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Tributes paid to ‘legendary’ puppeteer who brought Big Bird to life

FILE - In this Thursday, April 27, 2006, file photo, Caroll Spinney, right, who portrays "Sesame Street" characters Oscar The Grouch, left, and Big Bird, arrives for the Daytime Emmy nominee party at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Spinney, who gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on "Sesame Street," died Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, at the age of 85 at his home in Connecticut, according to the Sesame Workshop. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, April 27, 2006, file photo, Caroll Spinney, right, who portrays "Sesame Street" characters Oscar The Grouch, left, and Big Bird, arrives for the Daytime Emmy nominee party at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Spinney, who gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on "Sesame Street," died Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, at the age of 85 at his home in Connecticut, according to the Sesame Workshop. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Caroll Spinney carved out a “legendary” career as he brought to life Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – and earned them a place in the hearts of generations of children.

Spinney, who has died at the age of 85, began working on the iconic children’s show when it launched in 1969 and is estimated to have taken part in more than 4,400 episodes.

Big Bird was a source of comfort for hundreds of children and 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 named a “living legend” by the Library of Congress.

Sesame Street co-founder, Joan Ganz Cooney, said: “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.”

Spinney was remembered by his Sesame Street co-stars at the 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony in Washington on Sunday.

In a poignant tribute, the show’s cast members David Rudman (Cookie Monster), Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (Abby Cadabby), Ryan Dillon (Elmo), Peter Linz (Ernie) and Eric Jacobson (Bert) wore yellow feathers pinned to their chests as they attended the ceremony with their puppets in hand.

 

Spinney was with the show since its first season, and retired last year.

Big Bird, the enormous 8 foot 2 inch anthropomorphic canary, was designed by Jim Henson and and Kermit Love in 1969.

 

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