UPDATED: The Muppet Studio, the division of The Walt Disney Co. responsible responsible for the Muppets, said Monday that it fired Kermit the Frog voice actor Steve Whitmire after “repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years.”
“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,” a Muppet Studio spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Whitmire revealed Monday that he was fired in October after voicing Kermit for 27 years. He and late Muppets creator Jim Henson are the only two performers to have ever voiced the character. Whitmire claimed that he was let go after clashing with Disney over its handling of Kermit.
In a post on his personal blog Monday, Whtimire wrote: “I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done.”
Whitmire began working with Henson in 1979, and began performing as Kermit in 1990 after Henson’s death.
On Tuesday, Cheryl Henson, Jim Henson’s daughter, wrote on Facebook, “Steves version of history is ridculously self serving. My father never asked him to perform Kermit, my brother Brian did. Steve’s performance as Kermit has strayed far away from my father’s good hearted, compassionate leader of the Muppets. Steve performed Kermit as a bitter, angry, depressed victim. Worst of all, in the last few years he had not been not funny or fun. Recasting Kermit is long over due. Stop with the pity party! Let’s get back to the true spirit of Jim Henson’s Kermit!”