Big Bird is a character on the children's television show Sesame Street. Performed by Matt Vogel since 1998 as an understudy to the late Caroll Spinney (who was the character from 1969 to 2018) before becoming its full-time performer in 2018, he is an eight-foot two-inch (249 cm) tall bright yellow anthropomorphic canary. He can roller skate, ice skate, dance, swim, sing, write poetry, draw, and even ride a unicycle. Despite this wide array of talents, he is prone to frequent misunderstandings, on one occasion even singing the alphabet as one big long word (from the song called "ABC-DEF-GHI," pronounced /æbkədɛfgi:dʒɛkəlmɪnɒpkwɜrstu:vwɪksɪz/), pondering what it could mean. He would refer to grocer Mr. Hooper as "Mr. Looper," and surprised everyone by referring to him by the correct name at the funeral. He lives in a large nest behind the 123 Sesame Street brownstone and right next to Oscar the Grouch's trash can and he has a teddy bear named Radar. In Season 46, Big Bird's large nest is now sitting within a small, furnished maple tree, and is no longer hidden by used construction doors.
Big Bird was originally performed by Caroll Spinney from 1969 to 2018. As of 2020, the character is performed by Matt Vogel who began in 1998 as an understudy before becoming his full-time performer in 2018.
History with the Macy's Parade
Big Bird first appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1974, riding aboard the Sesame Street float alongside his Muppet contemporaries. The fine-feathered fellow would continue to appear on several Sesame Street floats throughout the years, aboard Sesame Street's several floats.
Initial plans for the 1974 parade had a Big Bird balloon precede the float, but the idea was ultimately scrapped when Goodyear feared a "lack of aerodynamics". The idea was eventually revived, and a Big Bird balloon debuted in the 1988 Parade. The balloon (designed by Michael Frith) featured Big Bird wearing a winter cap and a sweater, following smaller ABC Bouncing Ball balloons.
The Big Bird balloon led the parade in 1989, 1991, and 1998; the latter parade was particularly windy and rainy, and the balloon was kept low to the ground in order to test the wind.
After ten years, the original Big Bird balloon was wearing out -- according to a Christian Science Monitor article, "Its stitching is frayed, and he's been patched a lot."
As a result of the previous balloon's damages, a brand-new Big Bird balloon was made for the 2001 Parade. This balloon featured Big Bird wearing a warm scarf, which is adorned with green music notes. This Big Bird balloon also brings his own musical instruments to Broadway - two cymbals detailed with A-B-C and 1-2-3.
The second Big bird balloon was retired shortly after the 2006 Parade had ended, and was spiritually replaced by fellow Muppet, Abby Cadabby.
Though Big Bird has yet to make another appearance as a balloon in the Parade, the real-life Big Bird continues to appear on the current 1-2-3 Sesame Street float.
- During the original balloon's appearances (with the exceptions of 1990, 1996, and 2000) its left leg was slightly bent.
- In 1998, the balloon's right talon was missing a marginal amount of helium.
- In 1999, his sweater collar was missing a small amount of helium.
- In 2005, his tail was partially deflated.
Listed below are the music tracks that played during the balloon's appearances on the NBC telecast.
- "Sesame Street Theme", composed by Richard Hayman and the Boston Pops Orchestra (1988-1993)
- "Sesame Street Theme" calypso credits arrangement (1994-2006)