Kermit the Frog’s puppeteer of almost three decades has stepped down from his post as the lovable green frog’s voice. Steve Whitmire, who has supplied Kermit’s unique nasal tones since the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson in 1990, is leaving the Muppets, according to ABC News, and he is being replaced by Matt Vogel.
Fan site Tough Pigs reportedly reached out to the Muppets Studio regarding the decreasing presence of Whitmire. According to the fan site, for the past few months, several fans have noted clues which led them to wonder about Steve’s absence from the show. For instance, Whitmire’s characters weren’t being used in recent Muppets Thought of the Week videos.
A spokesperson from the studio confirmed that Vogel would be performing Kermit beginning next week. His first footage will be featured in a Muppets Thought of the Week video.
Fans are shocked by the news as Whitmire has been on The Muppet Show since 1978, lending voice to Kermit the Frog for the past 27 years. Aside from Kermit, Whitmore portrayed several Fraggle Rock characters, as well as Rizzo the Rat. On Sesame Street, he is the voice behind Ernie of Bert and Ernie fame. Moreover, he appeared in Henson movie projects like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Folks at Touch Pigs said they have many questions; primarily wondering about the reasons behind Steve’s departure. They are also concerned about what will happen to his other characters, which he had inherited (like Beaker), and which he originated (like Rizzo).
Similarly, fans expressed on Twitter that they were “devastated” and “crushed” over news of Whitmire’s departure. Fans have also been sharing stories and trivia about the puppeteer such as Steve and Jim Henson sharing the same birthday, and the fact that Whitmire auditioned for the Muppets at age 18. According to a tweet, Steve performed for Jane Henson at an airport coffee shop.
News agencies tried to reach out to Disney, which owns Muppets Studio, but no statement has been released regarding the move. Whitmire is also unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Vogel has been a Muppet performer since 1996. He previously performed as the Kermit imitator, Constantine, in the movie Muppets Most Wanted. He lends his voice to other classic characters such as Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Uncle Deadly, Big Bird and Count von Count.
[Featured Image by Cindy Ord/Getty Images]