Caroll Spinney, 'Sesame Street' puppeteer who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life, has died at age 85

The man behind iconic Sesame Street characters including Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch has passed away, Sesame Workshop confirmed on Sunday. Caroll Spinney suffered from dystopia, a neurological condition that causes uncontrolled muscle movement. He died at his Connecticut home.

New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff, who met Spinney after the puppeteer's retirement from Sesame Street, tweeted that Spinney's "secret" included portraying Big Bird the way a child would have.

"He can be all the things that children are. He can learn with the kids," Spinney told Itzkoff of Big Bird in 2018.

Other fans and members of the entertainment industry also chimed in with their own tributes to the late puppeteer.

The Sesame Workshop obituary notes that Spinney played Big Bird for nearly 50 years, and he was a member of the Sesame Street family from the beginning. In 2014, Spinney starred in the documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, about his time on the show.

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"His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while," the obituary says of Spinney's two characters.

In a moving tribute, one fan noted on Twitter that while many live-action characters are clearly "a person in a costume," Spinney's masterful work made Big Bird seem like he was real.