Legendary puppeteer Steve Whitmire will no longer perform as Kermit the Frog.
And sadly, Whitmire’s not leaving on his own terms.
Since the late 1970s, Whitmire has worked on every major Muppet-related project, puppeteering dozens of characters including Rizzo the Rat, Foo-Foo, and Beaker. He took over the role of Kermit the Frog in 1990, following the death of the character’s former performer and creator, Jim Henson.
For nearly three decades, Whitmire has controlled and voiced Kermit, but he was relieved of his duties in October of last year.
In an emotional blog post, he explained his stress at the decision.
“In 1978 when I was asked to join The Muppet Show, the Muppets were the hottest thing on the planet,” Whitmire wrote.
“I was invited to sit at the feet of the true masters, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz; working alongside them, absorbing different skills from each, as we, along with many talented others, contributed towards the same shared vision, the vision of one man. The result became a skill-set for myself that was sort of a compilation of the best of them all.”
Towards the end of the post, he broke the news he’d been sitting on for months.
“…As I am sure you can imagine, I have experienced every possible emotion since October 2016, when I received a phone call from The Muppets Studio’s executives to say they were recasting,” Whitmire wrote.
“Through a new business representative, I have offered multiple remedies to their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call,” he continued. “I wish that we could have sat down, looked each other in the eye, and discussed what was on their minds before they took such a drastic action.”
The puppeteer ended his note with an apology.
“Please forgive any faux pas as I have not been active in social media previously and have a serious learning curve. I just want you all to know that I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point throughout our journey, and to let everyone know that I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero.”
Whitmire’s other characters have included Wembley Fraggle of Fraggle Rock, Ernie of Sesame Street, and various monsters in Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. However, Kermit is easily his most famous character and arguably the most recognizable of Jim Henson’s Muppets.
Henson created Kermit, building the puppet out of his mother’s old coat.
The puppet appeared on Henson’s Sam and Friends, a local broadcast television show, before becoming an international sensation as the host of The Muppet Show.
Henson worked closely with Whitmire for decades, and Whitmire quickly took over Kermit and other Muppet characters after Henson’s death. Whitmire’s filmography includes every major Muppet movie, most recently 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted.
Muppets Studio responded to the blog post in a statement, thanking Whitmire for his “tremendous contributions to Kermit the Frog and the Muppets franchise.”
“We wish him well in his future endeavors,” the statement concludes.
Read Whitmire’s full blog post here.