|Written by||Keith Vernon Textor|
|Publisher||Scott Textor Music Publishing, Inc.|
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) 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 scenario too tragic, and a replacement was shot on August 2, 1974. In the new ending, once the ball falls into the box, it turns into three cherries that are plopped down onto sundaes rolling by on a conveyor belt, one of which is eaten by a little girl (played by Heather Henson). This version also features a different voiceover and first aired in Episode 0744.
Although the ending was changed due to test audiences finding the film too tragic, the original continued to air interchangeably with the new ending. On at least one occasion, Episode 0797, both versions of the film were included in the same episode. The original powder version was used on the show as late as Episode 4002.
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 fuck 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.”
The film's title varies from several sources:
- Jim Henson's Red Book — "Ball Film"
- Episode 0254 script — "Ball Sculpture #3"
- (most other) scripts — "Henson Ball Powder #3" (version I and version II, despite the latter omitting the powder)
- ASCAP Work ID: 498099788
- "Henson Ball"
- "Henson Ball Powder No.3"
- "Henson No.3 Ball Powder"
- 40 Years of Life on the Street pg 247 — "Sesame Street Number Film #3" (shown on the film's label)
- sesamestreet.org — "Ball Powder No. 3" (though the video itself was of the second version)
- Learning About Numbers DVD chapter stop — "Rollercoaster 1, 2, 3"
- Old School: Volume 2 — "Henson Ball High Wire #3"
- The Muppets Take Maryland exhibit (as seen in an episode of National Arts) — "Number Three Ball Film" (as seen on the exhibit placard)
- Learning About Numbers (cherries ending)
- Old School: Volume 2 (cherries ending) (as a Season 6 Classic Cut)
- Old School: Volume 3 (cherries ending) (as a Season 15 Classic Cut)
- 50 Years and Counting (powder ending)
- Numbers - A clip of the ball going through three doors