It seems a little futile to write a synopsis for a film called I Am Big Bird because this is indeed the tale of the man in the yellow bird suit. With his interest in puppetry fostered at a young age by his artistic mother, Spinney establishes himself in the early days of television, but only truly begins to realise his talent and worth when he is spotted and hired by the puppetry legend Jim Henson. In Big Bird and Oscar, Spinney created two of the most iconic characters in television history. ‘I Am Big Bird’ is the story of how those characters came to be, the life of the man behind them and the significant events in the lives of the man and the bird.
Masterfully edited from a combination of interviews, animation, new behind-the-scenes footage and the hours and hours of home video recorded by Spinney himself and his longtime wife Debra, this film is less an A-Z singsong of a man’s life and more an examination of humanity. The film doesn’t shy from some of the more painful and tragic elements in the history of the man and the characters he portrays but has an overwhelming sense of positivity and optimism, showing a world, not without flaws, but with the capacity to be a beautiful place. Not unlike the viewpoint of a certain large avian personification.
It is genuinely hard to imagine how much impact this film has for someone who doesn’t remember when Mr Hooper died on Sesame Street, or when Jim Henson tragically passed to soon, or the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. But for someone who does it is a genuinely heart breaking film but with enough love and joy to temper all the sadness and make this a truly wonderful experience.
Review by Mark Moynihan
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I Am Big Bird is available on DVD and VOD now.