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Caroll Spinney with Oscar the Grouch at the Daytime Emmys in 2007.
A young Caroll Spinney with Big Bird.
Spinney with his character Picklepuss (the rebuilt Muppet version).
Spinney & Oscar at his book signing in NYC.

Caroll Spinney (b. December 26, 1933) has performed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street for 40 years. In a 2008 Washington Times article, Spinney said that even though performing Big Bird is physically demanding work, the 74-year-old has no intention of stopping, saying, "I can't imagine willingly walking away from Big Bird and Oscar." [1] He has described his experience as Big Bird as "a lot like growing up to be Mickey Mouse... only taller!"[2]

Spinney was born in Waltham, Massachusetts and was an accomplished artist before he started working as a live performer. He attended The Art Institute of Boston's College of Art & Design. While in the military, he created a comic strip under the name Ed Spinney. In the early 1960s, he created an animated cartoon series called Crazy Crayon under the same name.

In 1955, Spinney headed to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he created the show Rascal Rabbit.[3] He returned to Boston in 1958, joining The Judy and Goggle Show as a puppeteer, performing Goggle.

In the 1960s, Spinney created two puppet cats, Picklepuss and Pop, who he performed on the Boston broadcast of Bozo's Big Top. (Picklepuss and Pop would later go on to perform with the Muppets just once, in the 1988 Jim Henson Play-Along video Wow, You're a Cartoonist!)

In the late '60s after a stage performance that didn't go too well Spinney met Jim Henson who told him that he liked "what he was trying to do." Henson then asked Spinney if he was interested in working on a new children's show they were developing. Spinney went on to star as the man behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

As Big Bird, Spinney traveled the world -- in the TV specials Big Bird in China and Big Bird in Japan, and in special Sesame Street episodes that took him to New Mexico and Hawaii. He has also starred in a feature film, Follow That Bird.

Spinney has guest starred as his characters on many other programs, including The Flip Wilson Show, Scrubs, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, 1 vs 100, The Muppet Show, and over 141 episodes of Hollywood Squares.

Spinney wrote an autobiography in 2003 titled The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers. Caroll Spinney also wrote and illustrated How to Be a Grouch, a 1976 picture book that explains the world from Oscar's point of view. Spinney also drew the picture of Mr. Hooper that Big Bird drew after Mr. Hooper died, and designed one of his characters, Bruno the Trashman.

Contents

Puppetry Credits

Notes

  • Spinney explained in a 2007 interview that when there’s a scene with both Big Bird and Oscar that “if I’m doing the Bird, I’ll have my assistant move Oscar, but I’ll do both voices. Usually, we pre-record the one that my assistant is moving. Once in a while, if it’s Oscar’s scene and he has a lot more words than Big Bird, then I have my assistant stand in for Big Bird and I record Big Bird’s voice, digitally. That way, they can be talking to each other."[4]
  • Spinney almost left Sesame Street after the first season, due to a low salary, the expense of living in New York, and being offered a chance to produce his own Picklepuss show during the break between seasons. However, Kermit Love convinced Spinney to give the show another month before deciding to quit, and soon decided to stay on the show.[6]

Awards & Honors

Dates Unknown

1994

2000

  • As Big Bird, Spinney was awarded the Library of Congress Living Legend Award in April 2000. According to the Library of Congress website, "the award is selected by the Library's curators and subject specialists to honor artists, writers, activists, filmmakers, physicians, entertainers, sports figures and public servants who have made significant contributions to America's diverse cultural, scientific and social heritage." [7]

2006

  • Daytime Emmys Lifetime Achievement Award

2007

  • Outstanding Performer In A Children's Series (tie): Kevin Clash as Elmo, and Caroll Spinney as Oscar the Grouch (transcipt)

External links

  • Official site
  • Official Fansite
  • Fansite
  • NPR Interview
  • Tribute song to Caroll Spinney
  • New Yorker interview with Caroll Spinney

Sources

  1. "He's happy being Big Bird", Ellen Simon, The Washington Times. June 19, 2008.
  2. The Muppet Show Fan Club Newsletter volume 3, number 6, page 4
  3. Street Gang, pages 101-102
  4. Twardzik, Cathleen. Meet the man behind Big Bird, Parents and Kids. February 19, 2007.
  5. Spinney, Caroll The Wisdom of Big Bird, page 132.
  6. Spinney, Caroll The Wisdom of Big Bird pages 63-65
  7. Library of Congress website.

This article uses material from the "Caroll Spinney" article on the Muppet wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.







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