Big Bird Muppeteer of almost 50 years, Caroll Spinney dead at 85

Brenda Watkins
December 8, 2019

Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer behind Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch died Sunday at his home in CT at the age of 85.

Spinney, who suffered from the movement disorder dystonia, had provided only Big Bird's voice since 2015 while another puppeteer was in the costume.

Infamously, Spinney controlled Big Bird from the inside with hands, wires, and a TV monitor strapped to his chest to guide him around the studio.

The Sesame Workshop obituary notes that Spinney played Big Bird for more than five years, and he was a member of the Sesame Street family from the beginning. "He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well", Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said in a statement.

Incredibly, the longtime puppeteer worked on the show for 49 years. and retired from "Sesame" just last year. "Big Bird helped me find my goal". Eventually, Spinney said he turned BB into a "big kid" character - and the rest was history.

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In a statement announcing his retirement, Spinney said: "Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird".

According to Sesame Workshop, Spinney also toured the world, conducting symphony orchestras, bringing the music of "Sesame Street" to audiences in the likes of Australia, China and across the United States. And even Oscar, once in a while!

Caroll Spinney poses for a photo at the 15th Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala in 2017.

Spinney later joined the cast for the show's inaugural series in 1969.

Spinney had portrayed the characters - including providing their voices - since the show's start in 1969.

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