Your Thoughts: "I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story"

D'Snowth

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Having a $0 balance with the cable company for the first time in . . . ever . . . I definitely rented this On Demand tonight.

And, my word, what a beautiful film! I went into it hoping that I would get to take away a few things from it that I didn't know before, and I certainly did, and there's so much that I took away from this film that just one viewing isn't enough for me to really make a truly grounded review of it - I have to see this again, and luckily, my rental time is still good for 46 hours, so I'll definitely be watching this again . . . two more times maybe, before I can really give my true thoughts on this wonderful masterpiece that really emphasizes what a true treasure Caroll Spinney really is.
 
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D'Snowth

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I just finished watching I AM BIG BIRD On Demand for the third time before my rental is up, and rather than go into a really long-winded review about the film as a whole, I'm just going touch up on the details that I actually learned from it that I didn't know before.

The first thing I learned from the film was the rocky relationship between Caroll and his father. I was aware that Caroll's father could be a difficult man, but I wasn't aware of how violent his temper was, and I while I was familiar with the argument over the gas in the tank of his car, I didn't know that that was what drove Caroll to join the Air Force.

I was interested in hearing some of Frank's comments on Caroll, mainly because it seems that Frank's relationship with the individual performers kind of varied since he was certainly the one closest to Jim. I thought it was very interesting that Frank's initial feelings regarding Caroll was that of sympathy, that he wasn't quite fitting in at first because he was in too much awe of Jim and wasn't as aggressive in performing as both Jim and Frank were. It was touching that he also recognized the misery Caroll was in during his first marriage since his first wife never appreciated his work or his art.

That said, while I remember learning about Caroll's first marriage from Michael Davis's STREET GANG book, I had no idea the extent of Caroll's misery to the point that he actually considered suicide at one point just to find refuge from his misery. I was glad to get to know Caroll's family - Debbie is such an incredible and remarkable woman, I think it's so heartwarming and touching that she and Caroll's love and devotion for one another has never faltered in all these years; if theirs isn't the absolute perfect image of a perfect marriage, I don't know what is. It was also nice to get to know Caroll's children a little as well; I had only heard of his son, Ben, based on a comment he made in A&E's BIOGRAPHY special about how he reacted when his pet turtle died at age four, but I didn't know about his daughters, Jessica and Melissa. Seeing all of the home movies of their family time is really sweet. Benjamin certainly looks a lot like his father too.

Caroll touches more on his friendship with Bob Hope and how that began in his book, THE WISDOM OF BIG BIRD, subbing for Kermit on an appearance on one of Hope's shows because Jim wasn't available for the appearance, and offered Big Bird instead; having never seen Big Bird before, Hope had no idea what to make of it, so Caroll got the ball rolling by remarking, "Gosh, and I thought I had a funny-looking beak!" And, "I had no idea that you'd be so short!" Both of which Hope roared at with laughter, and even sent Caroll a postcard afterwards thanking him for the laughs.

When I saw that the film was rated TV-14, I was a little dumbfounded as to why that was, till I saw some behind-the-scenes clips, hearing Jon Stone losing his cool and shouting the S-bomb when Caroll apparently went ahead of cue (and later hearing Caroll himself drop the F-bomb later, heh). Caroll and Jon's fiery relationship has been touched on before, but I wasn't aware that they actually started out on really good terms, and then it just soured overtime. Although Caroll says he never understood why, I believe it was touched on in STREET GANG that Jon felt Caroll was always unprofessional in not wanting to reherse, or not wanting to go over a script before taping. I also had no idea the tension go so bad that one day Jon and Caroll were lashing out at each other in the middle of taping to the point that Emilio Delgado stepped into the control room to reprimand Jon for cracking down on Caroll so harshly, and all over one line flub.

Wasn't aware that Caroll was bullied as a child, particularly in high school, but knowing his passion for puppetry, it's not surprising. Awful to hear about all the rumors swirling around him in Grade 10 about him being gay, but I did actually like Caroll's moment of looking out the window and saying to himself, "Someday, those ******** are gonna brag they knew me!" And I betcha they did.

I enjoyed seeing the little brief clip from THE FLIP WILSON SHOW, if only for the sake of hearing Big Bird accompanied by an old, classic Charley Douglass laugh track.

I loved the ancedote about Bob "stabbing Big Bird in the heart!" I laughed at that! Hated the story about those R.O.T.C. students basically desecrating Big Bird for the sake of having souvenirs.

"Birds really like to watch other birds make love." O.O "Hey, listen, I'm from a kids show!" The other big laugh I got out of this.

I had no idea Matt's stint as Big Bird's understudy dated back to 1996.

I can see how Caroll, Bob, Emilio, Frank, Jerry, and Victor DiNapoli feel a loss of a sense of family the show had in the earlier years, but it unfortunately makes sense when you consider how long SST's been around, and so many of the original key people have left or passed on since then. Hearing them say that, you almost feel that sense of comradery whenever you watch Old School SST.

Lastly, I love the reunion in the end with Lisa Ouyang (Xiao Foo) and Caroll and Debbie, that's so sweet. I haven't heard anything about this 30-year retrospective about BIG BIRD IN CHINA, did I miss something? Nice that they included some of Caroll's original artwork during the end titles.

Overall, the film is absolutely wonderful and magnificent. Still a little disappointed that it couldn't come to theaters in my town, but I'm thankful to at least still getting to see it irregardless of the venue. I really feel that this is much more of a true, straightforward documentary compared to BEING ELMO; I really liked how BEING ELMO followed Kevin around more in terms of revisiting his past, whereas Caroll's past is nicely documentary in home movies and archival footage. There's a couple of "teases" in the film where it feels like it's going to end early - after wrapping up the segment about the "Goodbye, Mr. Hooper" episode, and wrapping up the segment about FTB - but I'm glad those teases were just that, because each time I felt like I was being left hanging and wanting more. I think my only quibble is it would have been nice if the archival footage could have been presented at least in a pillarbox format rather than cropping it for the widescreen presentation: kind of gives it all a tunnelvision feel. But all in all, a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. I still very much wish to have an opportunity to meet Caroll in person one day, but I highly doubt that will ever happen.
 

aVeryBriefCameo

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I'm actually here in Pittsburgh at a convention with Deb and Caroll this weekend. They had a showing of Follow That Bird today, it went really well, at the Hollywood theatre in Dormont, PA. As always Caroll and Deb are such fantastic people. I'm honored to have been able to meet them twice now.
 

D'Snowth

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Wasn't the DVD supposed to be out this month?
 

aVeryBriefCameo

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Yes, its been tied up in some legal department issues, I believe. It's been released in the UK. Deb and Caroll said it will be released next month,
 

Oscarfan

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I think my only quibble is it would have been nice if the archival footage could have been presented at least in a pillarbox format rather than cropping it for the widescreen presentation: kind of gives it all a tunnelvision feel. But all in all, a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. I still very much wish to have an opportunity to meet Caroll in person one day, but I highly doubt that will ever happen.
At the Museum of Moving Image screening, either Caroll or Craig Shemin said that was done to give the movie a more consistent look. It bugged me too, but I can't say I disagree with their choice.
 

aVeryBriefCameo

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August 11 apparently is the official release date here in the US. This is per Amazon, which was news to Caroll and Deb.
 

D'Snowth

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Is this not available in stores, or do you have to order it? It looks like fye may have it in stores, they don't have any actual information that says they do or not; meanwhile, Best Buy of all places is apparently not selling this in stores.
 
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