There’s a brand new movie out this week in theaters and on VOD that you’re going to need to check out of you’re a fan of Big Bird. And, come on, who isn’t? He’s taught us everything from our ABCs, to the importance of besties—real or imagined.
But Big Bird isn’t just a gigantic puppet with a sensitive side, he’s man—a great man. Caroll Spinney, has spent 45 years in the yellow suit, and now with the new documentary, I Am Big Bird, we get a glimpse behind the feathers, foam, and the human who’s brought this iconic bird to life.
As it becomes clear through the movie, Spinney and Bird Bird are basically one in the same. In a clip from the movie, Spinney describes how one day he left the Big Bird suit in the care of others, and feathers were pulled off as souvenirs.
“It was like seeing my child… thrown on the ground and destroyed,” Spinney explains, and cried like someone had done that to him, and not just the puppet he portrays. (Don’t worry: The suit was swiftly repaired.)
It’s not always easy being the man behind 6,000 (yup, 6,000) feathers. The doc also reveals that when Spinney first took the job he could barely afford rent on Sesame Street’s $350-a-week salary. Thankfully, Kermit Love, who created the bird costume, convinced him not to quit. Rest assured, Big Bird eventually got a raise.
These days, Spinney is well into his 80s, and he STILL voices Big Bird (though he doesn’t climb into the suit that often: that task now lies with Big Bird’s stand in, Matt Vogel). And he doesn’t have plans to retire — yet.
“Jim [Henson] talked about that the day he hired me,” he explains to Time, “He said, I hope these characters can live on beyond our own lives. Most people don’t hold a job for 45 years. They pass on or want to retire. I don’t want to retire. My real goal is to do 50 years on Sesame Street, and I only got 4-and-a-half years to go.”
Check out a clip from the film and prepare to get your feels on.
Image via here.