When I was a very small child, my mother would set me up each morning on my little wooden and plastic potty with a tray of cheerios and Sesame Street. Every night, I listened to the likes of Bert and Ernie, Telly and Grover, but I as I think back to a voice that was so distinct, I always think of one in particular. A tall, endearing, yellow fellow named Big Bird. When I was a preschool teacher I played my students the songs of my past and I fully intend to share the same memories with my own children. Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina bring us the joyous new documentary about the man inside the bird, Caroll Spinney. I AM BIG BIRD is a fascinating look into how this beloved character came to fruition.
From humble beginnings, a volatile relationship with his father, and a supportive mother, Caroll fell in love with puppetry early on. As a young boy this did not necessarily make school an easy environment, but he soldiered on in his passion. Caroll was discovered at a 1969 Puppet Festival by none other than Jim Henson and fate. The two had a very special relationship, with Jim being a less of a boss and more of a friend and mentor to Caroll. Navigating through bouts of depression and low self worth, work was his saving grace as was his second wife Debra. Her love brought him back to life and has sustained the magic both on screen and behind the scenes ever since. The Big Bird we know now what not always this childlike. Initially, he was a very skinny yokel type. Thankfully, with more self confidence and encouragement from the entire Sesame Street family, Caroll gave us the magical creature we adore today.
Walker and LaMattina had a gold mine of footage from Sesame Workshop but the jackpot came from Caroll and Deb’s years of home video footage. Mixed with Caroll’s own art work, intimate sit down interviews with his children, Sesame cast members, and even Jim’s daughter, we are privileged as an audience to see how moments of time came to be. From Follow The Bird to Big Bird in China and many other Muppet specials, we see the good and the bad. There are no kid gloves when it comes to talking about Caroll and company. One of innumerable interesting things we learn is that Caroll also plays Oscar the Grouch. You learn how this has become the perfect counter balance to our big yellow friend and Caroll alike. Their memories become your own and tear at your heartstrings. You feel so special as you see past the feather into Caroll’s soul.
We all have an innate love for Kermit and Big Bird. The Muppets and Sesame Street have molded millions of minds all over the globe since their inception. You will watch this film with tears in your eyes and laughter in your heart. There is no escaping the love that engulfs this movie. This is a timeless classic you will want to show your children down the line. I AM BIG BIRD is nothing short of extraordinary.
Stay tuned for an interview with directors Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina in the next few days!
VOD: Available on iTunes & VOD: May 5, 2015
Theatrical: Select theatrical release beginning May 6, 2015
New York: IFC Center – opens May 6, 2015
Boston: Brattle Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Chicago: Gene Siskel Film Center – opens May 15, 2015
Columbus: Gateway Film Center – opens May 15, 2015
Detroit: Cinema Detroit – opens May 15, 2015
Los Angeles area:
– Los Angeles: Royal – opens May 15, 2015
– Santa Ana, CA: South Coast Village – opens May 15, 2015
Minneapolis: St Anthony Main – opens May 15, 2015
New Orleans: Zeitgeist Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Philadelphia: PFS at Roxy Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Portland: Living Room Theaters – opens May 15, 2015
San Diego: Digital Cinema – opens May 15, 2015
Santa Fe: CCA – opens May 15, 2015
San Francisco area:
– Berkeley: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood – opens May 15, 2015
– San Francisco: Balboa Theater – opens May 15, 2015
– Sonoma: Sebastopol Rialto Cinemas – opens May 15, 2015
Scottsdale: Shea 14 – opens May 15, 2015
Eugene, OR: Metro Cinemas – opens May 22, 2015
Gainesville, FL: The Wooly – opens May 22, 2015
Louisville: Village 7 – opens May 22, 2015
– Coral Gables: Cosford Cinema – May 22,2015
– Miami: O-Cinema – opens May 22,2015
Palm Springs: Camelot – opens May 22, 2015
Pittsburgh: Hollywood Theater – opens May 22, 2015
Sedona, AZ: Mary Fischer Theater – opens May 22, 2015
Denver: Sie Film Center – opens May 29, 2015
Boulder, CO: Boedicker Theater – opens June 10, 2015
Seattle: SIFF Cinema – opens June 12, 2015
Bellingham, WA: Pickford – opens June 12, 2015
Pelham, NY: Picturehouse – opens June 12, 2015
Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker
Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker
For 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. A loving portrait of the man in the yellow suit, I Am Big Bird features extraordinary footage of Spinney’s earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces his journey from bullied child to childhood icon. And as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.