Well, that was just crazy, huh?
Last night, the internet exploded when Mitt Romney said he would stop the subsidy to PBSand singled out Big Bird. People took sides, t-shirts were created, slogans were spun and hashtags were hashed. It was nutters. We rocked Twitter ’til 3 in the AM just trying to keep up.
We’re deep in the trenches making I AM BIG BIRD, which is about Caroll Spinney, who’s been Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969, so for us, last night was probably a little bit different. We’ve been at this film since 2009 and we’re still about a year away from its release, so we feel like Big Bird is family (Oscar too: Chad’s son has already gotten a private show from the Grouch himself!). And while we clearly support the wonderful work that PBS, Sesame Workshop and Caroll do, we’re not taking to this blog to be political. Instead, what we took away from last night was how, after all these years, Big Bird is still the most identifiable symbol of Sesame Street.
Sure, back in the day, Jim Henson called Big Bird the most recognizable children’s character in the world (and attributed that honor to Caroll’s work), but it seems like all we hear about these days is Elmo. There’s a reason for that: Elmo’s a great character, played by the wonderfully talented Kevin Clash. I dare anyone to actually watch Sesame Street and not fall in love with the little red monster. He’s charming beyond belief. Caroll even dedicated a chapter in his book to talking about Elmo and how he had to make room on the block for the lil’ fella when he came along and Rosie O’Donnell and flashbulbs followed.
Elmo is DiCaprio, Big Bird is Nicholson. We love and respect both, but one gets more magazine covers.
But last night, when Romney needed a quick, gettable symbol, he didn’t say, “I love Elmo.” He didn’t say, “I love Grover.” He said, “I love Big Bird.” All these years later, Big Bird remains the most recognizable character on the show. And, though Mr. Henson isn’t around to ascertain this, we’re quite comfortable saying that’s because of Caroll. While many people are claiming it today on Twitter, Caroll is Big Bird.