For the first time in nearly 30 years, there will be a new voice playing iconic Muppet, Kermit the Frog. Recently, the Muppet Studio announced it was firing Steve Whitmire, the puppeteer who took over the studio’s most recognized Muppet after the death of Muppets creator, Jim Henson.
Whitmire was directly mentored by Henson, beginning in 1978, and considered him a visionary. In a heartbreaking post on Facebook, Whitmire confessed that he was “devastated to have failed” Henson after so many years. The puppeteer said he never would have left his job voluntarily, and he was fired against his will: “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…”
In the post, Whitmire admitted he was told he would be fired back in October, but he said nothing following the news while hoping the Muppet Studio honchos would reverse their decision. That was not to be.
Whitmire did say there were “two reasons” he was terminated, and, despite his repeated suggestions on how to remedy the situation, he was rebuffed. “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.”
Fans were absolutely shocked by the news. Whitmire has been more than Kermit for through major evolutions in The Muppet universe. In addition to Kermit, he played Ernie on Sesame Street, Statler, Beaker, and Rizzo the Rat. Fans will remember him from The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppets From Space, and The Muppets.
So far, neither side has been willing to discuss the circumstances surrounding Whitmire’s firing, but speculation is running wild. Why would a beloved character with so many years working for the company suddenly be let go? Only Whitmire and the officials who made the decision know for sure.
The only statement made by the studio was a terse boilerplate message thanking Whitmire for “his tremendous contributions to Kermit the Frog and the Muppets franchise. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.