The man behind both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch — Caroll Spinney — has died at the age of 85. As both a puppeteer and a voice actor, Spinney defined not only two of the most beloved characters on Sesame Street but also influenced countless childhoods for the past five decades. In 2018, Spinney formally retired from Sesame Street, ending 49-years of continuous work.
If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around the absolutely amazing amount of time one person dedicated to making so many children happy, you’re not alone. Online and elsewhere, people are mourning the loss of Spinney, but also, celebrating his life’s work and thoughtful impact on the lives of children, and parents, everywhere. Someone who can both be a grouch and an aspirational look-on-the-bright-side flightless bird demonstrates not just great kids’ entertainment, but a smart and nuanced way of thinking about the world.
Here are the most heartwarming and thoughtful tributes to Spinney online right now. From Frank Oz, to Mark Hamill to children’s author Mo Willems, each of these comments will remind you why Spinney was great, but also, give you a new perspective on why Sesame Street continues to matter so much.
Caroll Spinney, the legendary puppeteer behind beloved Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died today, December 8th 2019, at age 85 at his home in Connecticut, after living with Dystonia for some time. https://t.co/q7FVDul5WT pic.twitter.com/CvWBD0NQyp
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) December 8, 2019
Almost 50 years ago Carrol was working with Jim on Oscar’s voice in the small Muppets Studio on 53rd Street and 2nd ave in NYC. But it was Big Bird who grew into being the character most emblematic of Sesame Street. And Carrol’s spirit made that happen. What an amazing legacy.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) December 9, 2019
— Mark HoHoHoHamill (@HamillHimself) December 8, 2019
Spinney also liked to paint pictures of Big Bird. This one was called “In My Dreams I Can Fly.” pic.twitter.com/phsEgYL34B
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) December 8, 2019
First day on the set of Sesame Street as a writer I was 25 and very nervous. Carol Spinney went out of his way to make the new kid feel at home. He was the nicest grouch ever. RIP.
— Mo Willems' Pigeon (@The_Pigeon) December 8, 2019
The original Big Bird Caroll Spinney has passed away at 85. On the outside, he made it all look simple. On the inside, Big Bird was incredibly complex. This look gave me a new appreciation inside his genius. pic.twitter.com/BjRZI752PU
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 8, 2019
— Steven Canals (@StevenCanals) December 8, 2019
If you feel like crying- here’s Caroll Spinney performing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” at Jim Henson’s funeral. pic.twitter.com/qN0Yn3URE7
— Jesse McLaren (@McJesse) December 8, 2019
— Katharine (@GDgeek) December 8, 2019
The Muppet Movie has one of the greatest meta jokes ever made.
And it’s delivered by our favorite feathered friend 💛pic.twitter.com/tfolsx66gG
— 🎄Muppet History 🕎 (@HistoryMuppet) December 9, 2019