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Monthly Archives: April 2008

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It’s Always Time for Flying Penguins

An April Fools joke from Terry Jones and the BBC:

White Elephant Blogging: Follow That Bird

Follow That Bird DVDI have to admit that my maiden voyage into the second annual White Elephant Film Blogathon was approached with some trepidation. What kind of cinematic turd are they gonna hand me? Then I found out the movie I was to write about was Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird — hey, that’s not so bad. Sesame Street played a big part in my fondest childhood memories. As long as it doesn’t have that idiot Elmo, we should be fine.

Although Elmo does briefly appear near the end (not speaking, thank heavens), overall the movie offers a sweet and gentle peek into the hermetically sealed world of Sesame Street as it existed in 1985. The thin plot kicks off with Big Bird getting adopted out to a family of muppet dodo birds by a busybody social worker named Miss Finch (voiced by Sally Kellerman). Not being happy in Dodo’s prefab suburban birdhouse, our feathered friend decides to walk his way back home across America’s rural landscape — will the other Sesame Streeters ever find him and take him back home?

If there’s a central message to SSP:FTB, it might be that city dwelling is the only true way to live. As this film has it, even the friendliest of country folk have a certain dark something to hide. Just look at some of the shady characters who turn up: a creepy singing truck driver (Waylon Jennings). A surly, salad-throwing waitress (Sandra Bernhard). Two sadistic carnival operators (SCTV‘s Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty). Not to mention the pair of frighteningly generic farm kids who want to adopt Big Bird, probably to subject him to some kind of Children of the Corn thing.

Which brings me to another nagging element in this movie — everything is so clean. Despite the Americana setting, this movie was filmed entirely in Ontario, Canada. It’s odd to see country roads without billboards and trash everywhere. Worse yet, the re-created outdoor Sesame Street set looks so spotless one could eat right off Oscar the Grouch’s can. Where’s the grittiness?

The Follow that Bird DVD is presented in pan-and-scan full frame with no extras to speak of. Those looking for a salty commentary by an out-of-character Caroll Spinney (“John Candy was a bitch”) will be sorely disappointed. Despite that, I succumbed to its sweetness. Read the rest of the 2nd Annual White Elephant Film Blogathon.