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It's the end of an era on Sesame Street : The man who gave Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch voice and life for nearly 50 years hangs his big orange legs.
Caroll Spinney, 84, has been playing the roles since the very first episode of the 1969 show. He had met Jim Henson at a puppet festival in 1962, and Henson invited him to be part of this new show he created.
"He said," Why do not you come to New York and talk about the Muppets? "" Spinney told NPR in 2003. "" I have some characters I want to build. One is a big, funny-looking bird and the other will be that grumpy character who will live in a garbage heap in the gutter. ""
Bill Pierce / Sesame Workshop
Playing Big Bird over the years has been a great job, in part because of the oversized figure of the beloved creature: 8 feet, 2 inches. The role requires the puppeteer to hold his arm high in the air to maneuver Big Bird's head.
"I can not look out," Spinney said in an interview in 2003. "I'm wearing a tiny TV on my chest, and I watch Big Bird looking at Maria, whoever he's talking to, or watching the kids at home And if we have a complicated walk for me to do, we can remove two feathers that are by Velcro, but we try not to do that because sometimes you see that little dark spot in his chest where I peer out – but I have to do that for me to win & # 39; I go in the door. "
Henson's original vision for Big Bird was just a" big, silly guy, " Spinney NPR said in 2015. It was Spinney's idea to give the character his own brand curiosity and innocence. "I said, & # 39; I think Big Bird could be more useful for the show if he was a kid learning all the things we teach in the series. & # 39; And he knew that way, for example not the alphabet. "
A few years ago, Spinney stopped performing with the Big Bird puppet show, remarks the New York Times but continued to pronounce it and Oscar. He has appeared in thousands of episodes. Although retiring this week, his latest appearances will be aired on HBO next season in season 50 of the series.
"Caroll's Art Since 1969 The loving view of the world has helped to shape and define this institution," said Jeffrey Dunn, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop, in a statement. "Throughout his unprecedented career, Carroll Spinney has given the world something truly special, and with deep admiration, Sesame Workshop is proud to bring its legacy – and beloved characters – into the future."
Spinney was one of the few who worked in the series, who were there from the start. With his retirement, Big Bird is performed by Matt Vogel, who has been an apprentice in this role since 1996 and is already behind Kermit's Frog and Count von Count. Eric Jacobson, who already plays Grover, Bert and Miss Piggy, will take over the Oscar.
Spinney made puppetry at a young age. But the public television show is where he thrived.
"Before I came to Sesame Street I did not feel that what I was doing was very important, and Big Bird helped me find my purpose." Spinney said in a statement from the Sesame Workshop. "Even as I step back from my roles, I feel like I'll always be Big Bird, and even Oscar, now and then!"