Big Bird is a full-body Muppet, featured on the children's television show Sesame Street, which airs on PBS. He is sometimes referred to as "Bird" by his friends.
Officially performed by Carroll Spinney since 1969, he is an eight-foot two-inch tall bright yellow Canary. He can Roller skate, Ice skate, Dance, sing, write Poetry, draw and even ride a Unicycle. But despite this wide array of talents, he is prone to frequent misunderstandings, on one occasion even singing the alphabet as one big long word, pondering what it could ever mean. He lives in a large nest behind the 123 Sesame Street brownstone and he has a teddy bear named Radar, which is a nod to Radar O'Reilly of M*A*S*H (TV series), who had a teddy bear and was also lovably naive and innocent. Also, Radar was given to Big Bird by Gary Burghoff (who played Radar on M*A*S*H) when he guest starred on the show. Later on, however, it was said that Big Bird got the bear as a gift from Mr. Hooper.
As Muppeteer Caroll Spinney has aged, the show has gradually started to train new performers to play Big Bird. These apprentices include both Rick Lyon in the opening theme song of the show's 33rd season on, and Matt Vogel in the show's Journey to Ernie segment.
Caroll Spinney was sick during the taping of a few first season episodes, so Daniel Seagren performed Big Bird in those episodes. He also performed Big Bird when he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969. According to The Story of Jim Henson by Stephanie St. Pierre, the costume was built for Jim Henson to perform, but when Jim Henson tried it on, Kermit Love, who had built the costume, did not think that Jim Henson was walking like a bird is supposed to walk, and Jim decided not to perform Big Bird. Frank Oz was offered the part, but since he hated performing full-body characters, he turned down the job.
The Big Bird performer is completely enclosed within the costume, and extends his right hand over his head to operate the head and neck of the puppet. The Muppeteer's left hand serves as the Bird's left hand, while the right hand is stuffed and hangs loosely from a fishing line that runs through a loop under the neck and attaches to the wrist of the left hand. The right hand thus does the opposite of the left hand: as the left hand goes down, the right hand is pulled up by the fishing line. For some of the Journey to Ernie segments, a second puppeteer (usually Jim Martin) controls Big Bird's right hand. He is concealed by dressing in a body suit the same color as their Chroma key background (something that obviously can not be done on the main Sesame Street set).
The costume is partially assembled by company American Plume & Fancy Feather, using the tail feathers from turkeys; as the feathers are rarely clean, company owner Anthony Trento calls the Big Bird costume his "toughest customer". Sesame Workshop is said to reject roughly 90 percent of all the feathers selected for use on the costume.
- The original Big Bird had fewer feathers, making his head and body look smaller.
- Big Bird's birthday is March 20.
- Two former NHL hockey players, Larry Robinson and Don Saleski, were nicknamed Big Bird, because of their height and curly hair.
- Big Bird's physical address is 123 1/2 Sesame Street (ZIP code unknown).
- In the Dutch version of Sesame Street, Sesamstraat, the Big Bird character is known as Pino and is not yellow but blue.
- Until 1977 a dubbed version was shown in Germany called Sesamstraße until it was replaced by a German production with other characters not from the original Sesame Street. Big Bird was called Bibo there.
- Big Bird appeared at the closing of Jim Henson's memorial service, singing "Bein' Green" to the audience. Throughout the song, he was close to tears and sounded very upset. At the end of the song, he looked up to the Sky and said, voice breaking, "Thank you, Kermit."
- On the turkey version of Sesame Street, Big Bird is not yellow, but it is orange. His name is also changed to "Minik Kuş" which means "Little Bird".
- Big Bird got his characteristic white patch of feathers on his forehead when he picked up what appeared to be snow and patted it onto it during winter.
Appearances in popular cultureRectify
- The Animal Planet program The 50 Greatest TV Animals included Big Bird at number 16 in their list.
- Big Bird is the only Muppet to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In 1977, he posed with pitcher Mark Fidrych.
- Big Bird appeared on an episode of Between the Lions entitled "Tweet, Tweet".
- Big Bird appeared in the episode "Eppur Si Muove (The West Wing)" of The West Wing (TV series).
- Big Bird visited Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1981.
- Big Bird also made an appearance in The Muppet Movie as a wandering bird on the highway. He was offered a lift by Kermit and Fozzie, but declined, stating that he was trying to break into public television in New York City.
- Big Bird has also appeared on a few game shows over the years. Some notable examples:
- On an episode of What's My Line?, Big Bird appeared as the "Mystery Guest".
- On several occasions in the 1970s, Big Bird appeared as a semi-regular panelist on The Hollywood Squares. He also made a week-long appearance on the John Davidson (entertainer) version of the show in the late 80s. He even appeared on Tom Bergeron's version in the late 90s and early 2000s.
- Big Bird also made an appearance on a special episode of Deal or No Deal (US game show), on Christmas Day (December 25), 2006. The contestant at the time said he had always been afraid of Big Bird.
- Big Bird appeared at the end of a Ford commercial saying to youngsters, "Remember-in the back seat!" The kids get in and say, "And buckle up!"
- On Full House, Michelle refers to Big Bird, particularly in the season 4 episode "Rock the Cradle" when she draws Big Bird in Pictionary. She also suggests that Uncle Jesse calls the new baby Big Bird.
- Simon, Ellen. "He's Big Bird: Caroll Spinney loves every feather", Associated Press via Google News, 16 June 2008. Accessed 19 June 2008.
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