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Film / I Am Big Bird

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I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story is a 2014 documentary by Copper Pot Pictures about Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer for Big Bird and Oscar on Sesame Street since it began in 1969. It focuses on his beginnings as a puppeteer, his relationship with wife Deb and his characters' meteoric rise to popularity, sprinkled with home movie footage taken by Spinney. The film was funded via Kickstarter.

Compare Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, another independent documentary about a longtime Sesame puppeteer (Kevin Clash).

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This film provides examples of:

  • Cool Old Guy: Caroll himself, given that he was 81 years old at the time of the film's release. Special mention goes to the bungee jumping scene.
  • Creator Breakdown: An In-Universe example. Caroll discussed that he suffered an emotional breakdown for quite a few years during his first marriage to Janice, who didn't appreciate his work at the time, and their eventual divorce in 1971.
  • Driven to Suicide: At one point after his divorce, Caroll once considered committing suicide by jumping out the window of his ninth-floor apartment, but quickly decided not to go through with it.
  • The Film of the Book: This film is an expansion of Caroll's book The Wisdom of Big Birdnote , which discusses many of the same events.
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  • Fourth Date Marriage: Caroll married Deb within two weeks of meeting her.
  • Game Show Appearance: The film opens with a clip of Spinney appearing as a guest on To Tell the Truth.
  • Good Parents: Caroll deeply loved his parents, despite his strict upbringing.
  • Happier Home Movie: A lot of the film is comprised of footage taken by Caroll over the course of his career.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Caroll fell into a long depression when he and Janice divorced. He snapped out of it when he married Deb.
    • When Jim Henson died, Caroll and Deb were left shell-shocked.
  • Just Think of the Potential: Caroll left Bozo the Clown because he wanted to apply his talent to the production of meaningful, stimulating television.
  • Land of Dragons: The production of Big Bird in China is discussed.
  • Medium Blending: The film uses a combination of live action footage (including home video), animation, and archived audio recordings of interviews.
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  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Caroll went looking for a job at Disney, but immediately left upon learning of what he believed to be an abysmal prospective salary.
  • Second Love: After Caroll divorced his first wife Janice in 1971, he was single for a while. In 1979, he married Debra Jean Gilroy.
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