Original Big Bird Actor Retiring From 'Sesame Street' After 50 Years


Puppeteer Caroll Spinney announced Wednesday that he is retiring from Sesame Street, the television show in which he performed as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

Spinney has worked on Sesame Street since the educational program's debut in 1969. Matt Vogel will take over the role of Big Bird and Eric Jacobson will portray Oscar the Grouch. Spinney mentored both puppeteers.

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Spinney has earned numerous awards over his career including seven Emmys, two Gold Records and two Grammy honors. He co-authored and illustrated his 2003 autobiography The Wisdom of Big Bird and his life was the subject of 2014 documentary, I Am Big Bird.

"Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind and nurtured my soul," Spinney said in a statement.

"And I plan to be an ambassador for Sesame Workshop for many years to come. After all, we're a family! But now it's time for two performers that I have worked with and respected - and actually hand-picked for the guardianship of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch — to take my alter-egos into their hands and continue to give them life," he continued.

Sesame Street paid homage to Spinney on Twitter alongside a photo of the puppeteer next to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

"Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn't feel like what I was doing was very important," a statement from Spinney reads on the show's Twitter account. "Big Bird helped me find my purpose. Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while! They have given me great joy, led me to my true calling and created a lifetime of memories that I will cherish forever."