Ice Follies was a touring ice show featuring elaborate production numbers, similar in concept to Ice Capades. The show was founded in 1937 by Eddie Shipstad, Roy Shipstad, and Oscar Johnson, who also skated in the show. In later years, Olympic skaters such as Donald Jackson, Peggy Fleming, and Janet Lynn were in the cast.
Starting in August 1974, the Ice Follies began including 20-minute acts featuring skaters in full-body costumes of the Sesame Street Muppets. The original act featured Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Cookie Monster, Betty Lou, Oscar the Grouch and the Count. The tour visited dozens of cities across the United States, as well as Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Several parts of the Ice Follies shows were videotaped and used for inserts on the Sesame Street television show. A clip of Bert's spotlight dance was used on Sesame Street in 1975, in an Ernie and Bert insert. In the sketch, Bert can't sleep, and Ernie encourages him to think of something that he likes doing. Bert pictures himself ice skating, which leads into the Ice Follies clip. (EKA: Episode 0796) Another Ice Follies sketch, with Big Bird teaching Mr. Snuffleupagus to skate, appeared as an insert in mid-70s episodes. (EKA: Episode 0873) A third Ice Follies segment used on the show in the mid-1970s involved Bert teaching Betty Lou how to skate. (EKA: Episode 2847). Other filmed segments include the Count counting how many spins he can do, Cookie Monster and Grover dancing together, Kermit the Frog (in voiceover) instructing Grover to demonstrate near and far, and Oscar playing a trick on everyone by blowing a whistle. (SSvideo)
The 1974 season's Sesame Street segment was for the most part song-oriented. Although songs played a part in all Sesame segments, subsequent years featured more dialogue. For that season, Ernie's character appeared in a bathtub for the entire time, and sang "Rubber Duckie". Oscar only briefly appeared, in a trash can, to sing "I Love Trash".
The 1975 season featured, in addition to a full-body Ernie, numerous Anything Muppets joining the cast regulars for "What's the Name of That Song". After the Anything Muppets finished and left the ice, Mr. Snuffleupagus came out and sang "Nobody" in his only appearance of the series.
In 1977, in addition to a regular Sesame segment, there was a brief "Sesame Street Presents Numbers" segment about counting, with prop numbers almost as tall as the characters. During this segment, one of Ernie's gags was to demonstrate, with a pair of fold-out wings, how to convert the number "1" into the letter "T", which did not amuse the Count.
The opening of the 1978 TV special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street featured a lengthy skating sequence featuring the characters from the Ice Follies show. Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Oscar and the Count all appeared in full-body ice skating form in the special, with voice overs for the characters provided by Frank Oz (Bert and Cookie Monster), Caroll Spinney (Oscar), Jerry Nelson (The Count) and Jim Henson (Ernie). At the end of the sequence, the characters play "snap the whip", which ends with Oscar being tossed high into the air, down the stairs and out into the street, where he returns to his familiar hand-puppet form.
Ice Follies merged with "Holiday on Ice" in 1979, and the Sesame Street characters began appearing in Holiday on Ice shows.
Holiday on Ice now tours primarily in Europe and Latin America.