When Will Lee (the actor who played Mr. Hooper) died, the cast and crew at Children's Television Workshop decided not to make up an excuse for his departure, but deal with the actual reason for his absence head-on.
(Big Bird has drawn pictures of eight of his grown-up friends and has given seven of them to Luis, Susan, Gordon, Bob, Maria, David and Olivia. The eighth is of Mr. Hooper.)
Big Bird: Well, I can't wait till he sees it.
(Everyone else looks worried and confused. Big Bird notices that Mr. Hooper isn't with them.)
Big Bird: Say, where is he? I want to give it to him. I know. He's in the store.
Bob: Uh, Big Bird?
Big Bird: Hmm?
Bob: He's-he's... he's not in there.
Big Bird: Oh. Then, where is he?
Maria: Big Bird, uh, don't you remember we told you? Mr. Hooper died. He... he's dead.
Big Bird: Oh, yeah. I remember. Well, I'll give it to him when he comes back.
Susan: Big Bird, Mr. Hooper's not coming back.
Big Bird: (confused) Why not?
Susan: Big Bird, wh-when people die... they don't come back.
Big Bird: (startled) Ever?
Susan: No. Never.
Big Bird: (worried) Well... why not?
Luis: Well, Big Bird, uh... they're dead. They... they can't come back.
Big Bird: Well, he's... got to come back. Why, who's going to take care of the store? and who's going to make my birdseed milkshakes, and... and tell me stories?
David: Big Bird, I'm going to take care of the store. Mr. Hooper, he left it to me. And I'll make you your milkshakes, and... and we'll all tell you stories, and we'll make sure you're O.K.
Susan: Sure, we'll look after you.
Big Bird: Oh. Hmm. Well... it won't be the same.
Bob: You're right, Big Bird. It's... it's... it'll never be the same around here without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him... and to know him... and to love him a lot when he was here.
Big Bird: (sadly) Yeah.
Olivia: And Big Bird, we still have our memories of him.
Big Bird: Oh, yeah. Yeah, our memories. Right. Why, memory's... that's how I drew this picture. From memory.
Olivia: And it's very good! Yeah!
Big Bird: Yeah. And we can remember him, and remember him, and remember him... as much as we want to. But I don't like it. It makes me sad.
David: We all feel sad, Big Bird.
Big Bird: He's never coming back?
Big Bird: Well, I don't understand! You know everything was just fine! Why does it have to be this way?! Give me one good reason!
Gordon: Big Bird... it has to be this way... because.
Big Bird: Just because?
Gordon: Just because.
Big Bird: Oh.
(Big Bird looks at his picture of Mr. Hooper.)
Big Bird: You know... I'm going to miss you, Mr. Looper.
Maria: (laughing through tears) That's Hooper, Big Bird. Hooper.
(The other grown-ups chuckle.)
Big Bird: Right.