Hot Docs 2014: I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story Review

I am Big Bird

I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

Special Presentation/Scotiabank Big Ideas Series

One of the most emotionally effective performing arts docs that’s ever been made finds former Hot Docs volunteers turned filmmakers Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina looking at the kind, loving, and sometimes tragically depressed man in the full body suit of one of the most beloved television characters of all time.

One of the earliest and now oldest Muppet performers, Caroll Spinney has portrayed the loveable and childlike Big Bird and the curmudgeonly Oscar the Grouch since the 1960s and continues today whenever he’s able to. In those moments in-between, however, Spinney went through an unloving first marriage, narrowly avoided one of history’s greatest disasters, was generally left out of being a major part of the Muppet family of performers and crew, contemplated suicide, and plenty of other things that make one wonder how he gets out of bed every day to bring joy and happiness to millions of kids (and nostalgic adults) around the world.


Aside from being a remarkably well crafted and guileless tearjerker, Walker and LaMattina have also created a brilliantly comprehensive biography of one of the Muppets’ most unsung heroes, combining rare home video footage shot by Spinney and his wife and in-depth and insightful interviews with those who know him best. Nothing is left untouched regardless of how negative or “un-Sesame” it might appear. It’s the beautiful, sometimes melancholic, and always heart tugging story of a man who wanted nothing more than to make people happy. I started crying mere minutes into the film and didn’t stop for the entire running time. Bring multiple boxes of tissues. This is not an exaggeration or suggestion.


Sunday, April 27th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 6:00pm, (Scotiabank Big Ideas screening with Caroll Spinney in attendance) (RUSH ONLY)

Monday, April 28th, Isabel Bader Theatre, 11:00am


Wednesday, April 30th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 1:30pm

Thursday, May 1st, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 1:30pm

Sunday, May 4th, The Revue, 4:00pm (RUSH ONLY)