Long-time Sesame Street actor and puppeteer Caroll Spinney died at the age of 85 on Sunday, Sesame Workshop has confirmed. In a statement, the organization revealed that Spinney had been living with Dystonia, a muscular disorder, for some time before his death.
In a statement, Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said of Spinney's legacy, "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 best known for his voice and puppeteering work with the characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, from the series' 1969 premiere until 2018. He also brought the characters to screen in several companion films and series, including The Muppet Movie, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, to name a few. He even brought Oscar and Big Bird to other pieces of pop culture, including The Electric Company, Scrubs, The West Wing, and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
Spinney announced his retirement from Sesame Street last year after almost 50 years of working with the children's program. At the time, he said of his work, "Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind and nurtured my soul."
Spinney won several Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on the series as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994.
Caroll Spinney, the legendary puppeteer behind beloved Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, died today, December 8th 2019, at age 85 at his home in Connecticut, after living with Dystonia for some time. https://t.co/q7FVDul5WT pic.twitter.com/CvWBD0NQyp— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) December 8, 2019