Kermit The Frog Voice Actor Fired For 'Unacceptable Business Conduct' After 27 Years Voicing The Muppet
Steve Whitmire, the actor who voiced Kermit the Frog on The Muppets for 27 years, was fired by Disney over "repeated unacceptable business conduct," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Whitmire has worked with the Muppets since 1978 and has voiced Kermit since Muppets creator Jim Henson died in 1990. Last week, Disney and the Muppets Studio announced that Whitmire would be succeeded in the role of Kermit by Matt Vogel, but further information about Whitmire's departure was not released. That Tuesday, Whitmire released a personal blog post, saying that he had been fired by Disney in October and had "remained silent [about his termination] the last nine months in hopes that the Disney company might reverse their course."
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter on Monday, Whitmire said that Disney gave him two reasons for the firing: his perceived disrespect during the short-lived ABC Muppets reboot, and a union disagreement. "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," Whitmire told THR. "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."
Disney saw things, uh, a little differently. A source close to the studio told THR that Whitmire's communication style was "overly hostile and unproductive." The source told THR that there was no single incident that sparked the firing, but rather "issues that went on for many years." A spokesperson for the Muppets Studio elaborated on their critique in a 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."
What kind of unacceptable business conduct, you might ask? Well, Whitmire detailed one incident to THR wherein he fought back on an ABC Muppets plot line where Kermit lied to his nephew about the frog's relationship with Miss Piggy, because Whitmire thought "Kermit [was] too compassionate to lie to him to spare his feelings."
"I don't think Kermit would lie to him," Whitmire told THR. "I think that as 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.'"
"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. The Muppets reboot was cancelled after a single season last year. The voice actor and puppeteer told THR that he remained baffled by the studio's decision, especially since he was not given "an ultimatum at the time the issue occurred."
Matt Vogel will make his first performance as Kermit the Frog in a a “Muppets Thought of the Week” video later this week.