Why Did Disney Fire Kermit The Frog Voice Actor Steve Whitmire?

Why Did Disney Fire Kermit The Frog Voice Actor Steve Whitmire?

Just a few days ago, Steve Whitmire-the veteran actor who has voiced Kermit the Frog for longer than any of Paste's interns have been alive-was unceremoniously dumped by Disney.

In addition to Kermit, Whitmire had voiced grumpy critic Statler, Rizzo the Rat, the always-startled Beaker, and other characters for the Muppets. A spokesperson for Disney cited "unprofessional business conduct" as the reason for Whitmire's firing. Although he has always been outspoken and took pride in getting involved in the creative process, Whitmire insisted that he treated everyone with respect.

The Muppets Studio is blaming "unacceptable business conduct" for its dismissal of Steve Whitmire as the longtime performer of Kermit the Frog.

Henson's daughter, Lisa, told the Times that Whitmire refused to train an understudy for low-level performances and "played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations". For instance, he took issue with an episode in which Kermit lied to his nephew, Robin, about his big breakup with Miss Piggy, saying that Kermit is "too compassionate" to do anything but sit Robin down and tell him the truth.

"So much hope is gone", he said. Whitmire explained that he was only trying to help by giving them notes. I thought I was aiding to keep it on track, and I think a big reason why the show was canceled (after one season last fall) was because that didn't happen. He also thinks the show might have been spared cancellation if the studio had listened more closely to the Muppet talent.

However, a rep from The Muppets Studio told the the Hollywood Reporter that the former Kermit the Frog voice actor was sacked because of his "repeated unacceptable business conduct". "The decision to part ways was a hard one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support". Dismissing any suggestion that he left voluntarily, Whitmire writes, "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". A source close to the studio told THR that Whitmire's communication style was "overly hostile and unproductive".

The second issue concerning his termination had something to do with a union issue.

Whitmire also disputed the union disagreement that he said occurred "some 15 months earlier". This is my life's work since I was 19 years old.

First, some background: News broke last week that Whitmire, who has brought the felt-skinned favorite to life for the past 27 years, was being replaced by another actor named Matt Vogel. Fans will hear his voice for the first time as the character in a "Muppets Thought of the Week" video next week.

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