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Number Three Ball Film

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Written by Keith Vernon Textor
Jim Henson
Publisher Scott Textor Music Publishing, Inc.
Rollercoaster123

The Number Three Ball Film is a Sesame Street film from 1970 with an electronic, carnival-like soundtrack that follows a small, red ball as it rolls throughout a toy roller coaster. The ball makes its way throughout a number of mechanical devices that help to propel it through the track, occasionally going past three items as an off-screen child voiceover (Brian Henson[1]) counts to 3. When it reaches the end, it drops into a metal box. Originally, the film ended with the ball being ground up into a fine powder. However, kids found this ending too tragic[2], and a new ending was later shot on August 2, 1974[3], in which it seems to turn into three cherries that are plopped down onto three sundaes that roll by on a conveyor belt. A little girl (played by Heather Henson) eats one of them. The latter version is the only one that has been released on video. It appears that Brian Henson's narration has either been rerecorded or replaced by Heather Henson, as it is played in a noticeably higher pitch than in the original video.

Frank Oz recalls the production of the film in an interview with Kenneth Plume for IGN FilmForce:

The only [directing] I ever did myself [on Sesame Street] was a bizarre thing with this ball for the number 3 where I built an entire kind of bizarre wire sculpture and shot it over many months. Looking back on it, I'm thinking "My God, why the f*** was I doing all of that work?" But it was fun to do. I wouldn't call that directing. I was in a gallery doing wire sculpture and one of my pieces sold, so that's where that came from. It was something where I could control my own little world, but it wasn't directing. It was creating and then just kind of calling the shots.[4]
In addition to directing and building the wire sculpture, Frank Oz sequenced the film by drawing on note cards. Jim Henson produced the film and also drew on some of the cards.[5]

Title

The film's title varies from several sources. ASCAP catalogues the music as "No.3 Ball Powder," and sesamesreet.org gives it the similar title "Ball Powder No. 3" (despite the fact that it's the version with the cherry ending), while the Learning About Numbers DVD chapter stop identifies it as "Rollercoaster 1,2,3." Old School: Volume 2 refers to it as "Henson Ball High Wire #3." Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street shows pictures of film from this segment, which has the title "Sesame Street Number Film #3" on the films label. When portions of the original set piece were on display at The Muppets Take Maryland exhibit (as seen in an episode of National Arts, the placard described it as the "Number Three Ball Film."

Releases

Video
Online
Other
  • Numbers - A clip of the ball going through three doors

Sources

  1. Karen Falk, see talk page
  2. Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street page 246
  3. Jim Henson's Red Book entry, August 2, 2012.
  4. IGN FilmForce - Interview with Frank Oz
  5. Karen Falk, personal correspondence, see talk page

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