In early 1982, proposals were made for a feature film based on Sesame Street. At least two treatments were written for Sesame Street - The Movie, a musical and political romp in which Big Bird is elected President of the United States, intended to please audiences young and old.
The treatments set a 1984 release date, coinciding with the country's Presidential election, and suggest the film would be produced between Children's Television Workshop and Walt Disney Productions (though the second draft removes their involvement).
During a montage of various political-related footage (candidates campaigning, citizens voting, etc.), famous newspersons report on one of the biggest and surprising political upsets as a new President of the United States is about to take office. At the inaugural ceremony, a familiar voice affirms Warren Buffet's oath of office - it's Big Bird!
The opening titles play over scenes of the celebratory parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, scored by the "Sesame Street Theme" interwoven with "Hail to the Chief." From here, the story is often disrupted from news reports and political cartoons, delivering exposition on Big Bird's administration.
Jessica Savitch throws to live coverage of the inaugural ball being held at the White House, where Walter Cronkite interviews Harry Reasoner about how Big Bird made it to office; Reasoner reasons that with the conventions caught in a deadlock, Big Bird somehow emerged as a prime candidate and his "Niceness Counts" campaign sealed him as the population's favorite. Cronkite reiterates the President's philosophy, "Do your most...it's the least you can do."
As the Sesame Street gang rubs elbows with established political leaders and entertainment celebrities, it is revealed in attendance is an evil lobbyist and war profiteer (played by George C. Scott). He and his henchmen (identified as “'live-Muppets' à la Keystone Kops in 'Sesame Street Live'”") wish to push the world into the biggest arms race in history and see President Bird as a roadblock. As the ball continues, the event breaks out into the film's first musical number, "Inaugural Balls Should Be Kept in the Air."
The following day, President Bird and his friends assume their roles in the administration:
Finally, Lena Horne (as herself) serves as Big Bird's Vice President, the primary voice of reason in the crowded administration. Big Bird deals with the typical challenges every President faces, but he tries to deal with each one with a simple solution (perhaps, too simple). Press Secretary Grover tries to quell any uncertainly from the public.
A montage follows, showing Big Bird's activities in his first 100 days in office - launching a ship, welcoming the Boy Scouts to the Rose Garden, speaking to the A.F. of L. Convention and throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game (accidentally beaning Gerald Ford in the head).
President Bird's administration soon faces harsh criticism from not only Scott and his henchmen, but the news reporters and political cartoonists, one of which reads "Big Bird Lays an Egg" in regards to his economic policies. Grover finds it difficult keeping the Press Corps in line, when old friend Herbert Birdsfoot (erroneously referred to as "Birdsong") gives him some musical advice on dealing with the press - "Chewin' the Press Conference Rag."
Scott and his team hear that Big Bird will attempt some sort of world peace plan with fellow world leaders at the upcoming Summit Conference. From a sleazy bar, Scott plans to halt Big Bird's plans by any means necessary and he and his crew sing "What'll We Do If Peace Breaks Out?"
As the days pass, the role of President takes its toll on Big Bird just as it has with his predecessors; instead of graying or wrinkling, Big Bird starts molting. He discusses his problems with VP Horne, as the two take a moonlit visit to the Lincoln Memorial for inspiration, and a duet - "Is It Too Late?"
Scott attempts to sway Secretary Oscar to his side of skulduggery, brandishing a banner reading, "Make War Not Words." Oscar refuses and shouts on Scott's way out, "And I didn't like you in Patton, either!" Scott attempts to take down President Bird with a rumor tying him to a birdseed scandal. However, the plan fails when Big Bird takes to television and delivers a song about previous scandals, "Don't Feather Your Nest While You're In It."
Debates heat up in Washington regarding whether President Bird should attend the upcoming Summit Conference. Horne arranges for Big Bird to appear before a joint session of Congress to plead his case, where he reiterates his philosophy in song - "Do Your Most, It's the Least You Can Do." Congress unanimously approves and soon, Big Bird and his aids board Air Force One to head to Paris.
Scott employs a "dramatic Star Wars dog fight" in which he unleashes "every weapon known to man" on Air Force One until it is forced to ground. His henchmen take Big Bird and his crew hostage. Back at home, Grover deals with hard-hitting questions regarding President Bird's status and whether he seeks re-election. When pressed by Mike Wallace, Grover responds, "All Grover knows for sure is...he wants his mommmmmmmyyyyyy!" With Big Bird held hostage, Scott and his crew celebrate their ensured victory with a villainous song, "It's Business As Usual."
