Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer best known for Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died at his home in Connecticut on Sunday. Spinney was 85.
The announcement posted by Sesame Workshop is charming and makes me want to go watch old Sesame Street videos:
“Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending. His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.”
Spinney was a member of Sesame Street since its beginning in 1969. In 2018, Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit organization that makes Sesame Street) estimated that Spinney has been in more than 4,400 episodes of the iconic show.
Spinney lived with dystonia, which can cause involuntary muscle contractions. His apprentice Matt Vogel took over as Big Bird’s puppeteer in 2015 while Eric Jacobson took over Oscar the Grouch, CBS reported. Spinney continued doing voice work until his retirement in 2018, according to the network. “I always thought, How fortunate for me that I got to play the two best Muppets?” Spinney told The New York Times in 2018. “Playing Big Bird is one of the most joyous things of my life.”