- The original puppeteer who brought Big Bird to life announced his retirement from “Sesame Street”
- 84-year-old Caroll Spinney has played Big Bird and also Oscar the Grouch for nearly 50 years
- Big Bird was originally intended to be a “funny dumb country yokel”
Eighty-four-year-old Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who has played the lovable characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street since its beginning in 1969, announced on October 17, 2018, that he is retiring from the iconic children show.
Mark Vogel, the show’s puppet captain, will succeed Spinney as Big Bird, while Eric Jacobsen will play the role of Oscar the Grouch; the grumpy green character who lives in a garbage can. Spinney mentored both Vogel and Jacobsen for over 20 years.
“Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind and nurtured my soul. And I plan to be an ambassador for the Sesame Workshop for many years to come. After all, we’re a family! But now it’s time for two performers that I have worked with and respected and actually hand-picked for the guardianship of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to take my alter-egos into their hands and continue to give them life,” Spinney said in a statement.
Spinney has not worn the Big Bird costume since 2015 because the physical demands of playing the giant yellow avian became difficult, but he continued to voice the character, according to Vanity Fair.
Big Bird, Spinney shared, was originally intended to be a “funny dumb country yokel” but after a few episodes, he suggested to the show’s producers that he should play Big Bird like he is a child.
“I said, I think I should play him like he’s a child, a surrogate. He can be all the things that children are. He can learn with the kids,” he recalled.
And how right he was!