NOTE: This page is dedicated to the late Carol Spinney (1933-2019).
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Big Bird is a Muppet character designed by Jim Henson and built by Kermit Love for the children's television show Sesame Street.
The world-famous bird has been a central character on Sesame Street for the program's run, debuting in the first episode. The big yellow bird can roller skate, ice skate, dance, sing, write poetry, draw and even ride a unicycle — pretty talented for a character described in the TV show's writer's guide as a 6-year-old. But despite this wide array of talents, he's prone to frequent misunderstandings, like thinking that the alphabet is one long word.
Big Bird lives in a large nest behind 123 Sesame Street and next to Oscar's trash can, and he has a teddy bear named Radar.
Big Bird helps children feel all right about not knowing everything because he himself does not know everything, and encourages them to inquire: a common Big Bird phrase has been "Asking questions is a good way of finding things out!" He also teaches other life, alphabet, and numerical lessons: "I guess it's better to be who you are. Turns out people like you best that way, anyway."
Big Bird is also known to make friends easily. As a central character, Big Bird historically has been the first to welcome a new visitor or resident to Sesame Street in several storylines, often guiding them around the neighborhood and introducing them to the locals. One famous example is Episode 4109, which introduces Abby Cadabby to the cast. Big Bird commented on his amiability in a 2019 interview with Time, saying "Maybe people see big 8-ft. birds a lot and they just feel comfortable. I don't know. I think it's just because I'm a friendly bird."
For many years, his best friend Mr. Snuffleupagus (who Big Bird calls Snuffy) was deemed as imaginary by the adults on Sesame Street. Every time Snuffy would visit, he would coincidentally leave just before the adults arrived. Despite not being believed by the adults, Big Bird continued to assert that Snuffy was real. In the early 1980s, a string of high-profile child sexual abuse cases caused Sesame Workshop (then Children's Television Workshop) to eliminate this running gag, fearing that children would take to heart the message that, if adults don't believe something out of the ordinary even when they are telling the truth, they'd be just as well off to remain silent.
Big Bird's closest human friendship, however, for many years was with storekeeper Mr. Hooper, who made his birdseed milkshakes. Big Bird's inability to say the storekeeper's name correctly (most often rendered as "Mr. Looper") was a source of frustration, but they remained close. Big Bird took center stage on Sesame Street in the early 1980s, when the show dealt with the death of Mr. Hooper (necessitated by the death of Will Lee, the actor who played the role). Big Bird got confused when he tried to go into Hooper's Store to give Mr. Hooper his drawing Big Bird made of and for him. The adults, including Maria, David, Bob, Susan, Gordon, Olivia and Luis tell Big Bird that Mr. Hooper is not coming back because he's dead, and when people die, they don't come back. ("Ever?" "No, never.") Big Bird's realization that Mr. Hooper wasn't just gone temporarily, and Big Bird's acceptance of Mr. Hooper's death, have been hailed as a milestone in children's programming.
Big Bird starred on the big screen in the 1985 film Follow That Bird, in which he is sent by Miss Finch, a bird social worker, to live with a foster family of Dodos. He soon runs away from his new home to get back to Sesame Street and he is kidnapped and dyed baby blue by two ratty carnival-owners. He also had a role in the feature film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and starred in the feature-length specials Big Bird in China and Big Bird in Japan.
Big Bird also appeared in cameo roles in the films The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan and the television special A Muppet Family Christmas, and as a guest on The Muppet Show episode 318, plus a variety of outside TV appearances.
Why He's Big as a Bird and is Big Bird
- For starters, Big Bird has a distinctive, memorable, great, and iconic design with his large size, bright yellow feathers, and friendly demeanor. The visual appeal makes him easily recognizable and relatable to audiences, especially children.
- Big Bird is known for his innocence, kindness, and curiosity. His friendly and optimistic endearing personality resonates with viewers, creating a likable and endearing character.
- Sesame Street has been on the air since 1969, and Big Bird has been a central character from the beginning. The character's long presence on the show has allowed multiple generations to grow up with and form a connection to Big Bird because of his longevity.
