If the Miss Piggy breakup weren't enough, here comes another split for Kermit the Frog. The voice of the green Muppet we’ve all come to know and love over the last few decades is changing.
Steve Whitmire — the Kermit puppeteer since creator Jim Henson died — confirmed on the Today show that he had been fired, but claims not for good reason. “I’m gone because I was outspoken,” he said, referring to ongoing union issues and feedback he gave regarding Kermit.
But is that really the reason for Whitmire's departure, or is it because he's a “bitter, angry, depressed victim,” as the Henson family claims? Whitmire disputes that, saying he was blindsided when he learned in October that he was being replaced after 27 years. He says he remained silent for so long, hoping executives might reverse their decision. The Muppets Studio said in a statement that Whitmire's dismissal was for repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years.
As Kermit has said many times, “It’s not easy being green.” And apparently, it’s not easy being Kermit.
“He’s not Kermit. He was a performer hired to do Kermit. There is a difference,” said Henson’s daughter, Cheryl.
But at some point, the family did like Whitmire’s work. When Henson died at 53 in 1990, his son, Brian, handpicked Whitmire to inherit the character first introduced to the world in 1955.
So what happens now for Kermit? Longtime Muppets performer Matt Vogel takes over. He has voiced such characters as Big Bird, Robin the Frog and the Count.
Vogel is considered "one of the best puppeteers in the world," according to Joe Hennes, senior contributor and editor of ToughPigs.com, a website for Muppets fans. In an interview with ABC News, Hennes said, "We're going to be getting a new voice for Kermit, but what will be much more important will be that performance.
"For a lot of the fans, it will be a little jarring to hear a different performer's voice. But just like we did with Steve, we'll get used to it because it will be such a professional performance."
A little advice to Vogel: Remember, “it’s not easy being green.”