ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones (which includes at-home teens) through you, their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

Big Bird in China (1987), NR
Analysis Date: May 15, 2003
CAP Score: 98 out of 100
CAP Influence Density: 0.04

MinMax: -9

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ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Site Map (Table of Contents). Further, if you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.

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If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

BIG BIRD IN CHINA (1987), NR -- ...quiet, serene and gentle-paced with a gentle heart...

Production (US): The Sesame Workshop (previously The Children's Television Workshop)
Distribution (US): Random House Home Video
Director(s): Jon Stone
Producer(s): Jon Stone
Written by/Screenplay: Jon Stone, Joseph A. Bailey
Music: Dick Lieb
Editing: Ken Gutstein
Production Design: Brooks Fountain
Art Direction: Victor Di Napoli
Viewed on Video Tape

With a final score of 98 out of 100, Big Bird in China could have been rated G. It is one of the very few of the more than 700 films we have analyzed to have earned a CAPCon Alert GREEN light.

From a Chinese curio shop in Chinatown, NYC, Big Bird (Caroll Spinney) gets a hankering to visit the legendary Phoenix (bird of flame) for a cultural exchange. The shopkeeper has a wall hanging that tells of four places the seeker of the Phoenix must visit before he gets to meet the Phoenix. The shopkeeper also tells Big Bird that at each place that must be visited there will be a monkey with vital information about the location of the next place that must be visited. Big Bird pouts and whines and begs and mockingly (in words only) throws a child's tantrum until the shopkeeper agrees to let Big Bird take the wall hanging with him and go to China to visit the Phoenix. Barkley the dog (Brian Muehl) goes with Big Bird to embark on the long and arduous journey to meet the Phoenix. Brian Muehl must be one of the world's greatest limber athletes to be able to perform Barkley's movements and mannerisms so well and so realistically. He was even a perfect flow in a four-footed trot.

In China, Big Bird has a rough time finding anyone who can speak English. The viewer is taken on a tour of the spartan beauty of rural and urban China and some breathtaking natural beauty as Big Bird and company seek the Phoenix. As Big Bird travels to find someone who speaks "American", we are treated to some Chinese kindergartners demonstrating a delicate dance, to a tai ji demonstration and are given an opportunity to learn some Chinese words. Eventually along the way, Big Bird happens on a little girl about seven or eight years old who speaks "American." Roughly, but it is obvious she is at least bilingual.

The little girl, Xiao Foo (Quyang Lien-Tze, a delightful and charming young lady who fits the needs of the part perfectly) advises Big Bird that they can, together, find the four places that must be visited before they can meet the Phoenix. The only real difficulty is that one of the landmarks they must find is a glass chessboard which turns out to be the morning sun glimmering over water-soaked rice paddies in a checkered pattern. Another difficulty is finding stone soldiers. While this would seem to imply statues of soldiers, it turns out the stone soldiers are the mountain peaks. Clever and witty it was. And wait until you see the feathers that grow from the river banks.

Though this is a journey into a non-Christian culture, there is little that would likely raise the eyebrows of Christian parents and grandparents except the story of an evil demon king and his demons, ghosts and spirits filled with hate casting spells to control benevolent mythical creatures. In addition, much of the film is based on magic such as performed by a traditional Chinese children's hero, the Monkey King (clearly a man in a suit with makeup) vanishing and reappearing, multiplying and evaporating but none of it for sinister purposes, just to annoy Big Bird. The plot includes a childhood "magic" story of mythical beings. The only item that may be emulated by your son(s) or daughter(s) because of a performance by a famous role model, Big Bird, is when he threatened to fight the Monkey King because of the Monkey King's frustrating mischief [1 Tim. 3:3].

Big Bird in China is quiet, serene and gentle-paced with a gentle heart and display of some delightful child performances and cultural identities [Titus 3:2, Prov. 16:19]

SPECIAL NOTE: We will be reducing the volume of coverage in the Summary/Commentary section of our reports and the number of reports generated in an effort to reduce costs until full funding can be achieved. The Findings/Scoring section of each report, the heart of the analysis model, will NOT be reduced in any way.

Thank you for your patience as we diligently search for funding. Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help us locate 501(c)(3) nonprofit funding and sponsors is encouraged to notify me.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • 1 Tim. 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; [Though this verse is speaking to the behavior of a bishop (deacon), would it not be wise to emulate it anyway because later Paul speaks of how such behaviors are how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household?]
  • Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.
  • Prov. 16:19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it]. [I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent, situationally redefine, counterfeit, conditionally apply] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.


    Big Bird in China (1987) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • threat to fight another

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • none noted

    Sex/Homosexuality (S)
  • none noted

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • none noted

    Offense to God (O)
  • story of demons, ghosts, spirits filled with hate casting spells to do mean things
  • most of film is based on story involving magic, unholy control of others for mean reasons with mythical beings superior to humans.

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • none noted

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    NOTE: While the Summary/Commentary section of these reports is precisely that -- a summary in commentary format which can be and sometimes is subjective, the actual CAP Analysis Model (the Findings/Scoring section) makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse, for manufacture of justification for, or camouflaging of ignominious content or aberrant behavior or imagery with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme/plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example of behavior or thought from the sinful display or of the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. We make no attempt to quantify the "artistic" or "entertainment" value of a movie -- whether a movie has any positive value or "entertainment" value is up to mom/dad. The CAP analysis model is the only known set of tools available to parents and grandparents which give them the control they need, bypassing the opinion-based assessment of movies by others and defeating the deceit of those who would say anything to convince their parents otherwise. The model is completely objective to His Word. Our investigation standards are founded in the teachings and expectations of Jesus Christ. If a sinful behavior is portrayed, it is called sinful whether Hollywood tries to make it otherwise. That the sinful behavior is "justified" by some manufactured conditions does not soften nor erase the price of sin. Whether there is application of fantasy "justification" or "redemption" is up to mom/dad.

    "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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