Steve Whitmire, the actor who voiced Kermit the Frog on The Muppets for 27 years, was sacked by Disney over "repeated unacceptable business conduct", according to the Hollywood Reporter. In response, the Muppets Studio claimed on Monday that Whitmire was let go because of "unacceptable business conduct", according to the Hollywood Reporter. "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".
First, some background: News broke last week that Whitmire, who has brought the felt-skinned favorite to life for the past 27 years, was being replaced by another actor named Matt Vogel. We raised concerns about Steve's repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. At the same time, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets.
Muppet Kermit the Frog and his operator Steve Whitmire in 2003.
"For me, the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion", Whitmire wrote on his personal blog site, titled Muppet Pundit.
An insider close to the studio also told the website that Whitmire's "persistent unprofessional behavior" ultimately led to his termination. "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".More news: Coast Guard rescues mother, daughter from rip tide at NC beach
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"I am not saying my notes would have saved it, but I think had they listened more to all of the performers, it would have made a really big difference", Whitmire said.
This story's no doubt going to develop more in the coming weeks and months, so it's worth staying tuned to see what Whitmire reveals next, and where Disney takes the Muppets brand next (as they've clearly got something in the works).
As for the union dispute, Whitmire says Disney framed it as him "refusing to work on a particular project", but in actuality it was some kind of contract issue with the Screen Actors Guild about him working on an unnamed project and an associated commercial. Still, there was a magic to Kermit he will never forget, he said. He will make his debut as Kermit in a "Muppets Thought of the Week" video set to air this week. "He's very talented with the Muppets; he is already performing and he was chosen by Jerry Nelson prior to his death to carry Jerry's characters forward".
USA Today reported that Steve Whitmire responded to the news in a blog post on his website. Whitmire told THR that he was "truly honored to keep Jim's spirit intact" while he played the beloved talking frog.