Big Bird actor retires

Lawrence Kim
October 17, 2018

Caroll Spinney, the veteran actor and puppeteer who provided the voices for Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, is retiring after nearly 50 years as a key part of America's most well-known children's television show.

After a almost 50-year career on the beloved children's program, the puppeteer announced on Wednesday that he'll be handing the reins ― or strings rather ― over to his longtime apprentice, Matt Vogel.

"I'll be 100 years old, doing Muppet stuff", he said. It was Spinney, victor of a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award, who made the decision to play Big Bird as "a child, a surrogate", rather than "a amusing, dumb country yokel".

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

Sesame Street, created by Jim Henson and now airing first-run episodes on HBO after 45 years on PBS, said a pair of puppeteers mentored by Spinney will take over his roles. He's since appeared in "thousands of the more than 4,400 episodes", according to a spokesperson from Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind the television show.

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.

"He can be all the things that children are".

Caroll Spinney tells the New York Times that Thursday will be his last day on the program, which he joined from the start in 1969.

Big Bird and Oscar aren't going anywhere.

Sesame Workshop co-creator Joan Ganz Cooney hailed Spinney for his turn as the curmudgeonly puppet in a trash can, Oscar the Grouch.

Since 2015, Spinney has only voiced the characters, due to balance and various health issues, while others have operated the puppets.

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

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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