“Sesame Street” Puppeteer Caroll Spinney, Who Portrayed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Dead at 85

Spinney played the beloved characters for nearly 50 years

Oscar the Grouch and Caroll Spinney attend Eight Over Eighty 2016 Gala at Mandarin Oriental New York on April 11, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Steve Zak Photography/Getty Images)
Oscar the Grouch and Caroll Spinney attend Eight Over Eighty 2016 Gala at Mandarin Oriental New York on April 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Zak Photography/Getty Images)
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By Bonnie Stiernberg / December 8, 2019 1:12 pm

Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer behind beloved Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, has passed away at the age of 85 according to a statement by the Sesame Workshop.

Spinney, who had been “living with Dystonia for some time” died in his home in Connecticut today (Dec. 8). He portrayed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street from the show’s inception in 1969 to 2018. In 2014, he was the subject of a documentary called I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.

“Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending,” the show’s statement reads. “His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.”

“Caroll Spinney gave something truly special to the world,” it continues. “With deepest admiration, Sesame Workshop is proud to carry his memory – and his beloved characters – into the future. Our hearts go out to Caroll’s beloved wife, Debra, and all of his children and grandchildren.”

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