Caroll Spinney, the Sesame Street puppeteer behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, has died

Updated 6:35 PM EST, Sun December 8, 2019
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09:  Caroll Spinney "Oscar and Big Bird" attends SiriusXM's Town Hall with original cast members from Sesame  Street commemorating the 45th anniversary of the celebrated series debut on public television moderated by Weekend TODAY co-anchor Erica Hill on October 9, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Robin Marchant/Getty Images North America
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Caroll Spinney "Oscar and Big Bird" attends SiriusXM's Town Hall with original cast members from Sesame Street commemorating the 45th anniversary of the celebrated series debut on public television moderated by Weekend TODAY co-anchor Erica Hill on October 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Now playing
03:00
Caroll Spinney, 'Sesame Street' puppeteer, dies at 85
WFSB
Now playing
01:39
Treasure hunter finds $46,000 hidden under floorboards
WEWS | John's Photography
Now playing
02:04
Retired sheriff and his tiny K-9 die within hours of one another
THE BACHELORETTE - Fan favorite Becca Kufrin captured America's heart when she found herself at the center of one of the most gut-wrenching Bachelor breakups of all time. Now the Minnesota girl next door returns for a second shot at love and gets to hand out the roses, searching for her happily-ever-after in the 14th edition of ABC's hit series "The Bachelorette," premiering MONDAY, MAY 28 (8:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)
COLTON
Craig Sjodin/ABC
THE BACHELORETTE - Fan favorite Becca Kufrin captured America's heart when she found herself at the center of one of the most gut-wrenching Bachelor breakups of all time. Now the Minnesota girl next door returns for a second shot at love and gets to hand out the roses, searching for her happily-ever-after in the 14th edition of ABC's hit series "The Bachelorette," premiering MONDAY, MAY 28 (8:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Craig Sjodin) COLTON
Now playing
01:24
Former 'Bachelor' star says he is gay
USCG Southeast
Now playing
00:56
The Coast Guard is sending a warning with this video
Getty Images/FOX
Now playing
01:55
Hank Azaria feels need to apologize over 'Simpsons' Apu
Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Now playing
01:02
Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers question stumps 'Jeopardy!' contestants
Kalen Allen/ Food Network
Now playing
02:11
Popcorn salad recipe brings the internet to its knees
Tyfanee Fortuna
Now playing
02:22
Shelter places '13 lb rage machine' up for adoption
"Saturday Night Live" / NBC
Now playing
01:47
'SNL' sees Minnesota news anchors take on the Derek Chauvin trial
Shaquille O'Neal engagement ring mxp vpx _00000930.png
FAIR USE / Shaqfu_radio
Shaquille O'Neal engagement ring mxp vpx _00000930.png
Now playing
00:39
Shaq explains why he paid off customer's engagement ring
Camerota Berman both
CNN
Camerota Berman both
Now playing
02:33
CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota gets surprise tribute from co-anchor
ABC/Jeopardy Productions. Inc.
Now playing
01:27
Aaron Rodgers laughs off hilarious answer on 'Jeopardy!'
Twitter/@slashkevin & ABC7
Now playing
01:17
Fans demand rule change for 'Wheel of Fortune'
Now playing
00:49
Deer crashes into a moving school bus and lands on a student
Getty Images
Now playing
02:18
This airplane-shaped bag is selling for more than some actual planes
(CNN) —  

Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who brought beloved “Sesame Street” characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life, died on Sunday, according to Sesame Workshop.

Spinney passed away at his Connecticut home after battling dystonia, a common movement disorder. He was 85.

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney  and Oscar the Grouch during the filming of a 1970 episode.
David Attie/Getty Images
Puppeteer Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch during the filming of a 1970 episode.

“Caroll Spinney’s contributions to Sesame Street are countless. He not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well,” Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said in the press release.

“We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world.”

50 years of wholesome joy

The legendary puppeteer was known for his “kind and loving view of the world,” giving two of the show’s most iconic characters the joyous (and grouchy) personalities that viewers around the world adored.

Spinney announced in October 2018 that he was stepping down from the roles.

For many “Sesame” fans, it was the end of an era for a man whose characters helped to define their childhoods.

Spinney’s five decades portraying the beloved characters left him in the shadows, even as Big Bird and Oscar became famous worldwide.

Big Bird visited China with Bob Hope in 1979 and even showed off his massive dancing skills with the Rockettes and prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory.

The beloved 8-foot, 2-inch yellow bird has been feted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrated with his likeness on a US postage stamp, and named a “Living Legend” in 2000 by the Library of Congress.

Spinney was at the center of a documentary in 2014. “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story” explored his life and the inspiration behind his creation of the Big Bird character and his collaboration with Jim Henson over several decades.

Remembering Caroll Spinney

Fans flocked to Twitter after his death in mourning and remembrance of the happiness the puppeteer bought to people.

“Big Bird and Oscar were two of my favorite characters on Sesame Street back in the day and Mr. Spinney REALLY brought them to life…my condolences to his family. May he rest in peace,” one Twitter user said.

“If anyone needs me, I’ll be watching Follow That Bird while crying until I’m dehydrated. Rest In Peace, Mr. Spinney. Thank you for everything,” Sean Arena tweeted.

“I remember as a little boy first learning about how to deal with grief and death and loss from Big Bird almost 50 years ago when Mr. Hooper died. I know it is ok to cry and be sad and also that the happy memories will be what lasts. Thank you Mr. Spinney and Sesame Street,” Edward Grass said on Twitter.

“Horrible news to wake up to. Rest in peace, Mr. Spinney. You brought a lot of light to my life. I always loved Big Bird as a child, I saw him be misunderstood sometimes and that resonated with me. He was different, but his friends didn’t love him any less for it,” another user tweeted.

Spinney died on the same day “Sesame Street” was being honored at the Kennedy Center for achievement in the arts.

CNN’s Lisa Respers France contributed to this report.