My first glance at China was through the eyes of Big Bird. With CTW2’s production of Big Bird in China (and the magic of VHS player and my patient parents), I went to China over and over again and saw magic. There were mythical phoenixes, dancing monkeys, beautiful writing, and stone lions that came to life. To my elementary mind, China was magical, plain and simple. And that still holds true today, just in a different light. A light that, ironically, Big Bird himself mentioned in the movie, saying:
Big Bird in China was a 1983 special produced by the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) and CCTV. It was originally broadcast on May 29, 1983 on NBC. The special was based on the popular television series Sesame Street. Big Bird, Barkley and Little Xiao Fu travel through China to find Feng Huang, the Phoenix bird.
The story starts in New York's China Town where Big Bird spies an old scroll with a picture of a beautiful phoenix on it. The shop keeper explains that the phoenix is magical and lives in China. It won't be easy to find and Big Bird will have to find the four places pictured on the scroll, and in each place he'll get a clue from a monkey to find the phoenix. There is a sand timer which he must beat in solving the clues given by the monkey. Big Bird thinks Well, what a good thing it would be if a great big American bird went to meet that beautiful Chinese bird! I mean, she could tell me everything about China, and then I could come home and tell everybody here! So, he sets out with Barkley on a boat and makes it to China.
Highlights include Chinese landmarks like the Great Wall of China and Beijing, Big Bird learning the little duckling dance , and a song to teach Chinese words. A character called The Monkey King appears in the special; despite an appearance that has scared many youngsters, he helps Big Bird and Xiao Fu in their quest. Big Bird wears a tie for the entire movie which is a change from his normal appearance. Oscar decides to try and dig his way to China from his trash can and when he gets to China he finds it boring and goes straight home.