Noel MacNeal (b. September 15, 1961) is a puppeteer who has performed in various Henson productions, working on Sesame Street on-and-off since 1982. His most well-known work has been his portrayal of Bear, the lead character of Bear in the Big Blue House. In May of 2022, MacNeal announced that he had written a memoir, scheduled to be published in October of the same year.
Born and raised in New York City's Central Harlem, he began his puppetry career on the television series The Great Space Coaster (taking over from John Lovelady as Knock Knock) and later made his way to Sesame Street, joining the show as a "puppet wrangler." MacNeal's first Muppet performance was a supermarket cashier in a Grover sketch; MacNeal flubbed his one speaking line, to tell Grover that his register was closed and to go to another line, which resulted in his character getting a close-up in a pick-up shot.
MacNeal's other Sesame roles have included several full-bodied Snuffleupaguses, including Snuffy's mommy at various points, and his daddy in the unaired "Snuffy's Parents Get a Divorce." In the feature film Follow That Bird, he performed Madame Chairbird and doubled for Caroll Spinney as Big Bird in a scene where he's running from Bert and Ernie's plane. MacNeal has puppeteered Big Bird on several other occasions, such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In addition to performing, he has played an active role in hiring and training puppeteers for local Sesame Street productions in Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Jordan, Palestine, and India. During MacNeal's time on Bear in the Big Blue House, he served as principal performer, director, and wrote a few episodes. In 2005, he reprised the role of Bear for Breakfast with Bear.
His more prominent non-Henson credits include the baby dragon Magellan on Eureeka's Castle, Leon MacNeal in The Puzzle Place, and Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. He also puppeteered on Between the Lions (taking over Lionel for the last two seasons), Blue's Room, and Oobi (Kako). MacNeal spent a stint as host (and writer) for Sprout's The Good Night Show and has puppeteered on more adult series including 30 Rock, Oz, Chappelle's Show (in the "Knee High Park" spoof of Sesame Street), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He is the resident puppeteer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. As a writer, he contributed scripts to The Puzzle Place, Eureeka's Castle, Gullah Gullah Island, The Magic School Bus, and Cyberchase.
for a complete character gallery, see Noel MacNeal characters
- Sesame Street: Mommy Snuffleupagus, Daddy Snuffle, and others...
- The Muppets Take Manhattan: Big Bird (wedding finale)
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Big Bird (various parades)
- Follow That Bird: Madame Chairbird
- Little Muppet Monsters: Rat, Magic Book
- The Cosby Show ("Cliff's Nightmare"): Cheese
- A New Baby in My House
- Sesame Street Stays Up Late
- Sesame Street Jam: A Musical Celebration
- Dog City: Doctor, Police Officer
- Muppet Meeting Films: Pastry and Injured Employee in "Top Ten Reasons to Take a Break"
- City Kids
- Elmo Saves Christmas
- Telling the Truth: Sheep
- Lead Away!
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Bear, Moss, Billy
- Sing Yourself Sillier at the Movies: Announcer
- Elmo's Musical Adventure: Peter and the Wolf: The Wolf
- Elmopalooza: Additional Muppet Performer
- Let's Eat!: Funny Food Songs: Spoon
- Moving Together: Himself (with son Mattie and other adult/baby pairs in live-action scenes)
- Elmo's Christmas Countdown
- A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa: Sweetums (credited as Edward Noel MacNeal)
- Old Dogs (credited as Edward Noel MacNeal)
- Julie's Greenroom
- The Muppets Take the Bowl: Sweetums (puppetry only)
- The Muppets Take the O2
- Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration: Letter C
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Episode 206: You Learn Something New Every Day
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Episode 235: And to All a Good Night
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Episode 314: Wait for Me
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Episode 410: At the Old Bear Game
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Come on In
- Consultant: Hikayat Simsim (Jordan), Hikayat Simsim (Palestine), Galli Galli Sim Sim
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Episode 420: Volunteers of Woodland Valley
- Sesame Street: