Hot Docs 2014 Review: I Am Big Bird
Part dramatic biopic, part tale of love, I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, like the titular yellow bird himself, has mass appeal and optimistic outlook.
Chronicling the man who created the iconic avian, directors Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina weave a tale that covers plenty of time and space with honesty, intimacy, and some uneven pacing.
It’s the drama – Caroll’s attachment to his creation, his collaborations and differences with others – that is the more compelling story.
That includes a trip to China to film a movie, an opportunity to fly on a space shuttle, and the reactions to the death of mentor and master puppeteer, Jim Henson.
Spinney, it’s explained by friends, colleagues, and his wife, is in fact Big Bird, from the way in which he enjoys simple pleasures in life to his almost naïve look at the world. What’s perhaps most interesting, aside from the complicated inner workings it takes to actually wield the massive yellow costume, is how everyone seems to be in agreement about just how peculiar and refreshing Spinney really is.
For instance, he’s still working hard at 80-years of age, spending half his life in the costume. He also crafted Oscar the Grouch, an antithesis of Big Bird, yet an extension of himself. Spinney clashed at time with directors, idolized Henson, and was wary of Elmo, we learn.
In that, Spinney is undeniably human: loveable and sympathetic. His is an incomparable story that does well to cover an impressive life of creation.