Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Character Study: Big Bird

Of all of Jim Henson's Muppets that appear on Sesame Street none have a role quite so vital as Big Bird. Certainly, each Muppet whether it be Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch or Ernie and Bert, provide a heck of a lot of entertainment as they educate, but Big Bird provides a role like no other Muppet. Childlike and intellectually curious Big Bird provides young viewers with a character who views the world through their eyes. As Big Bird learns about the world around him, viewers learn with him, whether it be about road safety,  or in one landmark episode, death:

A running gag for many years on the show was Bird Bird's friendship with Mr Snuffleupagus, a shy mammoth like creature who was never seen by any of the adult characters on the show, and was considered, therefore to be Big Bird's imaginary friend, as can be observed from this sketch. In the mid-1980s, Big Bird eventually proved to the adults that Mr Snuffleupagus was real. According to wikipedia, the producers of Sesame Street decided to have the adults believe that Big Bird was telling the truth, as they did not want children to think that they would not be believed by adults if they had something to tell them:




While perhaps no longer the star of Sesame Street (thanks, Elmo,) Big Bird remains on of the most important and perhaps groundbreaking characters on the show. 

Big Bird has been played by the same actor since the 1960s. His story could have ended very differently however, as actor Carol Spinney was offered a spot on the doomed US Space Shuttle Challenger, but NASA was never able to reach an agreement with the producers of Sesame Street. Lucky for us, and luckier for Spinney, Big Bird is still around today, entertaining and educating children.