Sesame Street’s Caroll Spinney, The Voice of Many Childhoods, Retires After 50 Years

Published on October 29, 2018

It is a voice that has spoken to children everywhere for decades. Caroll Spinney, known as the voice of Big Bird on Sesame Street, is set to retire after nearly 50 years.

Spinney has been the voice of Big Bird since Sesame Street debuted with their pilot episode in 1969.

Aside from his kind demeanor as one of the world’s most beloved birds, Spinney has many other accomplishments. While not teaching children their 1,2,3s and A, B, Cs Spinney earned four honorary doctorates, gave passionate lectures, won six Emmys, two golden records and holds a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award. Along with many other awards. He even had his life and work documented in a 2004 film, I Am Big Bird.  

As Big Bird, Spinney has visited many countries and performed on thousands of episodes. Even touring with Bob Hope and dancing with the Rockettes.

He worked alongside muppet creator Jim Henson to shape Big Bird into the beloved character he is today. A big kid with a big heart. Spinney says that playing Big Bird helped him find his own purpose in life.

As if playing Big Bird was not a grand enough role, you can also listen to Spinney as the voice of another Sesame Street character with a much different personality, Oscar the Grouch. Two roles which will be performed by two different actors when Spinney retires.

Matt Vogel, who plays Kermit the frog, will succeed Spinney as Big Bird. And Eric Jacobson will take over the role of Oscar. Spinney says that these actors have been handpicked and seems happy to pass on the role and let someone else fill Big Bird’s big shoes.

“Now it’s time for two performers that I have worked with and respected – and actually hand-picked for the guardianship of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – to take my alter-egos into their hands and continue to give them life.” Caroll Spinney, HuffingtonPost

Spinney says that playing Big Bird has been one of the biggest joys of his life, but after all these years, the physical toll is becoming too much. Carrying around that heavy bird suit for that long has to require passion. Spinney began only voicing the character in 2015 and is now set to retire altogether. At eighty-four years old, he is “hanging up his muppet hat” as one news reporter put it.  

You can watch the tribute here:

Sesame Street: A Tribute to Caroll Spinney

Big Bird has taught generations of children to love learning and to love themselves.

“Bad days happen to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself.” Big BirdWill there be a 50th-anniversary episode?

According to The Guardian:

“The veteran puppeteer and actor, who also portrayed Oscar the Grouch, will film an anniversary episode of the children’s TV show before flying the nest.”

Look out for 50th-anniversary celebrations in 2019 and pay tribute to the man who has lit up hearts on television screens for all these years.

A lifetime playing two characters that we can all relate to:

“Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while! They have given me great joy, led me to my true calling – and my wonderful wife! – and created a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever.” Caroll Spinney, Variety


Lori Hil is a former Contributor at Grit Daily. She lives abroad, capturing content, and sharing brand love. She mostly writes with a schnauzer on her lap and coffee close at hand from her base station in the Andes. She spends more time on Pinterest than anyone would care to admit and believes in the power of social media to change the world.

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