It’s not easy being green, especially right now. After the departure of Steve Whitmire from The Muppets there has been a lot of chatter about what exactly happened. Puzzles pieces began to fill in however when Whitmire made a statement on his blog. This was followed by both The Muppet Studios releasing a statement and Jim Henson’s kids speaking out. While perhaps the exact truth may never be known, a picture is beginning to form.
The Muppet Studios & Disney’s Perspective
Now The Muppet Studios has shared its thoughts via the following statement:
“The role of Kermit the Frog is an iconic one that is beloved by fans and we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of that character very seriously. We raised concerns about Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support.” –Debbie McClellan, head of the Muppets Studio, a division of Disney.
Disney also provided the New York Times with a producer for a Muppets-related project. He corroborated what the Hensons and Disney shared about Whitmire’s conduct but declined to comment with attribution.
Brian and Lisa Henson’s Perspective
Jim Henson’s kids, Brian and Lisa Henson, also joined the conversation in a recent interview with the New York Times. In it they shared their perspectives on what has been going on. In an article that also shared Whitmire’s perspective, they confirm what The Muppets Studios statement says. Lisa Henson, president of The Jim Henson Company shared that, “He played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations.” Ms. Henson also shared that Whitmire refused to appear in certain “B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting.” He also would not mentor an understudy and even “blackballed young performers” by refusing to appear in shows with them.
Brian Henson shared that Steve Whitmire’s Kermit was “sometimes excellent, and always pretty good,” but things changed when not on set. “He’d send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director,” Henson commented.
Steve Whitmire’s Perspective
For Steve Whitmire, this is the end of a long run bringing to life the world’s most famous frog. He shared his side of the story to the New York Times saying that, “They were uncomfortable with the way I had handled giving notes to one of the top creative executives on the series,” Mr. Whitmire said in regards to The Muppets, the short lived ABC television show.
“Nobody was yelling and screaming or using inappropriate language or typing in capitals,” Whitmire said. “It was strictly that I was sending detailed notes. I don’t feel that I was, in any way, disrespectful by doing that.” He also talked about an incident revolving around a project with Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and an outside company that he didn’t name. A contract dispute found Whitmire agreeing with his union against Disney on how much the muppeteers should be paid. Later Whitmire had a lawyer approach Disney and offer to never give creative feedback again or talk to the union during contract negotiations. Whitmire was out at The Muppets Studios shortly after.
“I’ve been laying awake at night for nine months trying to empathize with a position of ending somebody’s career over issues that seem to me to be so easily solved,” Mr. Whitmire said.
The story about the ending of Steve Whitmire’s nearly three decade career with The Muppets seems to be coming together. It is an unfortunate story any way it is looked at. As sad as this all is, Kermit the Frog will continue on. Muppeteer Matt Vogel will be be bringing the world’s most famous frog to life moving forward. It is unknown who will be picking up the other characters that were Whitmire’s. Kermit’s next appearance will most likely be on The Muppets YouTube channel. Stay tuned to DAPs Magic for continued coverage of The Muppets!
What do you think about Steve Whitmire’s dismissal now that several different parties have weighed in on what happened? Let us know in the comments section below!