The Sesame Workshop has announced the disheartening news that long-time Muppeteer Caroll Spinney died today, December 8, 2019, at his home in Connecticut.
Spinney was best known for playing the role of Sesame Street star character Big Bird which he puppeteered for almost fifty years. In Spinney’s time puppeteering the iconic character Big Bird visited China with Bob Hope, danced with the Rockettes, and was celebrated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a U.S. postage stamp. A favorite highlight for Mr. Spinney in his time with the Sesame Workshop was conducting symphony orchestras and performing with them across the United States, Australia, and China. He so loved traveling with the orchestras because it allowed him to personally connect with families everywhere through the music of Sesame Street. Spinney also performed as another Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch and was a long-time friend of Sesame Workshop founder Jim Henson.
Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said of Spinney,
“Caroll Spinney’s contributions to Sesame Street are countless. He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well. We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world.”
For his work as Big Bird Spinney was presented five Daytime Emmy Awards for his contributions to Sesame Street and received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 2006.
Spinney stopped performing as Big Bird in 2015 when it became too physically demanding for him to work the costume, he did continue to provide the voice for that character and Oscar until his retirement in 2018.
Caroll Spinney is survived by his wife, Debra and his children Jessica, Benjamin and Melissa.