The Most Crazy Facts About Big Bird

1.He’s Not Real (Shhh, Don’t Tell the Kiddies

Yes, it’s true, there’s a person inside that yellow suit. The man who brought Big Bird to life is Caroll Spinney, a puppeteer who met Jim Henson in 1962.Although Spinney’s childhood years were rocky (a loving mother was overruled by an abusive father), he was still able to convey the wonder and delight of childhood through Big Bird. In an odd-couple pairing, Spinney also voiced Oscar the Grouch.Maneuvering the bird costume is no easy task. The puppeteer stands upright and raises his right arm to elevate big bird’s head. He moves the mouth with his hand while controlling the eyes with his little finger. The right arm is hooked to the left by a string, and when the left is moved, the right moves in tandem. Big bird’s suit weighs 4.5 kilograms (10 lb), his head is 1.8 kilograms (4 lb), and according to writer Louise Gikow, the heat inside the suit can be “unbearable.”[2]As the puppeteer is completely enclosed in the costume and cannot see, he must wear a TV monitor strapped to his chest. Spinney called this his electronic bra. He also taped his script to the monitor, which means he was reading, watching the monitor, and operating all parts of the costume while trying to walk and not trip over carpets, TV cables, and so on. If all of this sounds like a lot to do at one time, you’re right.In October 2018, Caroll Spinney, age 84, retired from Sesame Street. He turned the character of Big Bird over to his understudy, Matt Vogel.

2.The Stunts

Since Big Bird is a stand-alone character able to interact with his environment, the producers of Sesame Street have involved him in all kinds of antics.[4] Big Bird can roller-skate, ice-skate, dance, sing, write poetry, draw, ride horseback, and even ride a unicycle.Given the complexity of walking in the suit, one wonders how it’s possible for Big Bird to roller-skate or ride a unicycle. These are skills some people can’t master at all, much less while wearing a giant costume with enormous feet (and don’t forget that the puppeteer is holding his hand up over his head while basically blindfolded).The Sesame Street staff is actually rather close-mouthed about how it’s all done, and Spinney is modest about his acrobatic skills. When asked about the unicycle stunt, he said, “As for the unicycle, I don’t know how to ride one. It’s the suit, it’s all the suit.” If the test of a great performer is one who can make the impossible look easy, then Spinney fits the bill.

3.Accosted And Stabbed!

Stabbed? Or so it seemed. Sesame Street was doing a live show for a large audience of children. Producers had begun to experiment with the new technology of wireless microphones, and Big Bird had one in his suit. Staffers were unaware they had to clear a channel, and to everyone’s surprise, the mic picked up the voice of a trucker on his CB radio making evening plans with his girlfriend. Before it got too R-rated, the feed was killed, and someone stuck a regular mike through Big Bird’s costume. Problem solved? Not really. To the children’s horror, it looked like Big Bird had been stabbed in the heart.[5]Spinney recalled another upsetting incident in the 1970s where Big Bird was attacked. Slated to perform a live show for 6,000 people at Georgia Tech University, Spinney left the suit in an empty storeroom while he went for lunch. Later, as he lounged in the grass outside, Spinney noticed several ROTC members walking away with large yellow feathers tucked in their hats. Alarmed, he raced back to the storeroom and discovered that Big Bird had been accosted. Not only were there several bald spots in the suit, but one eye had been wrenched out in an unsuccessful attempt to take it as a souvenir.Spinney was heartbroken, feeling like he’d left his child in harm’s way. He vowed to be more careful in the future.

4.Globe-Trotter And Spy

Big Bird is the ultimate jet-setter and has traveled the world doing concerts, live shows, and book tours. He’s been to Australia, Japan, all over Europe, and even spent three weeks on location in China while filming his special, Big Bird in China.According to Caroll Spinney, during the filming, their translators were convinced that the Sesame Street crew were spies and submitted reports on everything they did.Another of Big Bird’s favorite gigs is making guest appearances with various orchestras. Most memorable was Big Bird’s evening with the Boston Pops, where maestro Arthur Fiedler stepped aside and let the big yellow bird conduct.

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