Film: Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird

The first Sesame Street movie ever!

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird is a 1985 big screen adventure from the educational children's series Sesame Street. The film follows Big Bird, who is sent to live with a bird family, at the insistence of Miss Finch, an agent working for The Feathered Friends, an organization that places "stray birds" into foster families. Big Bird is keen on the idea of having his own bird family at first, but when he sees that he's not really fitting in with the Dodo family (them disapproving of his friendship with Mr. Snuffleupagus being the final straw), Big Bird runs away to return to his real home on Sesame Street; when the news spread, the Sesame Street gang set out in search to find him.

Along the way, however, Big Bird is also being pursued by Miss Finch, who is determined to send Big Bird back to the Dodos; and Sam and Sid Sleaze, a pair of brothers who run a crooked circus, and decide they want to capture Big Bird and make him their main attraction.

Follow That Bird is one of several travel/road comedy movies of the 1980s, but proves to be a favorite among Muppet fans, and children alike, with its engaging plot, fun songs, and classic character antics from favorites like Ernie and Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and even Kermit the Frog, among others.

This film provides examples of

  • Absentee Actor: Northern Calloway, who played resident cool cat David in the series proper, is nowhere to be seen in this movie.
  • An Aesop: The importance of "family", and what the word really means, as well as how there are many different kinds of people (and species) in the world (and on Sesame Street). The message of "Your family is the people you grew up with" is directly discussed near the end of the movie.
  • Air Voyance: Mr. Snuffleupagus waves his trunk up at Big Bird's airplane in an overhead shot—even though later, when Bert points out Big Bird from the vantage of a much lower-flying biplane, he has to use binoculars.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the Sleaze brothers are pulled over by a state trooper.
    Sam: What seems to be the problem, Officer? What's the charge?
    Trooper: (Whips out list) What about counterfeiting? Extortion? Fraud? Impersonating a dentist? Stealing an apple from a kid?
    Sam: Oh, about that apple, Officer, I can explain that... we was just holdin' for a friend.
    Sid: Yeah, for a friend!
    Trooper: You can tell that... to the judge.
  • Art Shift: Rather than film the movie in the actual studio where the series was taped, a new, more realistic version of Sesame Street was built on location in Toronto; this new version of Sesame Street had considerable amount of scope, that it not only included the locales of the Fix-It Shop, Hooper's Store, and 123 Sesame Street, but we also saw what was across the street, as well as what was at the ends of the street, including a TV repair shop, a family clinic, and an auto garage.
  • As You Know: Lampshaded during the Feathered Friends meeting.
    Madam Chairbird: And I need NOT to remind you of our purpose...
    Member: Oh, remind me!
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Miss Finch and the Sleaze Brothers.
  • Big Bird Movie: Things had never gotten this dark on TV. In the Season 40 premiere, someone else tries to talk Big Bird into moving, with the same result.
  • Canada, Eh? / California Doubling: Because it was easier on their budget, the movie was filmed in Canada; a number of Canadian actors, such as John Candy and Alyson Court (in her film debut; her first TV appearance aired a few weeks earlier), as well as Canadian puppeteers (many of whom were working on Fraggle Rock - also filmed in Toronto - at the time, such as Terry Angus and Gord Robertson), appeared in the movie.
  • Celebrity Star: Considering this is mostly a Muppet movie, it's to be expected. The likes of Sandra Bernhart, Chevy Chase, Waylon Jennings, and John Candy all have parts in the movie. Actress Sally Kellerman even dubbed the voice of the movie's Muppet antagonist, Miss Finch.
  • Central Theme: Family of Choice, specifically the freedom to keep company with those who make you happy.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Cookie Monster eating the Volkswagen, including the hood. In the end this allowed Gordon to get out onto the eaten hood and instruct Big Bird to jump from the truck, even having plenty of room for Big Bird to land.
  • Cloudcuckoolanders: The Dodos, obviously.
    Kermit: They certainly are.
  • Cold Opening: The Grouch Anthem; the logo doesn't even run until the segment is over.
