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 until 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 has appeared on every variant of the Sesame Street float since the 1970s, mostly seen in his signature nest.
Development for a Big Bird balloon dates back as early as 1974, planned to be coupled with the original Sesame Street float. This ended up being scrapped, as Goodyear feared they would be unable to make the balloon due to the character's dimensions.
But, with the twentieth anniversary of Sesame Street approaching a decade later, Children's Television Workshop paired up with former balloon manufacturers Raven Aerostar to revive the concept of a Big Bird balloon. After many months of hard work, the finalized design, sketched out by Muppet designer Michael K. Frith, showed Big Bird geared up in a striped sweater and winter cap, decorated with numbers. Accompanying him would be the ABC Bouncing Balls, a trio of novelty balloons featuring the alphabet. The balloon would first fly in 1988, and upon its debut, it amazed spectators along the Parade route, marking Big Bird as a crowd favorite. After this appearance, it would continue to appear throughout the 1990s.
However, it was discovered the original Big Bird balloon was starting to deteriorate after several years of use, meaning it had to be patched up many times. As the balloon couldn't be used for much longer, it was retired after the 2000 Parade.
Because of the previous balloon's retirement, a new Big Bird balloon would be made in 2001. This design had him wearing a red scarf with green musical notes, as he carries two cymbals, each bearing the ABC's and 123's. This balloon would mostly appear throughout the early 2000s, and was retired after 2006. He and Super Grover would be replaced by Abby Cadabby the following year, and the Parade has since been without a Big Bird balloon. Despite this, he continues to appear to this day on the current 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)