During the 2012 presidential election campaign Big Bird became a surprise talking point when Republican candidate Mitt Romney said he did not want to fund PBS during a debate. I like PBS, I love Big Birdbut Im not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for, he said.
The Obama campaign then used Big Bird in some of their political spots. Spinney appeared as Big Bird on Saturday Night Live to discuss the furore, but said he has no political affiliations as he didnt want to ruffle any feathers.
In 2014, Spinney was the subject of a documentary, I am Big Bird, about his life playing the characters. It revealed Nasa considered putting Spinney on the doomed Challenger space shuttle, but eventually decided against the idea.
Spinney continued to perform inside the bird suit well into his 70s, but in 2016 after he was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological condition that can limit movement, other puppeteers were used and Spinney just provided the voices for the characters.
In a New York Times profile this week, Spinney announced he would also be retiring from that role. He will perform vocal duties for the final time on Thursday.
Eric Jacobson, who currently plays Miss Piggy and Bert, will take on the role of Oscar the Grouch. Matt Vogel, who has been Spinneys understudy since the mid-1990s, will now take on the role. He told the Times it was daunting and important.