Muppets fans were all shocked recently when they learned that the performer behind Kermit the Frog for nearly 30 years would no longer be in the part. Now, he has spoken out about the circumstances that led to his departure. Steve Whitmire has started a new personal blog and his first post addresses his leaving Muppet Studios. As it turns out, this departure wasn't as recent as we thought and actually took place several months ago, According to Whitmire...
Steve Whitmire says that the fact that his departure has only recently come to light is in part due to his attempts to convince Muppets Studios to change its mind. According to his post, Whitmire claims that the executive gave him two reasons for the decision, and while he doesn't explain what the reasons were, he says that they had never been brought up to him previously, though he has apparently tried to address them over the last several months.
Without knowing what these reasons were it's impossible to really judge what happened here. If Disney's decision to replace Steve Whitmire had something to do with his performance, it's possible they felt that there was no point in trying to remedy the situation. Once an employer makes a decision, it's often viewed as a waste of time to go back on it. On the other hand, it isn't even entirely clear here that the decision had anything at all to do with Whitmire's performance. The Muppets haven't been a major concern for Disney since the studio's last attempt at a TV series went down. Perhaps one of the reasons was simply cost-cutting due to this lower priority and the new Kermit is simply cheaper than the old Kermit.
While Steve Whitmire is clearly upset by the situation, he stops short of getting angry or laying blame with those that made these decisions. Quite to the contrary, as he closes out his post, he apologizes, as he feels that he has let the fans down by not being able to continue in the role he previously held.
Longtime puppeteer Matt Vogel has been announced as the new performer behind Kermit the Frog. He's expected to debut in the role next week as part of the Muppet Thought of the Week series on YouTube.
In the end, there's probably little reason to throw around blame here. It's unfortunate that Steve Whitmire, who was the only person to voice Kermit other than Jim Henson, is no longer in that role, but fans clearly appreciate his work, and Kermit and the Muppets will live on.