georgetown), and at Toronto International Studios in 1984. The street set was built to look more realistic than the television series. The expanded street set includes 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 the kids, the filmmakers discovered that the film was badly scratched and unusable. The actors, crew and performers had to return to the same location months later in 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.
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 show.
After filming wrapped, the filmmakers didn't believe 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 Kwapis was picked as director of the film, John Landis (who had previously puppeteered Grover in the "Rainbow Connection" finale in The Muppet Movie) was asked by Warner Brothers to direct the film. Landis liked it, but dropped out due to work with Into the Night.
- "Sesame Street Theme" (Written by Joe Raposo, Jon Stone, and Bruce Hart)
- "The Grouch Anthem" – Oscar, Grouch chorus (Written by Jeff Pennig, Jeff Harrington, and Steve Pippin)
- "Ain't No Road Too Long" – Waylon Jennings, Gordon, Olivia, Cookie Monster, Grover, Count von Count, Big Bird (Written by Jeff Pennig, Jeff Harrington, and Steve Pippin)
- "One Little Star" – Big Bird, Olivia, Mr. Snuffleupagus (Written by Jeff Moss)
- "Easy Goin' Day" – Big Bird, Ruthie, Floyd (Written by Jeff Pennig, Jeff Harrington, and Steve Pippin)
- "Upside Down World" – Ernie, Bert (Written by Jeff Moss)
- "All Together Now" – Alabama (Written by Wood Newton and Michael Noble)
- "I'm So Blue" – Big Bird (Written by Randy Sharp and Karen Brooks)
|Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Sesame Street chronology|
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
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
Release and reception
The film opened on August 2, 1985. 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."
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In spite of the near-universal critical acclaim, the film underperformed at the box office. It opened the same day as Fright Night and Weird Science and had heavy competition from Back to the Future, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (another film from Warner Bros. Pictures), The Black Cauldron, National Lampoon's European Vacation (also another film from Warner Bros.), and reissues of Gremlins, Ghostbusters and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It grossed $2,415,626 on its opening weekend. By the end of its theatrical run, its total gross was $13,961,370. This production, along with other unsuccessful ventures, hurt the Children's Television Workshop financially during the 1980s though they did recover.
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 then again in 2002 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). A 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. The film is now streamed on HBO Max.
- Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird at Box Office Mojo
- "Except For Wit, Wisdom, Big Bird Film Is All Heart". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
- "FILM: BIG BIRD ON THE BIG SCREEN WITH THE 'SESAME STREET' GANG". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
- "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes.
- "Follow That Bird". DVD Talk. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
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