Name a film featuring an eclectic cast that includes Sandra Bernhard, John Candy, Waylon Jennings, and Caroll Spinney. Stumped? Clearly, you didn’t read the title of this review. Originally released in 1985, this Children’s Television Workshop classic has been given a fresh coat of paint in the recently released remastered 25th anniversary DVD package.
The movie opens with a meeting of the Feathered Friends, a philanthropic/social work organization that places orphan birds with bird families. Big Bird has come to their attention, and one member, Miss Finch, is particularly concerned with his situation. She insists that birds must live with their “own kind,” and refuses to believe that Big Bird might, in fact, be happy and well cared-for on Sesame Street. She convinces him to leave with her and she takes him to live with a family of dodos in the Midwest.
Big Bird tries to fit in with his new family, but they aren’t interested in the same things he’s interested in. Eventually his homesick feelings for Sesame Street take over, and he sneaks out, believing that he can walk home in just a few hours. Kind strangers help him along the way, but there are some who would rather exploit him, including Miss Finch, in her own way. However, his friends (both the new ones he meets along the way and his Sesame Street family) are able to rescue him, and Miss Finch learns that there is more to being a family than being “your own kind.”
The final credits are well worth sitting through, as The Count presents the first part of them, counting off each one. Executive Producer Joan Ganz Cooney gets a special mention, including a “Hi, Mom.” Ganz Cooney is the original founder of the Children’s Television Workshop, and would, therefore, be a mother to all of the characters in Sesame Street.
The sing-along portion of the DVD is presented in full-screen, not in wide-screen. My guess is that these came from the first DVD transfer that Warner Bros. released in 2002. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of the feature (and the Caroll Spinney featurette ) gives the movie a vivid, fresh look that helps to keep it from showing it’s age quite so much. The human hairstyles and clothing are a giveaway, but I suspect that the target audience (children) will too distracted by the muppets and the story to care.
Follow That Bird is classic Sesame Street programming. It is entertaining and poignant, without beating the viewer over the head with the message. I highly recommend this for parents of young children.