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The news that long-time Kermit the Frog voice Steve Whitmire was being replaced disappointed many fans. Things got a little darker when it was confirmed he'd been fired by Disney. However, the more we learn, the more we come to realize that things behind the scenes at Muppets Studio were something of a mess. Now, The Chairman of the Jim Henson Company, Brian Henson, has come out and publicly stated that he actually wishes he'd fired Steve Whitmire sooner, specifically, prior to the sale of the Muppets to Disney. According to Brian Henson...
I have to say, in hindsight, I feel pretty guilty that I burdened Disney by not having recast Kermit at that point [the sale to Disney] because I knew that it was going to be a real problem. And I have always offered that if they wanted to recast Kermit, I was all for it, and I would absolutely help. I am very glad we have done this now. I think the character is better served to remove this destructive energy around it.
Earlier this week Steve Whitmire gave an interview in which he explained the reasons that he was given for being let go from Muppet Studios. One of these issues was a feeling that he had been "disrespectful" in the way he gave notes to the studio during the recent The Muppets television show on ABC. Whitmire says that while he did have concerns about the way Kermit was portrayed and he wanted to voice them, he claimed that he was always willing to do his job one way or the other. In this interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brian Henson contradicts that idea. Henson specifically says that Whitmire would sometimes have outrageous demands and would, in fact, use "brinksmanship," claiming that he, Whitmire, needed to be kept happy because he was Kermit and "The Muppets are Kermit."
Needless to say, this paints a very different picture than the one Steve Whitmire has tried to create over the last few days. Whitmire claimed that his being let go last October came more or less out of the blue and that the issues presented as the reason had never been brought up with him before. According to Brian Henson, Whitmire was a known issue over a decade ago and it's difficult to believe that the puppeteer had no idea. Even if Whitmire truly believes he wasn't being disrespectful and thinks Muppets Studio was blowing things out of proportion, he almost certainly would have known people were unhappy.
In 2004 The Jim Henson Company sold the rights to The Muppets to Disney while continuing forward with the rights to all other Jim Henson properties. Brian Henson says he believes Matt Vogel, the new voice of Kermit the Frog, is the right person to take over the role and that he can inject some much-needed life into a character who has "flattened out" in recent years. While fans are rarely excited by any sort of change, Henson says they should not be afraid. It will likely be a slow roll out as there are no major Muppet projects on the schedule, with the characters mostly relegated to a regular YouTube series at the moment.