The worldwide recognized voice and legend puppeteer of Sesame Street, Caroll Spinney, announced his retirement after nearly five decades of work. Spinney helped shape and create puppets like Big Bird, and was a part of the show from the very beginning. Why is he retiring and who will take over his most famous roles? Read on to find out!
“Life’s like a movie. Write your own ending.” – Kermit the Frog
Caroll Spinney is the familiar voice behind some of the most iconic Sesame Street puppets. In addition to Big Bird, he is also the puppeteer of Oscar the Grouch. Spinney will make his last appearance as Big Bird and the Grouch on Sesame Street‘s 50th anniversary in 2020. Quite a fine place to end such an incredible career, if you ask us. While he still loves the roles, the constant puppeteering is becoming too physically demanding for the 84-year-old actor. In an interview with the New York Times, Spinney said he’s both sad and happy to pass the role on “to new performers.”
“Never refer to me as an item. I’m a bird.” – Big Bird
Spinney’s work over the years was so frequent that it’s unknown exactly how many episodes of Sesame Street he’s made. A spokeswoman told NYT the number is estimated to be in the thousands. In the interview, the puppeteer extraordinaire said, “I always thought, ‘How fortunate for me that I got to play the two best muppets? Playing Big Bird is one of the most joyous things of my life.'”
Spinney is not only the puppeteer behind the muppets, but he significantly helped in the creation of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Obviously, working the eight-foot Big Bird puppet takes a toll on you. So, in 2016 Matt Vogel, an understudy, took over the puppeteering. However, Spinney was still the voice of the yellow muppet as well as the grouchiest of them.
Vogel will take over the role of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch (besides working Kermit the Frog and Count Von Count). In the interview with the NYT, Vogel said how vital it is for him to continue Spinney’s iconic legacy. “The more I do the character, the more that I try to preserve what I think Caroll’s intentions were,” he said.
“You’ve never seen a street like Sesame Street before.” – Miles Robinson
There aren’t many TV shows that last long enough to delight multiple generations. Sesame Street first aired in 1969 on PBS and received, surprisingly, lukewarm reviews and ratings. However, ten years later in 1979, nearly 75% of all US kindergartners watched it, as well as almost 85% of first and second graders. Over the years, Sesame Street became educational, positive television that parents and schools wanted their kids to watch. Now, it is a household staple and part of millions of peoples daily after-school routines all over the world. And children aren’t the only ones who love Sesame Street! Throughout the decades, Amy Adams, David Beckham, Beyonce, Anderson Cooper, and many other celebrities have made appearances on the show.
In television, it is very common for actors to come and go. There aren’t many people who remain on American TV for nearly fifty years, especially in the same role. Caroll Spinney, congratulations and enjoy your retirement! You’ve earned it.