I Am Big Bird : The Carol Spinney Story

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8/10

The character of Big Bird has been an icon to the greatest kids television show of all time; Sesame Street. But who is the man underneath the mountain of feathers? For 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. “I Am Big Bird” is a portrait at the backstory of the birth of one of America’s greatest puppets, and a biography of the talent that isn’t seen beneath the surface of the world’s largest bird. As a longtime fan of “Sesame Street”, i really enjoyed this documentary giving the audience a nice peek behind a closed curtain. The film’s greatest strength lies within it’s ability to show that the bird and Carol are one in the same. One scene in particular speaks of vandals tearing apart the Big Bird costume, and Carol’s reaction to seeing this as the equivalent of watching one of his children die. The suit is insured, the show costs were lightly harmed, but yet this man feels hurt from watching something that isn’tliving being ripped apart. That is where the legend of Mr Spinney really resides; it’s a man with a heart of gold who came from an abusive relationship from his father, but didn’t let those tough times determine who he was as a person. Director Chad N Walker (We Must Go) comes across as more than just a casual fan, as he includes a nice mix¬†of show moments, behind the scenes runthroughs, as well as a wide range of past Sesame Street actors from different generations of the show’s history to speak. It makes for the perfect nostalgic treat. It’s all done with agentle, sentimental touch, and it makes for a reflection on such a warm man. Big Bird only works because he is being played by a man who embodied childhood innocence every year of his life. The documentary misses some points to dive a little more into Spinney’s earlier life. There are explanations on his depression, as well as his abusive father, but this picture always feels like it’s missing that one thing to make it compelling to someone who wasn’t a “Sesame Street” fan. There also isn’t as much of a look at Oscar the Grouch as the trailer promised. These things don’t ever hurt the film in the slightest, but i felt that a little more time could’ve been added to the less than ninety minute feature to explore these sides, giving it a wider range of emotional depth. It was cool to see so many of the episodes and scenes that have stuck with me for thirty years, and i would greatly recommend this to anyone inexperienced with how these Jim Henson creations work. It really is a fascinating look to see how physical the part of this eight foot tall bird is for such an aging veteran, but Carol Spinney has no plans to retire anytime soon. As he says in the documentary, “Artists don’t quit painting just because they get old. Why would i quit something that gives me such happiness?” Well said Mr Spinney. You inspire us all to “Push the clouds away”.

 

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