In 1969, the world was rocked by something so great, so monumental and so important that it is considered one of humanity’s greatest modern achievements. No, I’m not talking about man landing on the moon. I’m talking about Sesame Street, a show which revolutionized children’s TV programming forever. The highly popular program combined education and entertainment seamlessly through song, humor and lots of furry creatures. These creatures were puppets manipulated by a crack team of individuals who certainly knew what they were doing. One of these individuals was (and still is) Caroll Spinney, a man who has been a working member of Sesame Street since its inception. He is better known as Big Bird and he’s even responsible for giving life and voice to Oscar the Grouch. The documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story shines a spotlight on the man inside the bird suit and it’s really quite moving.
There is no doubt that Big Bird is a cultural icon. He has been entertaining audiences both young and old for decades and his very presence is the source of much delight. I Am Big Bird focuses on puppeteer/puppet “wrangler” Spinney since 1969 and there is no one else who can manipulate the character’s body any better. This film gives a intimate look at Spinney’s life from his early days looking for work to his pivotal meeting and working relationship with Jim Henson, the man largely responsible for Sesame Street among other well-known furry franchises (The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, etc.). The film basically shows the man in the suit, the “soul” of Big Bird and the miraculous life the 81-year-old has led.
A major element of I Am Big Bird is the people Spinney has had a huge impact on. Aside from his many fans around the world, Spinney’s wife Debra is the source of a very tender love story. Through rare home video footage, we get a very special inside look at Spinney’s personal life over the years and it is really quite sweet. Aside from that, we also see Spinney as he visited China years ago and how he, Debra and his character not only touched fans there but earned the love and respect of a young Chinese girl living there. Together, these “four” formed a unique bond which continues to thrive to this day. The fact that this bond formed is powerful evidence that Spinney’s positive influence transcended the bird suit and that is truly awe-inspiring.
Fans of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and pretty much all things Sesame Street should certainly check out I Am Big Bird. It is a film that not only focuses on one of the world’s most enduring icons but on a man who has really led an amazing life. Filmmakers Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker (Brownstones to Red Dirt, We Must Go) have painted a gorgeous picture with I Am Big Bird. Their film exquisitely captures the love and respect he had, not only for his work but for his family and adoring fans. Celebrity interviews from Frank Oz and the late Jim Henson coupled with composer Joshua Johnson’s (The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games) stellar piano-driven score make I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story a fantastic documentary in every sense of the word. This is a film that really can’t be seen, it needs to be experienced.