Legendary puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who brought to life Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, has died at the age of 85. Sesame Workshop confirmed the news on Sunday morning, saying Spinney had been living with the movement disorder Dystonia for some time.
“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,” a post from Sesame Workshop says.
“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.”
As Spinney’s condition caused him greater discomfort, he handed over Big Bird duties to his apprentice Matt Vogel in 2015 before fully retiring from voice acting completely in 2018. That’s the same year Eric Jacobson was tasked with taking over the role of Oscar the Grouch.
Spinney leaves behind his wife Debra, his children, grandchildren, and a legacy of laughs via the characters he portrayed with great humor and creativity for so much of his life.
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