  • Color Me Blue: To avoid getting caught for having Big Bird in their captivity, the Sleaze brothers paint him blue, and pass him off as their "Blue Bird of Happiness".
  • Cool Car: Oscar's Sloppy Jalopy and Count's Countmobile.
    • The Alleged Car: The Volkswagen transporting Gordon, Olivia and Cookie Monster is this by the end of the movie, due to Cookie Monster's extreme appetite. You could also say the same about the Sloppy Jalopy.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the TV series itself, but not by much, really; it's still pretty much family friendly.
  • Distant Duet: "One Little Star" is a Distant Trio.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Dodos pretty much crank it up to 11.
  • Dumbass Has a Point
    Sid: I just thought of something: everyone's looking for a big yellow bird! He's hot!
    Sam: Keep your pants on! [Big Bird continues to plead with them to let him out] I got an idea.
  • Early-Bird Cameo (no pun intended): Hoots the Owl, as a member of the Board of Birds (he's the only one who is skeptical of Big Bird's supposed sadness). He also has a British accent, as opposed to the Louis Armstrong-influenced one
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Big Bird sees a road sign that reads, "No Thru Road"... figuring that's the road he needs to take to head back to Sesame Street.
  • Face on the Cover: Elmo was included on the DVD cover art, despite only appearing in a very brief cameo toward the end of the movie - and this is before Kevin Clash even started doing Elmo.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Dodos are built on this trope, as they speak ill (although they don't really mean to) of anyone who isn't a bird. In fact, the main reason why Big Bird ran away from them is because of their refusal to allow Mr. Snuffleupagus to visit, as he is not a bird. The Board of Birds too, in the belief that Big Bird must be unhappy having no other birds around.
  • Flag Drop: During Oscar's "Grouch Anthem".
  • Fly In The Soup: Inverted when Oscar and Maria stop for dinner at the Don't Drop Inn; among all the chattering that goes on in the diner, one grouch patron can be heard yelling, "Hey, waitress! There's no fly in my soup!" "It's comin'!" the waitress yells back.
  • Food Fight: The scene at the "Don't Drop Inn" descends into this.
  • Fragile Flower: Sid. The slightest upset is enough to have him bawling like a baby.
    Trooper: Be a man!
    Sid: (Crying) But I don't wanna be a man!
  • Greasy Spoon: Don't Drop Inn
  • Kick the Dog: Sam charging an extra 5 to a boy to get off a Ferris Wheel, and just as he gets down, he steals the poor boy's apple.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: When Gordon tries to get Big Bird to jump from the Sleaze Brothers' truck.
  • Logo Joke:
    Big Bird: Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters "W", and "B".
  • Lost Food Grievance: That boy on the Ferris Wheel didn't take the theft of his apple by Sam Sleaze very well...
  • Meaningful Name: Sam and Sid Sleaze.
    • Also, when Big Bird is forced to be their "Blue Bird of Happiness", even though he clearly displays blue emotions when in their captivity, even for paying audiences.
    • And the Dodo family is clearly a family of, well, dodos.
  • Medium Shift Gag: While not so much a "gag", the brief animation illustrating Big Bird's fantasies of living with his own kind, as well as the opening logo animation, are basically this.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Pretty much each of the Sleaze brothers' attempts at nabbing Big Bird, such as them about to catch him in a giant butterfly net, only for Big Bird to coincidentally bend over, missing the net by inchesnote , or when they spot a walking haystack in the field they're driving by, but it's actually Big Bird in disguise to flee from Miss Finch.
  • Money, Dear Boy: In-universe, the Sleaze brothers' motivation of capturing Big Bird for their circus is purely for money.
    Sam: That 8-foot bird is still on the lam. You know Sid, people would pay good money to see this bird.
    Sid: Nah, I wouldn't pay money to see that bird.
    Sam: No, people would pay us to see that bird. Us. Us! US!!
  • Muppets
  • Negative Continuity: This movie was released in 1985, which was the same year that the adults finally saw Snuffy for the first time on the show, however, this movie is incredibly vague as to whether or not the adults still believe he's imaginary, or if they have seen them, especially considering Snuffy only interacts with Big Bird in the movie. Today's kids watching the movie probably aren't aware of any of this, but it's still an interesting thought.
