I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story
Caroll Spinney has been Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969, and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. Named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, Big Bird has captivated children around the world for over 40 years. A puppeteer since he was eight years old, Spinney has been the man inside the bird from the beginning and his characters have been seen on more than 4,000 shows in 148 countries.
Jim Henson, who was working with Joan Ganz Cooney and the Children’s Television Workshop to develop characters for a new educational children’s television show, saw Spinney perform a combined puppetry and animation show at the Puppeteers of America Festival in Salt Lake City in 1969. Henson persuaded Spinney to come to New York to join the cast of Sesame Street, which premiered later that year.
Think you know everything there is to know about Sesame Street? You don’t. You might know that Frank Oz turned down an offer to play Big Bird, but you probably don’t know that until a last minute change of heart by NASA, Big Bird was supposed to go to space aboard the Challenger. Or you may know that Oscar the Grouch got his voice from a cantankerous cabbie, but you’d be surprised to learn that a fire in his trash can almost led to Spinney’s untimely demise. Spinney’s stories are the stuff of legend.
Spinney is the author of The Wisdom of Big Bird (And the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers, an inspirational memoir in which he shares the wisdom that he has gleaned over the years from his work creating and portraying one of the world's most beloved characters. In an honest and endearing tone, Spinney vividly recalls a life enriched by pursuing and attaining his childhood dream.
Spinney has earned four Emmy Awards, two Gold Records and two Grammy Awards. Sesame Street has won numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in using the power of media to help children reach their highest potential.
Innovation, optimism, knowledge and diversity are the values around which Sesame Street is built. At the podium, Spinney entertainingly reveals how these basic values are the building blocks for corporate success. In addition, Spinney’s presentations peel away the instances in his life that inspired his creation of characters that influenced generations of children. And, as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.
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