2014 / Directors. Dave LaMattina & Chan N Walker.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
A couple of years ago Kevin Clash was featured in a lovely documentary called BEING ELMO. That film warmed my heart and made me feel good about the world. However, at the time I remember thinking that the legendary Caroll Spinney was far more deserving of a retrospective film. And now here it is. I AM BIG BIRD.
There isn't an adult around who wouldn't think of Big Bird fondly, nor is there child who wouldn't recognise his big infectious (and yellow) personality. He was certainly an influential character in my childhood and to this day I rate his feature film FOLLOW THAT BIRD as an all time favourite (definitely in my top 10 fav films of all time). His child-like personality and oversized heart have been an endearing and fundamental component to millions of children, spanning generations. I AM BIG BIRD shows us the man inside the bird (and the Grouch) and gives us a personal insight into his career, his life and his legacy. I watched the entire film with a huge lump in my throat and teetered on tears the entire time. I was so moved by this man and I kept thinking to myself "If only the whole world could see this film. It would be a better place, for sure". The film tells his story from childhood and his early years breaking into the business... through to his relationship with Jim Henson and his influence on all those who watch him. The film features interviews with family, friends and colleagues and it's wonderful seeing familiar faces on screen such as Frank Oz, Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado and Sonia Manzano (amongst others). Their stories about Caroll are lovely and often hilarious and there isn't a negative word spoken against him. Spinney himself is also a wonderful storyteller and his own reflections are delightful. He recalls how he met his wife and the entire audience erupted into an emotional laughter. This is special stuff and he is a special man. Also fascinating is the technical revelations the film offers. We're taken behind the scenes of Sesame Street and the Jim Henson workshop and we're shown some of the puppeteer's secrets. The inner workings of Big Big are incredible and everyone watching was in awe of what a laborious and arduous task Spinney has undertaken for over 40 years. Only pure love and devotion could keep him working and that's precisely why he's still at it all of these years later at the age of 80. Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad N Walker have put together a superb film that will warm the coldest of hearts. Their narrative structure is perfectly pieced together and their access to archival footage is stunning. With the help of an enthusiastic line-up of Caroll Spinney's closest friends they have told his story with an abundance of sincerity what it will fill every viewer with a fat doze of warm n' fuzzies.