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It is the end of an era in Sesame Street: The man who has given voice and life to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for almost 50 years is hanging his big orange legs.
Caroll Spinney, 84, has played the roles since the first episode of the program in 1969. He met Jim Henson at a puppet festival in 1962, and Henson invited him to be part of this new program he was creating.
"He said:" Why do not you come to New York and talk about the Muppets? "Spinney told NPR in 2003." I have some characters that I want to build. "One is a tall, looking bird. funny, and the other will be a bad-tempered character who will live in a pile of garbage in the ditch. & # 39;
Bill Pierce / Sesame Workshop
Playing Big Bird all these years has been a great job, in part due to the enormous stature of the beloved creature: 8 feet, 2 inches. The role requires that your puppeteer hold his arm high in the air to maneuver Big Bird's head.
"I can not see it," Spinney explained in the 2003 interview. "I have a small television set attached to my chest, and I'm looking to see if Big Bird is looking at Maria, whoever she is talking to, or looking at the children in And if we have a complex walk for me. " to do so, we can remove two feathers that are in Velcro. But we try not to do it, because sometimes you see this little dark spot on your chest where I'm poking, but I have to do it to win. Enter through the door.
Henson's original vision for Big Bird was just a "big, dumb guy," Spinney told NPR in 2015. It was Spinney's idea to give the character the curiosity and innocence of his character. "I said:" I think Big Bird could be more useful to the program if he were a child and learned all the things we taught in the program. "And then he did not know the alphabet, even, for example." .
A few years ago, Spinney stopped making the Big Bird puppeteer, The New York Times Notes, but the voice of him and Oscar continued. It has appeared in thousands of episodes. Although he is retiring this week, his final performances will air on HBO next year in the 50th season of the program.
"Since 1969, Caroll's kind and loving vision of the world has helped shape and define this institution," Sesame Workshop president and CEO Jeffrey Dunn said in a statement. "Throughout his unparalleled career, Caroll Spinney gave the world something truly special." With deep admiration, Sesame Workshop is proud to take his legacy, and his beloved characters, into the future. "
Spinney has been one of the few who work on the program who have been there since the beginning. With his retirement, Big Bird will be played by Matt Vogel, who has been apprenticed on paper since 1996, and who is already behind the ropes of Kermit the Frog and Count von Count. Eric Jacobson, who already plays Grover, Bert and Miss Piggy, will take over as Oscar.
Spinney has made puppets from an early age. But the public television show is where he prospered.
"Before you get to Sesame StreetI did not feel that what I was doing was very important. "Big Bird helped me find my purpose," Spinney said in a statement from the Sesame Workshop. "Even when I quit my roles, I feel like I'll always be Big Bird, and even Oscar, every once in a while!"