Caroll Spinney, 'Sesame Street' Puppeteer Behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Dead at 85

Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Big Bird, died on Sunday, Sesame Workshop announced. He was 85.  

Spinney, who also operated and voiced Oscar the Grouch, died at his home in Connecticut after living with dystonia for some time.

Spinney was born in December 1933 in Waltham, Massachusetts, and initially met Jim Henson at a puppetry festival in 1962. He was with Sesame Street from its very start in 1969 until his retirement in October 2018, and earned five Daytime Emmy Awards for his contributions to the iconic children's program. He also received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 2006. 

"Caroll Spinney's contributions to Sesame Street are countless," Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said of her longtime colleague and friend. "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."

Spinney is survived by his wife, Debra, and his children and grandchildren. His life was the focus of the 2014 documentary, I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story. See fans' reactions to his death below. 

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