Big Bird Actor Caroll Spinney Calling It Quits After 50 Years

October 17, 2018, 3:07 PM UTC

Sesame Street is losing one of its most entrenched residents.

Caroll Spinney, who has played both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on the iconic children’s show since its beginning, will report to work for the last time Thursday.

Spinney has spent 50 of his 84 years on this planet bringing Big Bird and Oscar to life. For most of those, he also physically portrayed the characters, but stopped the puppeteering in 2015 due to health problems. (The physical toll on portraying Big Bird was especially taxing as it required him to keep his arm and hand held high in the air for long periods.)

However, he says, it’s a job he never grew tired of.

“Playing Big Bird is one of the most joyous things of my life,” he told The New York Times.

The voice work Spinney provides Thursday will be incorporated into Sesame Street‘s 50th anniversary season, which will air next year on HBO and in 2020 on PBS.

Spinney did more than voice and move Big Bird around, though. The character was initially envisioned as a dim witted creature from the country. Spinney convinced Jim Henson that Big Bird should instead be filled with childlike wonder, something that helped center the show for children.

Following his retirement, Matt Vogel, who already voices Kermit the Frog and other iconic Muppets, will take over the characters. He has worked as an apprentice to Spinney since 1996.