As a child, it didn’t even occur to me that Sesame Street’s Big Bird was anything more than a large puppet. I simply accepted him as part of the other characters on Sesame Street. And as I grew up and gave up such childish notions, I thought little of the person that inhabited Big Bird. That was until I received a free ticket to the documentary, I am Big Bird.
So it was with some anticipation and curiousity, I sidled into Cinema Nova. Directed by Chad N Walker and Dave LaMattina, I am Big Bird is the story of Caroll Spinney, who is the voice and person inside Big Bird.
And not to give too much away, Spinney was a child who developed an interest in puppets. He was encouraged in that hobby and it led through the United States Air Force to Sesame Street and the Muppets. He joined Sesame Street and worked alongside such talents as Frank Oz and Jim Henson. After some trepidation resolved by the encouragement of his peers, he found his muse in Big Bird (and Oscar the Grouch).
This is a beautifully told story. Spinney emerges as a man who has suffered much but has given much. There are interviews with his children, his wife and his workmates all of whom describe a man who has made Big Bird part of him and vice versa. The documentary is filmed in a very intimate way frequently using home movie footage shot by Spinney and others.
I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary. I learnt much about resilience and hope. I found out more about the closeness of acting to story telling brought together with unconditional love.
And the final word is best left to the cinema audience. All sat perfectly still completely entranced by what they saw and heard. All remained perfectly still when the lights came on and the credits started rolling. Never have I seen a cinema audience all dabbing their eyes while sitting perfectly still. As I did.