News broke earlier this week that Steve Whitmire, the voice and puppeteer for the Muppet’s Kermit the Frog, would be stepping down from his position. The news struck many Muppets fans as curious with many wondering why Whitmire was stepping down. This is because Whitmire has been the man behind the iconic frog since 1990 when Jim Hensen passed away. After Hensen’s death, Brian Hensen personally asked Steve if he would take over as Kermit.
Disney, via Muppets Studio, confirmed the news, saying that Matt Vogel would be stepping into the webbed feet that Whitmire was leaving vacant. Vogel has been with The Muppets since the 90s. His highest profile gig to date has been that of Constantine, the “World’s Most Dangerous Frog,” and Kermit’s doppelganger, in 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted.
Now, news has broken that Whitmire was actually fired nine months ago, and that the longtime puppeteer has been remaining silent about the news in the hopes that Disney would change their mind. Yesterday, July 13, 2017, Whitmire established a new blog at stevewhitmire-muppitpundit.com and posted a single entry, titled, “It’s Time to Get Things Started.” The post detailed Whitmire’s side of the story, which he felt free to talk about, now that Disney has definitely replaced him.
In the post, Whitmire reveals that he was fired nine months ago for two unspecified reasons and he did his best to try to resolve those issues on his side, even going as far as to hire new representation. Whitmire revealed his sorrow over Disney’s move to replace him without a face-to-face meeting. As he wrote in his blog post,
“…I have experienced every possible emotion since October 2016, when I received a phone call from The Muppets Studio’s executives to say they were recasting. Through a new business representative, I have offered multiple remedies to their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call. I wish that we could have sat down, looked each other in the eye, and discussed what was on their minds before they took such a drastic action.”
The two stated issues are never explained in the blog, but it’s difficult to imagine what could be so severe that would lead to the firing of Whitmire, especially after over 26 years of iconic service.
He explains why he didn’t speak out sooner about the firing. According to Whitmire, his actions were filtered according to what would be best for the Muppets. Even at this point, he wrote, “Given the opportunity I remain willing to do whatever is required to remedy their concerns because I feel my continued involvement with the characters is in the best interest of the Muppets.”
Steve continues in his blog post to speak about the personal attachment that he feels to the role of Kermit and the connection that it affords him to a man that he considers a personal hero. He began performing as a puppeteer in high school and joined The Muppet Show in 1978. While there, he was able to learn and hone his craft under such masters as Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, and of course, Jim Hensen. Whitmire is now 57, and feels that he is in his prime as a puppeteer.
As he put it, “I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.”
Disney and The Muppets Studio issued a statement to Deadline, saying only, “The Muppets Studio thanks Steve for his tremendous contributions to Kermit the Frog and The Muppets franchise. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
For his part, Steve Whitmire ended his blog post with an apology to fans and to the one person who mattered the most in his eyes, saying the following.
“I just want you all to know that I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point throughout our journey, and to let everyone know that I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero.”
[Featured Image by Tonya Wise/AP Images]