Posted on April 23, 2014
I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story
Director: Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina
Program: Special Presentations
Run Time: 85 minutes
From Bozo the Clown to Oscar the Grouch, Caroll Spinney has been enriching the lives of adults and children alike for nearly 45 years. At 80 years old, he is the last remaining member of the original Sesame Street puppeteers. With very little known about his private life, we’re given a rare and heartwarming look into the man behind the feathers. Through interviews, a host of home videos, and archival clips, we see both the man and his characters exposed. We are shown the various events that have shaped Spinney’s life – tragedy, a wonderful love story, and a near venture into space aboard the ill-fated Challenger. What’s left is a wonderful man, an artist and entertainer, and a legacy that has carried generations.
An absolutely beautiful and captivating film, Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina have managed to allow us a glimpse at the very private life of one of the most beloved figures in children’s entertainment of the past century. We’re shown his complexity as a human being, and his natural embodiment of the dichotomy between Oscar and Big Bird. Touching interviews with family members affirm his dedication as a father, husband, and professional. Unwavering in his commitment to anything he undertook, he’s spent his life being all things to all people, and doing so with humour and humility.
While the film is a treasure to watch, there’s a profound sadness that punctuates its joy. The legacy is ending, and he is the last of a different breed of human. While Big Bird will live on through the ages, the times have changed, and so too has the nature of entertainment. There’s an unshakable sensation that you’re watching a heartbreaking resignation, and anyone who grew up with Sesame Street or any of Jim Henson’s creations will surely feel nostalgic pangs that teeter on the edge of heartbreak. You will laugh, and you will cry, but most importantly you will remember a time when a big fuzzy bird taught you togetherness and unquestionable love.