    • The movie was actually filmed before season 16, Snuffy was first seen by the adults in season 17, and this movie released the summer between the two seasons.
    • Another continuity error with Snuffy is that it's clear on the show that he lives in a cave (as do most Snuffleupaguses), however, apparently in this movie, he lives out in the open on a grassland area. Though his cave might be nearby.
  • No Fourth Wall: Surprisingly, despite the show itself, this movie actually subverts it; with the exception of Oscar's introduction and Count reading the end credits, there is only one scene in this movie where the fourth wall is broken when Big Bird looks at the camera when he meets the Dodos, and says to the audience "Big Dodo!?"
  • No Peripheral Vision: As the Sleaze Brothers drive Big Bird's cage into a tent, Miss Finch can be seen driving down the road, while Big Bird is in clear sight, yet she doesn't seem to see him from that far (though earlier, when she first found Big Bird, she initially didn't notice Big Bird among the kids walking down the road as well).
  • Oh, Crap:
    Sam Sleaze: What's the matter, don't you like your cage?
    Big Bird: My cage? My— My— MY CAGE?!
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Sleaze brothers end up painting Big Bird blue because "everybody's looking for a yellow bird, he's hot!" Of course, Big Bird's friends don't have any trouble recognizing him.
  • Parental Bonus: Bert and Ernie's plane narrowly missing Big Bird is a parody of North By Northwest.
  • Police Are Useless: Sort of played with. While no police office is shown to be useless in the movie, it's a wonder that Big Bird's friends didn't call the cops when they found out Big Bird was locked in a cage.
  • Road Trip Plot: Pretty much a trend in the 1980s.
  • Running Gag: During the scene at the Don't Drop Inn, a grouch patron can heard constantly inquiring about the Jell-O he heard. This goes on up till the end of the scene.
  • Serious Business: The Board of Birds take pride in finding lonely birds bird families to be with. Miss Finch is determined to find Big Bird and bring him back to the Dodos (or to another bird family). She doesn't understand why Big Bird would run away in the first place, and refuses to believe that he wasn't happy being with them. They either never personally met the Dodos or it may just be the simple fact birds should flock together.
  • Scenic Route
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: With the obvious exception of Big Bird, none of the Muppets are involved in the car chase at the end, apparently staying behind at the fun fair (justified a little, as Oscar was asleep at his car and Telly had trouble waking him up).
  • Shout-Out: While Big Bird's friends are watching the news in Hooper's Store, the anchorman (played by Chevy Chase) gives the weather report:
    • During the Count's credit reading, he comes across the executive producer, Joan Ganz Cooney, to which he turns to the camera, waves, and says, "Hi, Mom."
    • The two young Dodos are named Donny and Marie, after the most famous members of the Osmond family.
    • "Oh, look! Is that a bird?" "No, it's a plane."
    • As mentioned under Parental Bonus, the "Upside Down World" scene is a homage to North By Northwest. There's even a well-done mashup of both films.
  • The Stinger: The Count comes in and announces that he counted 278 closing credits.]
  • Stepford Smilers: The Dodos.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Big Bird (while still riding with the turkey truck driver, just after the "Ain't No Road Too Long" number): You're right. If I keep on going, everything will turn out fine.
    [The turkey truck passes Sam Sleaze reading a newspaper article on Big Bird]
  • Theme Naming: The Dodo children - see the Shout-Out entry above.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: The Sleaze Brothers.
  • Title Drop:
    Gordon: Alright, let's follow that bird.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: While on the road, Sid notices a haystack (actually Big Bird hiding from Miss Finch) running and casually points it out to Sam, who just remarks, "We're not looking for any haystacks, you chowderhead!" Justified in that Sam was driving and not looking in the direction of the haystack, and Sid doesn't actually say that the haystack was moving.
    • During the chase at the end, when Sam asks Sid to see if anybody is following them.
    Sid: It's just a yellow Volkswagen; a hole in the roof and no hood.
    Sam: Fine, keep a look out for anything suspicious.
  • Wolverine Publicity: See Face on the Cover.