With chaos threatening the world, Grover retreats to bed and has nightmares of his failed press conferences. A bout of inspiration strikes him and he transforms into Super Grover, freeing Big Bird and friends after defeating Scott's military industrial complex single-handedly. However, the Summit Conference is set to begin in a scant 80 minutes. Scott and company pursue Big Bird and company across the world in various forms of chase (such as by car, camel, dog-sled, water-ski, etc.).
With mere seconds to spare, Big Bird arrives at the Summit, where everyone waits in anticipation for his presentation; Scott is placed in custody. He presides over the world leaders and simply declares, "Peace in our time." The world erupts in cheers as a ticker tape parade is thrown on Broadway in Big Bird's honor. All over the world, people repeat Big Bird's slogan in their native languages - "Niceness counts."
At the National Convention in Philadelphia, politicians and newspersons gather to hear President Bird address his plans for re-election. Big Bird delivers a song to the crowd, "I'm Only a Bird in a Gilded Office." Big Bird resolves to resign from his position and return to his life on Sesame Street as an "elder Statesbird." He appoints Horne to take over as the first "singer-President." She leads everyone in a final reprise of "Do Your Most, It's the Least You Can Do."
A second draft of the treatment retains mostly the same story, but heavily changes the film's antagonists.
Instead of Scott, the antagonist is Bruno Kelp, leader of N.A.U.G.H.T.Y. (National Association of Underworld Gangsters, Hoods, Terrorists, and Yahoos). He is aided by his lovely and terrifying assistant, Muffin Del Rio. Following one of Grover's initial press conferences, Kelp and Del Rio confer with the NAUGHTY advisory board (consisting of caricatured bad-guy types). They scoff at President Bird's plans of peace and reveal they were behind the scandals and screw ups of recent political leaders (such as Jimmy Carter's "Killer Rabbit" and intentionally tripping Gerald Ford). The group launches into an evil musical number, "Big Bird Has Got to Go."
Much of Big Bird's first 100 days in office remains the same, but the events are deliberately sabotaged by NAUGHTY - the christened ship sinks, the Rose Garden is replaced with poison ivy, the sound system garbles his speech to the A.F. of L, and a Friars Club Roast in his honor is turned into a memorial service for George Jessel.
Further scandals affect the administration, partially thanks to NAUGHTY, when it is reported that President Bird has been having conversations with Mr. Snuffleupagus, whom no one believes is real; Big Bird even proposes one of Snuffy's ideas in public. "Snuffygate" dominates the news cycle, as New York Times writer James Reston suggests a constitutional amendment preventing members of show business to run for office.
In an effort to restore confidence from the public, Big Bird makes a televised speech proposing ways the country can improve through kindness - everyone obeys all the traffic laws, nobody can take something that doesn't belong to them and everyone should work extra hard in school or their jobs. These lead to improvements all over the nation, though some cities are affected by NAUGHTY's influence. They realize President Bird's actions are working and more drastic measures must be taken.
Oscar the Grouch is still courted to join the opposing forces, as Del Rio seduces him singing "Come Out of the Can and Kiss Like a Man." They further try to bribe Cookie Monster using "chocolate cookies with white stuff in the middle," to no avail. The group then sinks Rubber Duckie while Ernie is in the tub, but Ernie isn't deterred - "It was Bert's."
NAUGHTY puts a new plan into action - they produce a life-size, robotic replica of Big Bird who will do their bidding. Kelp launches into a song, "Naughty is Nicer Than Nice." After President Bird's address to Congress, he enters his limo, which is driven by Kelp. He enacts as switch, putting the robot bird in the backseat and trapping Big Bird in the trunk.
Grover and the FBI are suspicious of the President's behavior and suspect NAUGHTY is behind it. As Kelp exits his office (a run down motel), he hails a cab. The driver is Grover and the cab is ambushed by 20 other monster friends. Kelp vows that he won't speak about his plans, until Grover and company torture him by making him watch Saturday morning cartoons.
Big Bird is set free and he makes a mad dash to the Summit, with Kelp and Del Rio following behind. Meanwhile, at the Summit, the robotic President Bird takes his place, smoking a cigar and rattling off inappropriate stories and jokes to the world leaders. Big Bird bursts in just in time and the robot bird and Del Rio are taken into custody.