- Sesame Street is renowned for its educational content, and Big Bird plays a key role in conveying educational messages. His interactions with other characters often involve lessons on friendship, sharing, and learning, contributing to his popularity among parents and educators.
- Big Bird serves as a surrogate for the young viewers. His experiences, questions, and discoveries often mirror those of the target audience, making him relatable to children and helping them learn about the world around them.
- Big Bird has become a cultural icon, appearing in various forms of media, merchandise, and even on the covers of magazines.
- The character's widespread recognition has contributed to his enduring popularity.
- Big Bird's character has been part of emotional and impactful storylines on Sesame Street.
- Notably, the episode dealing with the death of Mr. Hooper helped children understand and cope with loss, strengthening the emotional connection viewers have with Big Bird.
- In episode 4265, he stood up to the good birds club when they said he wasn't good enough because of his appearance, and when he tried to change it, his real friends (Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Chris in this case) didn't like that he wanted to change himself, and when he changed himself, he didn't like it because he wasn't being who he liked to be.
- He has a few funny moments in the show, such as pretending there was a monster in Gabi's bed after he got scared thinking there was one on her bed.
- Big Bird's innocence is another charming quality. His outlook on the world is often untarnished by cynicism, making him a source of pure and genuine joy.
- Despite facing challenges and uncertainties, Big Bird remains resilient. He bounces back from setbacks, displaying a positive attitude and an ability to persevere.
- Big Bird is known for his friendly nature. He warmly interacts with other characters on Sesame Street, fostering a sense of community and demonstrating the importance of kindness.
- He also really cares for his friends and is almost never rude to anyone, such as Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby, and his best friend Snuffy, and even people who don't like him at all.
- Big Bird's imagination is vast and colorful. He often engages in imaginative play, encouraging creativity and demonstrating the value of thinking outside the box.
- Big Bird's curiosity drives him to ask questions and seek knowledge. This curiosity fosters a love for learning, aligning with Sesame Street's educational mission.
- Big Bird's gentle demeanor is evident in his interactions with others. His approach promotes a culture of understanding and acceptance, emphasizing the importance of treating others with kindness.
- He cares a lot for and takes good care of his nest that he lives in, and while it was evident that he loved his nest from the beginning, it is most notable when there was a hurricane on Sesame Street and it blew away when he wasn't at his nest.
- Carroll Spinney, his portrayer does an excellent job in his role with Big Bird, like Oscar.
- Matt Vogel also does a decent job voicing him.
- Big Bird's optimistic outlook helps create a positive atmosphere on Sesame Street. His hopeful attitude contributes to the show's overall message of inclusivity and the belief that challenges can be overcome.
- Big Bird often displays generosity, sharing with his friends and emphasizing the importance of generosity and sharing in a community.
- In summary, Big Bird's popularity can be attributed to a combination of his unique design, positive personality, educational role, cultural impact, and the emotional connections formed through years of Sesame Street storytelling.
- Big Bird's innocence and trusting nature can sometimes lead to his naivety. He may be easily swayed or deceived due to his lack of suspicion, making him vulnerable in certain situations.
- While he can be sympathetic sometimes, other times, when something he doesn't like happens, he can come off as whiny.
- While he was still likable, he was flanderized in the Journey to Ernie segment, because he became a Steve/Joe/Josh-like host who treats the show's target audience as if they had the mind of a goldfish in a similar manner as other preschool show characters who try to compete with Sesame Street.
- The early design of Big Bird looked creepy to children. Thankfully, it started to improve by the end of Season 2.
- Originally, Big Bird was initially intended to be a minor character
- He was claimed to be a "living legend" by the United States liberty of Congress, as seen in the YouTube video: Big Bird takes a lie detector test.
- His voice actor, Caroll Spinney also played Oscar The Grouch, and surprisingly, in 1 early deleted scene, Cookie Monster.
- He has his own star on the hollywood walk of fame.
- His favorite food is Birdseed Milkshakes.