'I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story'
(Caroll Spinney, Frank Oz, et al / DVD / NR / 2015 / Cinedigm)
Overview: Caroll Spinney has been Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969; at 78-years-old, he has no intention of stopping.
DVD Verdict: 'I Am Big Bird: the Caroll Spinney Story' is a big, feel good doc about the man under the bird for over 40 years. While Big Bird is arguably the best known animal icon for kids in the world, relatively few know the soul of that puppet, much less the workings of its animated presence on Sesame Street.
Caroll Spinney's story, as told in this documentary for all ages, is an upbeat survey of a life well lived for children by him and other geniuses like Jim Henson, for whom puppets were an expression of the highest creativity even when the circumstances are not as perfect as the kids' perception of Big Bird.
Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker do not sugar coat or dumb down Spinney's story: He was initially wracked with doubt about his abilities, his director did not like him for unknown reasons, and his role was alone amidst the very social other members and roles of the cast. Yet out of this isolation came a character that showed his humanity in ways different from everyone else, to such a successful extent that NASA invited him to fly with Challenger. That role's last minute cancellation spared Spinney's life and saved him for generations of youngsters.
The Challenger tragedy and his contemplation of suicide keep this doc from being too sweet, peppering it with the kind of reality Sesame Street never shied away from, and in the case of Henson's death, was able to turn the grief into a lesson for the kids. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Deleted Scenes: Caroll on Camera
Caroll Meets Michael Jackson
Oscar the Grouch
Big Bird's Biggest Fan
Chinese Big Bird