The Muppets drama continues. Recently, both Disney and Steve Whitmire spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about why the latter was fired from the iconic puppet franchise.
As reported earlier, Whitmire has been let go from the Muppets after nearly 40 years with the Disney franchise. Whitmire began working on The Muppet Show in 1978 and after Jim Henson died in 1990, he became the voice and puppeteer for two of the Muppets’ most legendary characters—Kermit the Frog and Ernie from Sesame Street. Whitmire’s other Muppet characters include Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, and Statler.
Last week, Whitmire posted a blog revealing that he was “devastated” after being fired from the Muppets. Now, the performer has spoken to The Hollywood Reporter, saying Disney fired him for being “disrespectful” and “outspoken”:
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 , 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.”
The Muppets Studio released a statement to THR, saying Whitmire’s business conduct was “unacceptable”:
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.”
As of now, Matt Vogel is taking over the role of Kermit. Overall, Whitmire says the whole ordeal is sad and “disappointing”:
The hardest part is that I genuinely like both of the executives who chose this action, and that makes this all the more disappointing. My sadness is over knowing how important it is for the success of the Muppets to have the characters remain consistent and seeing the value of that ignored.”
What do you think? Are you a Muppets fan? Do you think Disney was in the right to fire Whitmire?