The Puppeteer Behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird And Oscar The Grouch Has Passed Away

Danielle Jennings
Read Time1 Minute, 50 Second

More sad news today, Roommates, this time coming from Sesame Street. Carroll Spinney, the puppeteer behind the characters Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch has passed away at 85.Spinney had been living with dystonia, which causes involuntary muscle contractions, for some time, according to the Sesame Workshop. He died at his home in Connecticut, CBS News reports.“Since 1969, Caroll’s kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement. “His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky every once in a while. In these characters, Caroll Spinney gave something truly special to the world … We will miss him dearly.”Sesame Workshop said they will continue his beloved characters into the future. Spinney’s longtime apprentice, Matt Vogel, took over as theb puppeteer for Big Bird back in 2015 when it became too difficult for Spinney to perform the role. But Spinney continued doing voice work until 2018, when he retired completely. Eric Jacobson took over the role of Oscar the Grouch.Spinney is recognized as the heart and soul of Big Bird. He was the subject of the 2015 documentary entitled “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.”He told “CBS Evening News” in 2015 that he would perform the roles for 50 more years if he could.Spinney was part of “Sesame Street” since the beginning when it premiered in 1969 and performed in more than 4,000 episodes. The Henson family said in a statement it was a moment of “creative destiny” when Spinney met Jim Henson.“The gentle performer who would bring to life two of the most beloved residents of ‘Sesame Street’ could perfectly convey the humor and heart in our father’s creations,” the Henson family said. “Big Bird was childlike, without being childish. And Oscar the Grouch reflected universal feelings we all share, no matter our age. Those of us privileged to work alongside him and call him friend saw first-hand that he cared so deeply about what these characters represented and how they could truly create change.”

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