After 27 years being the voice and puppeteer of Kermit the Frog, Steve Whitmire has been forcibly let go from The Muppets Studio (a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company). From his own blog post on the matter, he said he is “devastated”:
For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life. This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. 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.
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. […]I have remained silent the last nine months in hopes that the Disney company might reverse their course.
The rationale for Mr. Whitmire’s firing isn’t crystal clear. When talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Steve said he was given two reasons for his firing – a union dispute revolving around him being double booked, and Steve providing unwanted feedback on the changes being made to Kermit’s character during the (brief) run of ABC’s The Muppets. “I have been outspoken about what’s best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney,” Steve said,” but the fact is I have respect for everyone who was involved in the creation of that series for their own particular contributions.”
At the same time, a Muppets Studio spokesperson made this statement to THR:
The role of Kermit the Frog is an iconic one that is beloved by fans and we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of that character very seriously. We raised concerns about Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support.
WDWNT will continue to keep you updated as more details emerge on this story.
Image credit: Lawrence Lucier / Getty Images