Steve Whitmire, the puppeteer who voiced Kermit the Frog for almost 30 years before being sacked last October, has pulled back the curtain on why he was fired by Disney.
The puppeteer who voiced Kermit the Frog for almost 30 years has pulled back the curtain on why he was fired by Disney.
Steve Whitmire had worked at The Muppets since he was 19 prior to his shock sacking last October.
The 57-year-old said he challenged plans to change the famous green amphibian, gave unwanted notes during a brief Muppets reboot on ABC last year, and was 'outspoken' about the direction the puppet production should take in future, he said during an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
'They felt I had been "disrespectful" in being outspoken on character issues,' Whitmire told the outlet.
Steve Whitmire has gone into new detail about why he was sacked from his role voicing Kermit the Frog after nearly 30 years
'The first issue was that they felt I had been "disrespectful" in being outspoken on character issues with the small group of top creative people during the ABC series.
'I have been outspoken about what’s best for The Muppets since The Muppets came to Disney (in 2004), 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, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know The Muppets.'
The 57-year-old added he took particular issue with an episode of The Muppets reboot in which Kermit lied about his breakup with Miss Piggy while speaking to his nephew, Robin.
'I don't think Kermit would lie to him,' Whitmire told the Reporter.
'I think that is Robin came to Kermit he would say "things happen, people go their separate ways, but that doesn't mean we don't care about you."
'Kermit is too compassionate to lie to him to spare his feelings.'
He continued: 'We have been doing these characters for a long, long time and we know them better than anybody.
Steve Whitmire had worked at The Muppets since he was 19 prior to his shock sacking last October. Kermit the Frog is pictured during an event in New York City on May 21, 2016
'I thought I was aiding to keep it on track and I think a big reason why the show was canceled (after one season last fall) was because that didn't happen.'
The veteran voice actor then spoke to the magazine about another factor he believes was a reason for his sacking, a union dispute.
'The second issue was framed as "refusing to work on a particular project" some 15 months earlier,' he said.
'I happened to get caught in the middle of a dispute on a contract classification between SAG-AFTRA and Disney Labor Relations which occurred while I was in-flight to work on the project and the associated commercial.
'I did in fact shoot the commercial, but was unable to shoot the material for the project in order to comply with my obligations to the guild.'
However, Disney denied the union incident was motivation for the sacking, instead saying the dismissal was the result of: 'issues that went on for many years'.
Steve Whitmire is no longer voicing Kermit The Frog after working on The Muppets for nearly 30 years
Matt Vogel (pictured), a longtime Muppets performer, will be taking over as Kermit the Frog
A Disney spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter the company is especially careful in handling a character as iconic as Kermit, and Whitmire's refusal to change his tact forced them to make the tough decision.
'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 statement read.
'The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support.'
Whitmire still seemed angry over his dismissal, wrapping up his interview by telling the Reporter: 'I am still trying to make sense of how those two issues were egregious enough to justify ending a 39-year career without at least giving me an ultimatum at the time the issue occurred when I would have had a chance to correct my course.
'The hardest part is that I genuinely like both of the executives who chose this action and that makes this all the more disappointing.
'My sadness is over knowing how important it is for the success of The Muppets to have the characters remain consistent and seeing the value of that ignored.'
Whitmire is the second person to play Kermit after Muppets creator Jim Henson (left and right) created the lovable green frog in 1955
Kermit was last pictured with Kendall Jenner a day after the Met Gala back in May
It comes after the 57-year-old said last week he was still hoping there was a chance he could have returned to the role he helped make famous.
'For me The Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion,' he wrote on his blog. '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.'
In the post he was still hopeful however that he can return to the role and said he: 'remains 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.
'Doing what is best for The Muppets is the lens through which all my interactions have been filtered.'
Whitmire is the second person to play Kermit after Muppets creator Jim Henson created the lovable green frog in 1955.
The third person will be longtime Muppets performer Matt Vogel, who was has voiced such characters as Big Bird, Robin the Frog and The Count.
In addition to Kermit, Whitmire had voiced grumpy critic Statler, Rizzo the Rat, the always-startled Beaker and other characters for The Muppets.
Whitmire and Kermit were inseparable for years, with the two making TV appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live and in films like Muppets Most Wanted and The Muppets in 2011.
In 1978 when I was asked to join The Muppet Show, The Muppets were the hottest thing on the planet. I was invited to sit at the feet of the true masters, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz; working alongside them, absorbing different skills from each, as we, along with many talented others, contributed towards the same shared vision, the vision of one man. The result became a skill-set for myself that was sort of a compilation of the best of them all.
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.
As I am sure you can imagine, 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.
I have remained silent the last nine months in hopes that the Disney company might reverse their course. Doing what is best for The Muppets is the lens through which all my interactions have been filtered. 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.
For decades, you have been an invaluable partner in co-creating the existence of The Muppets, and I am humbled by your devotion to them. There is so much more for us to talk about so I have created this site as a place to connect and share on all things Muppet, past, present and future.
Please forgive any faux pas as I have not been active in social media previously and have a serious learning curve. 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.
What a guy! Kermit pictured with his long-term love Miss Piggy