Published: Wed, October 17, 2018

Puppeteer who played Big Bird on ‘Sesame Street’ retiring

Puppeteer who played Big Bird on ‘Sesame Street’ retiring

Disguised beneath a frock of bright yellow feathers and an orange bill, the "Sesame Street" puppeteer was the heart and soul behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the show's premiere nearly 50 years ago. Vogel, who's also taken over performing Kermit the Frog and Count von Count in recent years, called replacing Spinney "daunting and important".

After 50 years of starring as the iconic and lovable Big Bird, Caroll Spinney is hanging up his yellow suit and retiring from "Sesame Street".

Spinney's five decades portraying the beloved characters left him in the shadows, even as Big Bird and Oscar became famous worldwide.

"Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind and nurtured my soul", Spinney said.

Moving forward, Big Bird and Oscar will be respectively played by puppeteers Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson, both of whom Spinney has mentored for more than 20 years.

One of Sesame Street's most familiar faces is leaving the neighborhood.

Sesame Workshop, which produces the children's educational program, was not sure how many episodes Spinney had appeared in but estimated the number was "thousands of the more than 4,400 episodes that have been created".

"I'll be 100 years old, doing Muppet stuff", he said. He also co-wrote and illustrated his 2003 biography The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar The Grouch), and was the subject of Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker's 2014 feature documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.

Big Bird visited China with Bob Hope in 1979 and even showed off his massive dancing skills with with the Rockettes and prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory. "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". When I tried it out, Jim and the writers agreed, and soon Big Bird grew into a worldwide superstar. "And the children bought it".

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