Sunday morning, I was finally able to do what I'd been wanting to do all week: lie on the couch, binge on Netflix, and fight this cold that's been plaguing me all week. Looking for something to watch, I stumbled across the first Sesame Street movie, 1985's Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird.
I've kind of been nostalgic for it lately. Maybe it's just the general nostalgia...maybe it's because I've read a few interviews with Big Bird's performer Caroll Spinney as he's been out promoting this new documentary about his life called I Am Big Bird, and he's told a few stories about making the film. Apparently, he became really good friends with Waylon Jennings as they spend three days together filming their scenes. He was shocked at how sad kids got when they saw Big Bird painted blue in the film.
Anyway, I found it, and felt like watching it. I do remember seeing it in the theatre. The old 5-screen Famous Players cineplex in West Edmonton Mall was packed that night, and I was afraid the theatre would be very crowded. "Don't worry," my mother said. "Maybe they're here to see that movie," and she pointed to one marquee that said The Goonies. "Or maybe that one," and she pointed to a second marquee labeled Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
I remember my sister really wanted to see it. I see it came out in 1985, so she would have been 4 years old. Maybe it was even her first movie. I do know my mother attributes the film with teaching my sister bladder control. As my mother tells the story, my sister really had to go, but she really wanted to watch the movie. So she was able to hold it in for the whole film. Although, they were sprinting for the washroom as soon as the end credits rolled.
I remember watching those opening scenes. It opens with with Oscar the Grouch singing the Grouch Anthem. A narrator comes on and says, "Now, please rise for the Grouch Anthem," and a remember a couple of guys in the theatre actually standing up. Then Oscar comes on and announces you remain seated for the Grouch Anthem, and they sat down.
It was really weird, too. I mean, the film does open on Sesame Street, and it's a fairly good recreation of the set we see on TV, but they built it up and expanded it to make it look more like a real street/neighbourhood. It looked the same but...slightly off.
The plot: the Fine Feathered Friends Society (think Social Services for birds) determines that Big Bird would be happier with his own kind, rather than living on Sesame Street. So they movie Big Bird across the country to live with the Dodo family. Big Bird tries to be happy, as he finally has a proper bird family, but he doesn't feel like this is his place. The final straw comes when the Dodos refuse to allow Mr. Snuffleupagus to come visit, saying that Big Bird should only be friends with his own kind. Frustrated by all this, Big Bird runs away from the Dodos, with the intent of walking back to Sesame Street. Of course, all of Big Bird's friends on Sesame Street hit the road to find Big Bird, and Ms. Finch of the Fine Feathered Friends Society is also out, to chase down Big Bird and bring him back to the Dodos.
Along the way, Big Bird hitches a ride with a friendly truck driver, hence the aforementioned Waylon Jennings cameo. Following in the grand Sesame Street tradition, there are celebrity cameos. Chevy Chase is a newscaster. John Candy is a motorcycle cop. Sandra Bernhard is a Grouch waitress at a diner. But the biggest role is Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas. This being 1985, they were fresh off SCTV. They play the Sleaze Brothers, a couple of crooked carnies running a rundown fair. They eventually captured Big Bird, paint him blue, and make him perform as the "Bluebird of Happiness." It is a very sad scene, as Big Bird sings a very sad song about wanting to get home.
The songs are OK...I remember 8-year old me liked them fine. I still find myself humming them, but they're not really the kind that stand the test of time.
But it's a good film for kids. It's fun seeing Big Bird out in the real world, trying to make his way home. You feel for that big fellow, as he's just trying to get back to his family. Big Bird is such an appealing character and to see him on this journey...it gets you.
And I can't forget the most important lesson I learned from this film. Of course, a year or so after it was in theatres, we rented it on video. The end credits open with a gag where the Count appears and proceeds to count the end credits. He counts about the first 10 or so and that's it. But...something happened. We got distracted or something and forgot to hit stop on VCR. And, at the end of the credits, the Count came on once again to announce that he counted a grand total of 273 end credits.
That's when I learned an important lesson I stick to at movies to this very day: stay to the very end of the end credits, because their might be more stuff!