In 1985 Sesame Street hit the big screens with Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird. It was a logical move for the Sesame Street franchise. Sesame Street had started in 1969 and, by this time, had beyond proven itself as a mainstay in children’s television. Toys, videos, television specials, records, books, a magazine, and even a touring live stage production delivered the Sesame Street characters to children across the nation. It was even a success on an international level as different countries hosted their own versions of Sesame Street which reflected their own unique cultures. The other Muppet films paved the way for Sesame Street to transition from television to theaters. The film abandons the educational “commercials” format that the television series had maintained for decades in favor of a more traditional movie plot. Much like The Muppet Movie, Follow that Bird is a road movie that contains several allusions to other movies. The Feathered Friends organization takes on placing stray birds with bird families and has centered their attention on placing Big Bird with the Dodo family, plucking him from Sesame Street and sending him to Oceanview, Illinois. Big Bird had nothing in common with the aptly named Dodo family who spend their time looking for worms and doing aerobics and decided return to his friends on Sesame Street. He reasoned that it should only take 3 hours to walk home since it took 2 hours to fly to Illinois! Yes, folks! We finally get to see Big Bird fly! Unfortunately, it is in a window seat on an airplane! After hearing that Big Bird ran away, his Sesame Street friends send out a search party in hopes of finding him before Miss Finch (Sally Kellerman) of the Feathered Friends places him with another family and bringing him back home. As a kid, Miss Finch terrified me! If Bea Arthur were ever turned into a Muppet bird, you would have Miss Finch. Like most Muppet films, this is a movie that adults and children can watch together. Filmed in Ontario and Toronto, many of the Fraggle Rock puppeteers were used in addition to the main Sesame Street cast and it is also full of a great cameos by SCTV alums like John Candy who plays a state trooper and Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas who play the Sleaze brothers, who kidnap Big Bird and paint him blue in order to exploit him in their carnival. Sandra Bernhard, Chevy Chase, and Waylon Jennings also have some great cameos. The movie allows Sesame Street to poke fun at itself such as when Chevy Chase plays a newscaster and reports the weather stating, “It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine?” Although it does not cram the A, B, C’s down your throat, the film does teach us something. It would not be a Sesame Street movie without a lesson, would it? Of course, The Count is on hand to count…everything, including the credits! It also has some nice stunts like Big Bird jumping from a moving truck to Gordon and Susan’s VW Beetle! Do not worry, though, 6 year old Big Bird does not jump until he has Gordon’s permission! Miss Finch wants Big Bird to “live with his own kind” and insists he would be happier with other birds instead of as the only bird on Sesame Street. When Miss Finch comes to take him away after he has been reunited with his home, Maria explains the Sesame Street is his home at that they are a family of humans, monsters, cows, Honkers, and even Grouches. In true Sesame Street fashion, we learn that a family is made up of love and it does not matter if it is a family of mixed species. Being a show centered on the inner city and reflecting people of different races, Follow that Bird makes the bigger argument that families of mixed races are just as happy, healthy, and stable as nuclear families that all are comprised of members of the same race. By using a giant yellow bird in place of an African American or a Hispanic child, Follow that Bird could address the issue of racism in a nonthreatening way. Besides being a Sesame Street film with an educational agenda, it is entertaining. The comedy is there and it is not watered down and childish. Some jokes like the Grouch restaurant being called the Don’t Drop In may go over children’s heads, but parents will laugh at the subtle humor. It is a great family film. The film is also not too proud to tug at heart strings. When Big Bird is painted blue and sings a melancholy song as the Blue Bird of Happiness about longing to be back home, not even the Sleaze brothers could keep from crying. It does not stay sad for long, as the Sesame Street Muppets interject comedy relief to maintain the pacing of the movie and to keep it from getting bogged down with heaviness. One great scene is when Bert and Ernie spot Big Bird from their bi-plane and sing a song as they fly it upside down, dumping out Bert’s precious bottle cap collection. I still don’t know who rented them a plane! Since the movie was released nearly 30 years ago, there have been some noticeable changes and shifts in the human and Muppet cast. As far as Muppets go, you can spot Elmo briefly at the end of the movie. This was before Elmo was even named Elmo! Olivia (Alaina Reed from the sitcom 227), Linda (Linda Bove), and Willy (Muppet designer/builder Kermit Love) appear in the movie as members of the main cast. Bonus trivia! The part of Ruthie marked Alyson Court’s film debut. She will later grow up to play Loonette the clown on The Big Comfy Couch. Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird was a critical success and box office bomb back in 1985. I grew up watching it religiously and loved even though there was an audible collective groan from my family whenever I played it on our one and only television. It is thoroughly entertaining and offers a film that the entire family can watch together…maybe just not daily. I give it 4 out of 5 rubber chickens! See larger image Big Bird And Friends (DVD) New From: $9.91 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.