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Written by Keith Vernon Textor
Jim Henson
Date 1970
Publisher Scott Textor Music Publishing, Inc.
First Episode 0254

The film's original ending, where the ball is grounded into powder.

Heather Henson's cameo in the re-filmed ending.

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 scenario too tragic,[2] and a replacement was shot on August 2, 1974.[3] 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:

β€œThe 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.[4]”

In addition to directing and building the wire sculpture, Oz sequenced the film by drawing on note cards. Jim Henson produced the film and also drew on some of the cards.[5]


The film's title varies from several sources:


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


  1. ↑ Karen Falk, see talk page
  2. ↑ Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street page 246
  3. ↑ 3.0 3.1 Jim Henson's Red Book β€” "β€˜Film Heather for end of Ball Film" August 2, 1974
  4. ↑ IGN FilmForce Interview with Frank Oz by Ken Plume, February 10, 2000
  5. ↑ Karen Falk, personal correspondence, see talk page