The Sesame Workshop is reporting that long-time Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney has announced his retirement, noting that he's performed on the program since its 1969 premiere. Spinney has played the roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for nearly 50 years!
After five decades as the heart and soul of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, it's impossible to entirely separate the man from the characters he so vibrantly brought to life. Big Bird visited China with Bob Hope in 1979. He's danced with the Rockettes, and with prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory. He's been feted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrated with his likeness on a U.S. postage stamp, and named a "Living Legend" in 2000 by the Library of Congress. Performing Big Bird has taken Caroll to China, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He has performed on hundreds of episodes of television, starred as his big yellow avatar in the feature film Follow That Bird, and conducted symphony orchestras throughout the United States, Australia, and Canada. Spinney even met his wife of 45 years, Debra, on the Sesame Street set in 1973.
Not to worry, Big Bird and Oscar are not going anywhere. They will be played going forward by puppeteers Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson, with Spinney's blessing.
Also, if you haven't seen the 2014 documentary about Spinney titled I Am Big Bird, I urge you to do so. It's a truly beautiful portrait of a deeply creative man who chose to live his most authentic life. I won't lie, it made me cry.
Here's its trailer:
Thank you, Caroll, for all you've done and for being true to who you are.
Full press release: Puppeteer Caroll Spinney Announces Retirement from Sesame Street
A 2015 interview with Spinney: The Man Who Became Big Bird
images via Sesame Workshop