Caroll Spinney, a puppeteer who brought the beloved Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life, died today at his Connecticut home. He was 85 and died from Dystonia, a movement disorder.
His death was announced by the Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit focused on helping preschool-age children reach their potential.
Spinney was described by Sesame Workshop as “an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969.”
Spinney joined Jim Henson and developed a huge career using the Muppets characters. Big Bird visited China with Bob Hope, danced with the Rockettes, was celebrated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a US postage stamp, and was named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress.
A favorite highlight for Spinney was conducting symphony orchestras and performing with them across the United States, Australia, and China, allowing him to personally connect with families everywhere through the music of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said of her longtime colleague and friend, “Caroll Spinney’s contributions to Sesame Street are countless. He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well. We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world.”
Survivors include Caroll’s wife, Debra, several children and grandchildren. No memorial plans have been announced