The Muppets – Steve Whitmire Kermit feud interesting, but also damaging

Steve WhitmireIf you love The Muppets, odds are that you’re familiar with the news from the past week: Steve Whitmire is no longer Kermit the Frog. He’s voiced the beloved character for well over two decades and did everything from movies to TV shows to commercials to cartoons. Few people know how it’s not easy being green quite like Whitmore.

However, the circumstances surrounding Whitmire’s exit were not exactly known until now — and they’re messy. It starts with Whitmire’s own comments to The Hollywood Reporter about his dismissal, stating that one of the big issues was creative clashes over the amount of feedback he offered up during the short-lived ABC series about the characters:

“The first issue was that they felt I had been ‘disrespectful’ in being outspoken on character issues with the small group of top creative people during the ABC series … I have been outspoken about what’s best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney [2004], but 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.”

There was a wide array of creative turmoil in The Muppets the ABC series from the jump, and there was a showrunner change behind the scenes and more during the process of it airing. The ratings weren’t good enough to get the show a second season, and that still stings given that we love the characters and felt that the series, while inconsistent at times, had some great moments.

Alas, there’s a slightly different story about Whitmore coming from the Muppet / Disney camp, with sources saying that he was “hostile” at times with his feedback and that he often disrupted production with his style of negotiation. The Muppet Studio released the following statement through a spokesperson:

“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.”

Whitmire is one of a select few people to ever voice the iconic Kermit character in an official capacity, so the idea of him leaving is tough. What’s even tougher, however, is the conflict becoming so public on both sides. Hopefully, there is an olive branch extended on the part of both parties soon, given that this entire downfall of Whitmire’s tension stands against everything that the Muppets stand for: Love, celebration, community, and fun. Whitmire’s a brilliant puppeteer, but there’s a reason often why puppeteers are not well-known names: It’s about the character.

When you see Kermit at a press junket, it’s about Kermit. The fun lies within the illusion. With this dispute becoming more public, some of that magic is gone. It’s not good for Disney, and it’s certainly not good for Kermit. While we’re an outsider in this situation and not around at the time of The Muppets being made, it would do everyone some good to pay Whitmire proper tribute, but also for him to realize that if he loves Kermit so much, this isn’t really about him. It’s about the kids who love the famous frog and want to continue to see him. It’s regrettable that all of this happened, but it’s time to move forward to the next adventure.

As for the Muppets themselves, let’s just hope that there are some more creative adventures coming up in the future. (Photo: ABC.)

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