Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney is retiring from his classic roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch after spending 50 years on the show. Debuting in 1969, Sesame Street now ranks as one of the most acclaimed and popular children's programs of all-time. During its time on the air, the show has won a whopping 167 Emmys and eight Grammys (both records) while educating younger viewers and leaving a lasting impact on their lives. Generations of kids have grown up with characters like Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster as a part of their lives.
Spinney, remarkably, has been there from the beginning, bringing life to Big Bird and Oscar for the past five decades. He actually almost left Sesame Street after the first season due to a pay dispute, but was convinced to stay on. That decision proved to be most worthwhile, as Spinney has received numerous honors including Emmy awards and (as Big Bird) a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's hard to imagine Sesame Street without him, but viewers are about to enter a new era with Spinney now retiring.
The official Sesame Street Twitter account shared the news, saying the roles of Bird Bird and Oscar will be performed by Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson, respectively. You can read Spinney's statement below:
Long-time puppeteer Caroll Spinney has announced that he is stepping down from the roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Spinney is pleased that his iconic roles will be carried on by puppeteers Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson. Learn more: https://t.co/BALgkIPI5q pic.twitter.com/sGMDjqLklQ— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) October 17, 2018
While it will be impossible to truly replace an icon such as Spinney, his Sesame Street characters should be in excellent hands. Vogel has been working with the Jim Henson Company since the 1990s, and was even Spinney's Big Bird understudy. Vogel started performing in the Big Bird suit back in 2016 (Spinney would then provide the voice), so this is a formal passing of the torch Sesame Street has been planning for. Likewise, Jacobson was preparing to take over the Oscar character, becoming Spinney's pupil in 2015. Jacobson also has an extensive history with the Henson Company, currently performing a number of Frank Oz's beloved Muppets characters like Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear. Both should be able to inherit their new full-time roles seamlessly, continuing the grand tradition Spinney started.
As for Spinney, it's a bittersweet moment for fans to see him leave, but he's more than earned the right to step away on his own terms. Soon to be 85-years old, Spinney dedicated a majority of his life to his work, creating memories that will last a lifetime. No matter how many years Sesame Street lasts, Spinney's influence and contributions will forever be felt.
Source: Sesame Street