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Big Bird Through the Years

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The evolution of Big Bird.

Image As seen in / Year Notes
Bigbird1969
Sesame Street
Season 1
(1969-1970)
The original Big Bird is ungainly in design and characterization, with clumsy body movements and a hick-like voice. The arrangement of the feathers appears more haphazard. At times, he sports googly pupils, similar to the ones of Cookie Monster. Caroll Spinney has been quoted saying, "He didn't look too keen. I thought he was one of the ugliest things I'd ever seen!"
BigBird1970
Sesame Street
Season 1
(1970)
Over the course of the first season, Big Bird’s design is continuously modified. Among the puppet’s first changes are brighter orange legs, after his original set of legs caught fire in an incident when a klieg light fell only a couple feet away. Later, the Bird's right arm, at first pinned to his side, is given life through a fishing line attached from under the neck to the wrist of the left hand. Near the end of that first year, his head is given a makeover, with a fuller crown of feathers and mobile eyelids.
BIgbirdseason2
Sesame Street
Season 2
(1970-1971)
Big Bird's feathers are more groomed, as well as a more consistent shade of golden yellow. The Bird's voice and personality changes as well, gradually becoming more childlike.
Bigbird70s
Sesame Street
Season 3
(1971-1972)
Even more feathers are added to Big Bird's head, making him his current 8'2" size.
Bbirdmid'70s
Sesame Street
Season 4
(1972-1976)
During this period, Big Bird's head becomes considerably more almond-shaped. Also, his eye focus is improved.
Bigbird76
Sesame Street
Season 8
(1976-1978)
Three bright yellow highlights on Big Bird's forehead are now evident. Though, they have varied in size over the years.
Bb1979
Sesame Street
Season 10
(1978-1982)
This more properly built version of Big Bird, with an even rounder head and a more shapely neck, closely resembles the current puppet. However, unlike future Big Bird puppets, this version has the ability to completely shut his eyelids.
Followthatbirdie84
Follow That Bird
(1982-1988)
The three light yellow highlights atop Big Bird's eyes begin to form a full ring, as well as becoming even lighter in color.
Bigbirdmailbox1990ish
Sesame Street
Season 20
(1988-1993)
Big Bird has a slightly taller forehead and a more slender neck.
Bigbird90's
Sesame Street
Season 25
(1993-2003)
Big Bird is now somewhat more vibrant in color, compared to preceding puppets. His head takes a slightly different shape and his forehead highlights are somewhat darker.
BigBird
Sesame Street
Season 35
(2004-present)
Big Bird's feathers are fluffier now. His forehead is even taller, and his upper neck tends to jut out more.

Starting in Season 41, specifically for episodes that use blue-screen in some sequences (in episodes 4222 and 4265, for example), the blue lines on his eyelids are changed to gray.

Alternate Big Bird Puppets and Characters
BlueBigBird
The Blue Bird of Happiness
(1985)
A blue version of Big Bird from Follow That Bird. The feathers and beak are light blue, but the tail is not entirely dyed. The head of this version is still used as practice for new puppeteers and was used during the screening for Garibaldo, Big Bird's counterpart in Vila Sésamo.
Bigbird-j2e
Big Bird
(2002-present)
This is Matt Vogel's Big Bird puppet. The feathers on his head are fluffier, and the blue lines of his eyelids are a slightly different color to not interfere with the blue-screen background used during the Journey to Ernie segments. When Matt performs Big Bird in street scenes, he has normal eyelid colors.
BabyBigBird
Baby Big Bird
(2006)
Baby Big Bird as seen in Sesame Beginnings.
Predecessor Puppets and Planning
JimBirdSketch63
Gourmet Bird[1]
(1963)
Jim Henson's earliest idea for a walk-around bird puppet was originally designed for a Stouffer's Food commercial which was never produced.[2] The drawing on the right lays out the fundamentals for how the puppet would work, which are largely the same with those that would later be applied to Big Bird.
Rc2
Nutty Bird from Royal Crown Cola ads
(1966)
While not a full-body puppet, Nutty Bird's silly appearance and warm color scheme (including his yellow base, with variations of orange and red) were traits that would be incorporated into Big Bird's design.
Jimhenson-bigbird
Design sketches for Sesame Street
(1969)
Henson's finished color sketch of his initial "goofy" vision for Big Bird. Here, the bird looks noticeably slimmer than how the actual puppet came to be.

Sources

  1. Inches, Alison. Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles. p. 100
  2. Jim Henson's Red Book entry about the conception of Big Bird

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