57-year-old puppeteer Steve Whitmire, who has been the voice of Kermit the Frog since 1978, was fired from his job over what the studio is calling “repeated unacceptable business conduct” that was over “a period of many years.” The statement, which was given to The Associated Press, also claims that Whitmire “consistently failed to address” the issue.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Whitmire said that he was fired after expressing views on how the beloved character should be portrayed in ABC’s Muppets mockumentary series that aired from 2015 to 2016. “I have been outspoken about what’s best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney ,” he said. “The fact is I have respect for everyone who was involved in the creation of that series for their own particular contributions. At the same time, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets.”
Meanwhile, Lisa Henson — the daughter of the late Jim Henson, who founded The Muppets — told The New York Times that she supports the studio’s decision to fire Whitmire, claiming that he “played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations” and was hostile about training an understudy. Lisa is the president of the Jim Henson Co., and sold The Muppets brand to Disney in 2004.
In addition to his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Whitmire penned an emotional blog post about him leaving the franchise after all these years. “This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game,” he wrote. “I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.”
Kermit will now be voiced by Matt Vogel.