In the upcoming documentary, ‘I Am Big Bird’, filmmakers follow the life of veteran muppeteer Caroll Spinney. The documentary takes an indepth look at the man behind the yellow costume. While, the documentary does not premiere until next week, many of the film’s most interesting details are out today thanks to the New York Post. Among them is Carol Spinney is related to Barack Obama, he has previously used the suit to hide his tears and was a planned crewmember on the tragic Challenger mission.
According to Spinney, Big Bird, was originally to be on board the Space Shuttle ‘Challenger’ in order to get “the children of America to be more inteested in NASA.” The suit, however, wouldn’t fit and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe took his place, ultimately dying in the explosion.
Spinney also says he has used the Big Bird suit to hide his weeping on several occasions including a period of suicidal depression. From the NY Post:
For one thing, the full-body costume means he can’t easily interact with cast members. For another, it means he can cry without anyone noticing.
He’s done it a few times, most notably while singing “Bein’ Green” at mentor Jim Henson’s funeral; another was during the darkest period of his life, when divorce and depression made him thankful the suit hid his tears.
One day on set, a crew member complimented his Big Bird acting. She couldn’t see the tears streaming down his face inside the suit
In addition, the Big Bird performer and President Obama apparently share a great-grandfather, making them ninth cousins.