Happy Birthday, Big Bird!

Here are some BIG Big Bird Facts:

Big Bird is 8-feet-tall, perpetually six-years-old, and covered in 4,000-feathers.

Caroll Spinney has puppeteered Big Bird since the first “Sesame Street” episode aired in 1969. He also puppeteers Big Bird’s next-door neighbor, Oscar the Grouch. Now 83, Spinney still works on the PBS show as both characters and has no plans for retirement.

There are no eyeholes in the Big Bird suit. Spinney does not have a way to see directly out of the suit, but he does have a small monitor that’s attached to his chest that gives him a third-person view of his actions.Big

Bird could have been on the Space Shuttle Challenger. At one point, Spinney was supposed to be a passenger on Challenger (the NASA space shuttle orbiter that tragically broke apart 73 seconds into its flight in 1986, leaving all of the crew dead). As it happened, NASA approached Spinney about joining the Challenger crew as Big Bird to get more kids interested in space exploration. Spinney says he agreed to go up on the flight about a year and a half before the scheduled launch and then was told a month later that it wouldn’t work out since it would be too difficult to fit the Big Bird suit on the shuttle. Teacher Christa McAuliffe went in his place.

Big Bird does have a successor. Though Spinney has no intentions of retiring, he is preparing for the day he’s no longer able to puppeteer Big Bird. In 1996, “Sesame Street” began the search for the next Big Bird. It was an intimidating process for Spinney, and he was initially frustrated that no one who was auditioning had it quite right. But eventually a winner came along, and that was Matt Vogel (Bonus: his last name means “bird” in German). Since 1998, Vogel, now 47, has been apprenticing with Spinney.

Drivetime 380 w/Justin Roberts & Dan Egger

Drivetime 380 w/Justin Roberts & Dan Egger

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