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Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird
March 27, 2009

Until I was informed that Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird was coming out on DVD in a 25th Anniversary Edition, I had no idea that the movie existed. Imagine that! A muppet film I wasn’t aware of. I think, at the time, I must have been just old enough to not want to see something that was “for kids”.

Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird cover
Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird
Buy this DVD

I’ve always loved Oscar the Grouch, so when the film opened with the Grouch National Anthem, I was hooked. And then there were a whole bunch more grouches! Some in purple and yellow!

It’s newly remastered, and while I’m no expert, it looked pretty good to my eyes. The colors were bright and vibrant. Although I could tell this was an older film, I suspect most viewers wouldn’t notice flaws if they weren’t looking for them. And the younger target audience will certainly find no problems with it.

In the movie, Big Bird leaves Sesame Street to be placed with a family more suitable for him, made up of “his own kind” — birds, of course. He’s sent off to Ocean View, Illinois, an odd concept in itself, to live with the incredibly dumb Dodos. When he tires of their stupidity, he takes off to return to his real home. Since he’s a six-foot-tall six-year-old, he needs help, and his friends set out to try and find him.

I was impressed at Caroll Spinney’s skills. He’s the puppeteer inside the giant costume, and he starts the movie with the character on roller skates! Sally Kellerman is the voice of the social worker who convinces Big Bird to leave. Human cameos include Chevy Chase as a newscaster (which leads into an appearance by Kermit the Frog), Waylon Jennings (who sings), Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas (as evil circus owners the Sleaze Brothers), plus the classic Sesame Street cast. I forgot how much fun it was to see everyday people interacting with the puppets, and it’s hilarious to see everyone’s different cars (The Count’s has bat wings!) or alternate transportation (Bert and Ernie in a biplane!).

I was also pleased to see old favorites like Snuffleupagus, Grover, and the Count. I was always disappointed when they started downplaying Snuffy under the idea that he sent the wrong message. Since the adults never saw him, thinking Big Bird had an imaginary friend, the show producers feared that kids would think that adults wouldn’t trust them when it came to sharing secrets. Snuffy’s appearance in this film apparently foreshadowed the 1985 show where the adults finally saw him.

You gotta love that, during the big finale chase sequence, Big Bird keeps saying, “I shouldn’t do this!” to avoid giving the kids in the audience the wrong idea. This kind of project works so well because the creators behind it always keep their viewers in mind.

The message is that family are the people who care for us, regardless of whether they look like us. This is a heart-warming family film. It doesn’t quite have the universal, all-ages, watch-it-again appeal of the classic Muppet movies, but then, what does? Follow That Bird is an entertaining road movie with plenty of gags well-suited for kids and their families.

Minimal extras include a video interview with Caroll Spinney, sing-a-long features, and the trailer for the movie. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)

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