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Caroll Spinney

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CarollBig&Oscar
Spinneybird

A young Caroll Spinney with Big Bird.

Carolloscaremmys

Caroll Spinney with Oscar the Grouch at the Daytime Emmys in 2007.

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Picklepuss

Spinney with his character Picklepuss (the rebuilt Muppet version).

Oscar & Spinney

Spinney and Oscar at his book signing in NYC.

Caroll BB Feet
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SpinneyinBird
SpinneyOscarKids

Caroll Edwin Spinney (b. December 26, 1933) has performed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street for over 40 years. In a 2008 Washington Times article, Spinney said that even though performing Big Bird is physically demanding work, he 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, appearing in the summer series The Judy and Goggle Show as a puppeteer opposite Judy Valentine, performing Goggle the bird.

When Judy and Goggle was moved out of its slot for station WHDH-TV's returning programming, both Spinney and Valentine were offered a berth on the Boston broadcast of Bozo's Big Top in 1959. Spinney played a variety of hand-puppet creations, usually in one-off skits, and also played Bozo's grandmother Grandma Nellie (in full clown-make-up) and several recurring costumed characters. These included Flip-Flop the Rag Doll, Kookie Kangaroo (a failed boxer), and Mr. Lion, "the fastest draw alive." The latter role combined Spinney's performing and cartoonist skills, creating quick sketches for the kids.

In the 1960s, Spinney created two puppet cats, Picklepuss and Pop, who he performed in various venues, including stage shows and some Bozo broadcasts. 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 1969, Spinney met Jim Henson at the Puppeteers' of America Festival in Salt Lake City, following an ambitious experimental presentation (hosted by Picklepuss), which combined different live-puppetry techniques with film projections. The show went awry due to various technical issues and other problems, but afterwards, Henson told him that he "liked what you were trying to do." Henson then asked Spinney if he wanted to work with him on a new children's show being developed.[4] 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 a 2003 autobiography 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. His artwork was featured in a 2010/2011 exhibit at ToonSeum. A documentary about Spinney titled I Am Big Bird is slated to premiere in Spring 2013.

Muppet 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."[5]
  • Spinney almost left Sesame Street before the second season, due to a low salary, the expense of living in New York, and an offer to produce his own Picklepuss show in Boston 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.[7]
  • For some time, his name was spelled as Carroll Spinney, with two r's in his first name.[8]

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." [9]

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

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. Spinney, Caroll The Wisdom of Big Bird, page 21-25.
  5. Twardzik, Cathleen. Meet the man behind Big Bird, Parents and Kids. February 19, 2007.
  6. Spinney, Caroll. The Wisdom of Big Bird, page 132.
  7. Spinney, Caroll. The Wisdom of Big Bird, pages 63-65.
  8. Jim Henson's Red Book entry, 8/1969 – P. of A. Festival. Salt Lake City – met Carroll Spinney. Asked him to join us.
  9. Library of Congress website.

Start a Discussion Discussions about Caroll Spinney

  • ID That Bandleader

    4 messages
    • I agree it certainly look like him. Well one way could be to ask Caroll about it, maybe it's possible to ask the question through copper pot...
    • Yeah, I knew this might be tricky to answer, but I thought it would be a good use of the forums to park the info. *Possibly* there may...

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