Hot Docs 2014: I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

I_Am_Big_Bird Anyone who grew up watching the long-running children’s television series Sesame Street would likely be familiar with the show’s signature Muppet characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.  However, fans of the show might not be as familiar with Caroll Spinney, the man behind the characters.  Now in his 80s, Spinney is one the last remaining original cast members on Sesame StreetI Am Big Bird tells Spinney’s story, beginning with his work on the Bozo the Clown show to his meeting with Jim Henson and work on Sesame Street.  Spinney often found himself an outsider among the other Muppet performers, but he still had a very close friendship with Henson.  While Big Bird has a lesser role on today’s Sesame Street, Caroll still continues to play the role, with no immediate plans to retire. The most obvious comparison to I Am Big Bird is 2011’s Being Elmo, which focused on fellow Sesame Street performer Kevin Clash.  However, Caroll Spinney’s story is different, since he was part of Sesame Street since the very beginning and is arguably the most iconic character on the show, despite Elmo being more popular in recent years.  As the title of the film suggests, Caroll Spinney and Big Bird are one of the same and it would hard to see another actor take over the role, even though Muppet performer Matt Vogel has been the understudy since 1996. There are many moments when I Am Big Bird seems to be deliberately trying to pull at your heartstrings, particularly a moment from Jim Henson’s memorial service, in which Big Bird is seen singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  Despite one somewhat out of place aside late in the film, I Am Big Bird is overall a very heart-warming tribute to Sesame Street’s signature character. 8 | LIKED IT Screenings:

  • Sun, April 27, 6:00 PM – Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (Scotiabank Big Ideas)
  • Mon, April 28, 11:00 AM – Isabel Bader Theatre
  • Wed, April 30, 1:30 PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
  • Thu, May 1, 1:30 PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
  • Sun, May 4, 4:00 PM – Revue Cinema

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).