Story: Sesame Street has been a consistent presence in the lives of generation after generation of children and one of its most famous residents, Big Bird, has become nothing short of a genuine pop culture icon. The show has been filled with colorful, beloved characters, but Big Bird managed to connect a level even deeper than most of the Sesame Street denizens. In I Am Big Bird, we are taken on a deep dive of the character and his rise to iconic status, a journey that is driven by his masterful puppeteer, Carol Spinney. Spinney would bring Big Bird to life for decades and give the character his spirit, through voice and movement. In this piece, we learn not just about Big Bird as a character, but also about Spinney, the brilliant artist behind the character’s success.
Entertainment Value: I have to admit upfront, I am a fanboy for Sesame Street, so I am biased when it comes to this picture. The story of Carol Spinney and his creation of Big Bird is told here, allowing us to see so much behind the scenes footage, including some of Spinney’s earlier work, on programs like Bozo the Clown’s show. I love seeing archival footage of Sesame Street, so the behind the scenes material was so cool to me, I couldn’t get enough. I Am Big Bird is smart about how it uses the archival footage as well, showcasing Spinney’s performance and the immense work that was involved, as well as showing a more social aspect to the show’s production. I was captivated by the scenes where we could see the scenes come together and how the puppeteers work, both solo and together, to bring these creative, educational content to life.
As much as I enjoyed the behind the scenes material, the story of Spinney himself is just as interesting and is told with skill here. The movie backtracks to his youth and guides us as Spinney finds his way as an artist, culminating of course with bringing Big Bird to life. Spinney himself takes us through every step of his career before and during his time on Sesame Street, sharing stories from the sets and letting us inside his personal life throughout as well. His friends, family, and colleagues recall their memories and stories about Spinney and Big Bird in insightful interviews, including the difficult topic of Big Bird’s legacy beyond Spinney’s career. This is a warm, well made documentary that has good interviews, interesting information, and a nostalgia element, not to mention that behind the scenes footage. Anyone who appreciates documentaries or grew up with Sesame Street should give this a look, as I Am Big Bird is a wonderful experience.