Caroll Spinney, ‘Sesame Street’ Big Bird puppeteer, retiring after nearly 50 years

Someone is going to have some big bird shoes to fill at Sesame street.

Longtime Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who’s been controlling the popular puppets on the kids’ show for nearly 50 years, announced his retirement on Wednesday.

“Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind and nurtured my soul,” said Spinney “And I plan to be an ambassador for 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 has been with Sesame Street since the series started up in 1969.

Sesame Street Season 1 Caroll Spinney and Big Bird

“Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn’t feel like what I was doing was very important,” he said. “Big Bird helped me find my purpose. Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while! They have given me great joy, led me to my true calling and created a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever.”

Spinney, 84, has been an artist his whole life, and he developed a passion for puppeteering at a young age. He performed in his childhood and in adolescence, using money garnered from it to help pay for his post-secondary tuition. After a stint in the Air Force, he became a professional puppeteer, performing in big cities like Las Vegas.

He met Sesame Street and Muppet creator Jim Henson at a puppetry festival in 1962, and the rest is history.


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