At the beginning of the summer I wrote a summer movie preview and highlighted I Am Big Bird as one of the movies I was most looking forward to. Well, it took two feet of snow for me to finally sit down and watch it. The documentary is a tribute to the life and work of Caroll Spinney. Spinney has played the iconic characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the very beginning of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street just started its 46th season and it is safe to say that Big Bird and Oscar are still some of the most recognizable television stars in the world, but the person who has given them their voice and their heart for that many years can walk the streets of New York and not be recognized. This documentary does a fine service of telling his story.
The documentary flooded me with memories because of the behind the scenes stories of filming very familiar scenes and interviews with some of the original cast like Bob and Luis. There were also a couple of stories that I had no idea about. Apparently NASA wanted Big Bird to orbit the earth, but they couldn’t figure out how to fit the costume into the shuttle.1
The movie is more than just a walk down memory lane — though it is that. By telling the story of the man behind such famous characters, however, we appreciate them in a new way. I came to appreciate how he really gave them life. Spinney will retire some day soon, but the characters he has given us will continue to live on and that is a gift that will keep on giving.
Cover Image, Big Bird In The Hood! via Flickr User R J, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons; available here.
- The mission that Big Bird would have been on? The tragedy of the Challenger explosion. ↩