Michael Wermuth Jnr – Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird is the first of two Sesame Street movies. Released in 1985, the movie finds Big Bird coming to the attention of the Feathered Friends, a group of birds dedicated to providing stray birds with nice bird families. Big Bird is only six years old and lives alone, with no other birds around (though Poco Loco does appear in the background on the street quite a bit). One member, Miss Finch, believes she knows the perfect family for Big Bird. Although he is content with his current living arrangements, Miss Finch talks Big Bird into moving in with his own bird family, but that also means moving away to Ocean View, Illinois. After saying a tearful goodbye to all his friends and asking Mr. Snuffleupagus to watch after his stuff (and also telling Snuffy he can visit), Big Bird meets his new bird family, the Dodos, a rather dim-witted family.
During his stay, Big Bird finds himself unhappy, and when the Dodos imply that Mr. Snuffleupagus can’t visit because he’s not a bird, Big Bird decides to return to Sesame Street, leaving a note as he sneaks out, thinking it’ll only take him three hours to walk (based on the flight lasting two hours). This gets on the news, where Miss Finch, unsure why Big Bird would run away from the Dodos (who don’t seem too concerned that Big Bird has left), announces she will find and return Big Bird to the Dodos, while Big Bird’s friends back at Sesame Street make plans to find Big Bird and bring him home. Unbeknownst to Big Bird, Miss Finch, or Big Bird’s friends, there’s another party looking for him: Sam and Sid Sleaze (played by SCTV’s Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty), a pair of traveling carnival owners who set out to capture Big Bird and put him in their carnival, thinking he’ll bring in more revenue.
Follow That Bird is a great movie. It has such wonderful songs as “The Grouch Anthem” and “There Ain’t No Road Too Long”, led by Waylon Jennings in a cameo (Other cameos include Sandra Bernhard as a waitress at a grouch restaurant, Chevy Chase as a news reporter, and John Candy as a state trooper). I also like the sad song “I’m So Blue”, sung by Big Bird after he’s locked in a cage and painted blue (I also chuckle at Sam Sleaze’s variation about being a rich man). In fact, the instrumental music is also great. I like the tune that plays when Big Bird imagines being part of a perfect bird family, as well as the sad music that plays when Big Bird leaves Sesame Street, and the music that plays when the cast gets ready to find Big Bird.
Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster both steal the show. Oscar’s two big highlights are “The Grouch Anthem” and a visit to a grouch restaurant, but both also get many of the funniest lines, and Cookie Monster supplies a running gag where he eats Gordon’s car. There’s also great stuff with Ernie and Bert piloting a plane, Super-Grover mistaking Gordon’s car for Big Bird, and The Count counting the end credits (wait, I didn’t spoil the ending, did I?). The Sleaze Brothers are funny villains, up there with such hilarious villains as Boris and Natasha, Dr. Evil, and Headley Lamar (of Blazing Saddles).
The street scenes are especially impressive, as instead of the usual street set used on the show, a much bigger, more realistic-looking version of the street is used. There’s many shots showing what’s across from what we normally see. In fact, the first shot of the street shows a little of what’s across, while the final scene has Bruno carrying Oscar around, showing all that’s not normally shown, almost as if to say, “here’s one last look at this part of the street.”