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Sesame Street's Big Bird puppeteer retires

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney, famous for playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, is retiring at the age of 84.

Spinney has portrayed the characters – including providing their voices – since the show’s start in 1969.

A statement from the puppeteer was tweeted on Sesame Street’s official Twitter account.

“Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn’t feel like what I was doing was important,” he said.

“Big Bird helped me find my purpose,”

“Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while!,” he added.

Spinney developed a love for puppetry at the age of five after watching a performance of Three Little Kittens.

He explored puppeteering throughout his childhood and teenage years and used his performances to raise money for college tuition.

After serving in the US Air Force, Spinney performed as a professional puppeteer in Las Vegas and Boston in the 1950s and 1960s, eventually meeting Muppets creator Jim Henson in 1962, who also starred in Sesame Street.

Spinney later joined the cast for the show’s inaugural series in 1969.

Spinney’s work on the children’s programme has earned him two Grammy honours and six Emmy awards, plus a Lifetime Achievement Emmy award which he received in 2006.

The puppeteer also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994 and the Library of Congress’ Living Legends award in 2000.

His life and career have been documented in the widely-acclaimed 2014 film, I Am Big Bird.

And perhaps, one of his greatest achievements, was meeting his wife of 45 years, Debra, on the Sesame Street set in 1973.

“His genius and his talent made Big Bird the most beloved yellow feathered friend across the globe,” said Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of the Sesame Workshop.

The iconic role of Big Bird will now be performed by Matt Vogel, Sesame Street’s current Puppet Captain while Oscar the Grouch will be performed by Emmy-nominated puppeteer Eric Jacobson.

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