Big Bird And Oscar The Grouch Puppeteer Caroll Spinney Stepping Down After 50 Years

Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch aren't going anywhere, but the man who brought them to life for the past 50 years Caroll Spinney is stepping away from the childhood icons.

Sesame Workshop announced today that Spinney, the puppeteer who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on the seminal kids show since 1969, will be retiring from the position. The good news is that he has already picked his successors, as Big Bird will be performed by Matt Vogel who also performs Count von Count and Oscar the Grouch will be performed by Eric Jacobson, who also performs Grover and Bert.

“Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind and nurtured my soul,” Spinney said. “And I plan to be an ambassador for Sesame Workshop for many years to come. After all, we’re a family! But now it’s time for two performers that I have worked with and respected – and actually hand-picked for the guardianship of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – to take my alter-egos into their hands and continue to give them life.”

“Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn’t feel like what I was doing was very important," Spinney said. "Big Bird helped me find my purpose. Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while! They have given me great joy, led me to my true calling – and my wonderful wife! – and created a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever.”

Spinney initially met Jim Henson at a puppetry festival in 1962, and when Henson started creating the Muppets for Sesame Street he brought Spinney in, and ever since he's been at the helm of Big Bird ever since.

“Caroll has been one of the leading lights of Sesame Street from the very beginning,” said Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Sesame Workshop. “His genius and his talent made Big Bird the most beloved yellow feathered friend across the globe. But the sheer artistry of Caroll is that he also brought Oscar to life and made him the most lovable Grouch in the world.”

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“Since 1969, Caroll’s kind and loving view of the world has helped shape and define this institution,” said Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop’s President and CEO. “Throughout his unparalleled career, Caroll Spinney gave something truly special to the world. With deepest admiration, Sesame Workshop is proud to carry his legacy – and his beloved characters – into the future.”

You can find the full tribute to Caroll right here.