It’s been a whirlwind week for Muppets fans. Steve Whitmire, the voice of Kermit the Frog since 1990, lost his job. Matt Vogel, the voice of the Count, takes over the role this week.
So what the heck happened? Whitmire was Kermit, and then suddenly he wasn’t. When the news broke, both Disney and Whitmire would only say that his contributions to The Muppets were valued. Pretty vague.
This past week, Whitmire gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter and finally opened up. According to Whitmire, he was fired because he disagreed with the direction The Muppets took over the past few years, and because he spoke up about it.
In other words, the very definition of “creative differences.”
The crux of it was a scene on the recent Muppets TV show. It was a much more adult take on the characters than anything prior, and he didn’t think the writing was true to the characters. In particular, he disagreed with a scene where Kermit lied to his nephew about his reasons for breaking up with Miss Piggy.
The other piece of it is a simple SAG-AFTRA contract dispute, which Whitmire says was unfairly framed as his refusing to work on a job.
Disney had largely kept quiet about the matter, but apparently an interview in a major media publication was enough for them to say their piece. According to a Disney spokesperson, Whitmire had engaged in “unprofessional business conduct” for years, and his firing was a long time coming.
That unprofessional business conduct amounts to a confrontational communications style and a tendency to give “unwanted notes” on the scripts.
In other words, they’re saying the same thing as Whitmire, but adding that he is a jerk and they do not like him.
Regardless of where the blame lies, it’s a damn shame. Kevin Whitmire was the voice of Kermit for 27 years, hand-picked for the character by Brian Henson after Jim’s death.
Matt Vogel is a stellar puppeteer and voice actor, and no doubt he’ll do a great job with Kermit. But it won’t be the same Kermit. Not ever again.
Keep an eye on The Muppets YouTube channel for Vogel’s debut this week.