The Latenight Double Feature ‘Post’ Show

“Why Don’t You Get Things Started???”, the audience exclaimed.

First I have to say that I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support in your comments, from friends old and new, celebrities, press, and fans worldwide. You have no idea how much that means to me. I keep tearing up as I try to read…my keyboard is a mess…. That might explain the technical difficulties that have prevented me from posting. Hopefully things are working and you are reading Thursday’s post now.

I understand and appreciate your range of emotions from sorrow to outrage as I have traveled that path myself. There are many things to tell you about all of this so in order to avoid writing boring dissertations, I am (hopefully) going to break this into more manageable and digestible bits. Plus, its Saturday and I have grass to mow…and laundry to do…

Since so many of you have responded to the last sentence of my first post, “failed in my duty to my hero”, please indulge me in adding a bit more to try to clarify.

I guess I always thought of the work I’ve done with the Muppets as tending my little portion of the garden, you know? But, in the big scheme of all the fear, negativity and really bad stuff in our world it seemed quite small and often ineffective.

I would read cynical comments to fan’s concerns like, ‘I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s just a bunch of puppets’ or ‘Get a life! Anybody can do a Kermit impression…’, and there was a part of me that couldn’t help taking it personally because I realized that, in my mind at least, they were trampling Jim’s legacy. I get pretty defensive when people go after those I care about.

While Jim was unassuming and graceful, he was also powerful in his gentleness and integrity. And those ‘cute little Muppets’ who so many think are for kids were, at their best, raucous, irreverent, outspoken and rebellious against injustice. So, when I speak of ‘failing’ in my duty, a big part of what I mean is this:

Do the Muppets matter in today’s world? Your comments – indicate that they do.

If they matter, then their history matters. Being at their best is vital. I believe characters like Kermit need to remain built on the sturdy foundation of their past in order to be progressive going forward. Integrity is everything, and that’s true for the Muppets, as well. As one of the last two active originators of the Muppets, I still have a big job to do before the next group can effectively step in.

It is no longer the Muppets if core values are lost or discarded. While I fought very hard for the integrity of the Muppets over the last twelve years largely to my own detriment, maybe I should have fought even harder and louder…and, yes, I would have likely been gone sooner… I fear I was the last samurai.

S

62 thoughts on “The Latenight Double Feature ‘Post’ Show

  1. Steve, thank you so much for your continued updates. Please know that we all are making as much noise as we possibly can and are trying to voice our disappointment, Meanwhile, please know that we all support and are hoping for the best. You are in our thoughts…

  2. Thank you, Steve. There is a reason that most of the fan reactions are anti-Disney. We have already been primed by years of them mostly discounting our perspective. We all appreciate everything you have done behind the scenes to try to represent the legacy of the Muppets and Jim. I know that Muppet fans can’t economically support a Disney franchise all on their own and they thus tried to constantly appeal to a wider audience. But the best entertainment seems to come from the entertainers themselves getting together and deciding what they would enjoy.

    Thank you again for reaching out and sharing your perspective. You’ve been a hero of mine since before I became aware of your existence.

  3. Thank you for clarifying the root cause of this nonsense. I had suspected as much. Sadly, when you give creative control over to an entity other than those who created the dream; things can and do, go sideways very quickly. Again, thank you for doing your best to maintain the integrity of the Muppets.

  4. Hi Steve,

    I’ve been a big fan of yours for as far back as I can remember and my Kermit that you so kindly performed after the Alan Carr taping is up there as my most prized possession.

    Like you, I get offended when people say such derogatory things about the Muppets and I recall a teacher at my school back in 92 (who knew I was a fan of the Muppets – and was also a fan of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image which both Louise Gold and Anthony Asbbury worked on) said to me of my ambition to be a performer:

    “You’re not gonna get anywhere with puppets!”

    Such a horrid remark, those who bring Frogs and pigs and chickens and bears and whatever Gonzo is to life help bring beauty and light into a world where more than ever we need #Love, #Peace and #Happiness and the Muppets have ensured that this has happened and hence why they’ve endured and why they will do so perpetually – it’s because of wonderful, lovely people like you.

    If I may, having met you, there is so much of you within Kermit (in fact typing to you I feel I’m directly typing to Kermit) and likewise there’s so much of Kermit within you. There was only ONE Jim Henson, and likewise there is only ONE Steve Whitmire and as a Fan, I know that the entire fan base has nothing but #Love and admiration for everything you’ve done and everything you do.

    Just so happens that earlier I was talking to a lady about insurance and as we were discussing my policy she asked if I had any valuables, I mentioned that I have a Fedora signed by Harrison, Spielberg, Lucas et al BUT my Kermit Muppet performed by Steve Whitmire is invaluable beyond measure – we discussed how our favourite version of the Christmas carol is THE only version… The Muppets Christmas Carol, every year it’s watched on Christmas Eve and Christmas isn’t Christmas without it.

    You, dear sir, have touched many people’s lives, more than I think even Beaker could ever count – we #Love you and no matter what we always will.

    The Very Best of Good Energies to you

    Richard. X

  5. I am crying as I type this out.I will tell you in all honesty you are my favorite Puppeteer of all time.I remember watching Fraggle Rock.I remember relating to Wembley in so many ways.He is fun and sweet.Most of all Wembley has a vulnerable side.For some reason when I heard about everything I pictured Wembley crying.My heart sank when I read all the info on Muppet fan pages.Steve I thank you for everything you have done.You are a hero to me.Your work and the heart that you put into it is VERY effective.You have brought so much to so many.Including me.

  6. Steve, you can’t see it, but I’m on my feet applauding. All the standing ovations to you, sir!

    I actually screamed, ‘Exactly!’ several times over. What Jim established was so important and you had every right to defend your hero to the hilt. I’ve been trying to do the same thing for you. And of course the Muppets still matter! They haven’t lasted for over 60 years for a reason!

    They matter to me personally because they are a constant reminder to not take life too seriously. They are able to make me feel every emotion possible. I’ll be laughing one moment, then tearing up, sometimes both at the same time (seriously, bravo on Pictures In My Head).

    Last Samurai or not, we are all here as your willing students. Teach away, Steve!

    1. I just realised I wrote, ‘They haven’t lasted for over 60 years for a reason!’ instead of, ”They have lasted for over 60 years for a reason.’

      I really should learn to slow down while responding!

  7. Steve,
    I had the great privilege to take a class with you in Atlanta. I grew up absolutely enthralled with the Muppets and it was a dream come true. Even more, I was invited to a follow up class where I believe one of us were recruited.(Not certain) The lucky young man was disabled and like many of us puppeteers, this was the niche where he could really shine.
    Getting to perform Queen and Ray Charles music in from of monitors with the soul of Kermit was one of the best moments of my life. If you have been cast out, the Muppets have lost their soul. That torch of rebellious, snarky social commentary that you kept burning for Jim Henson, has been snuffed by corporate greed. I wanted to send you a condolence card but I couldn’t find a fan mail address.
    My weirdo artist heart breaks for you. Please be kind to yourself as there is nothing more precious than integrity in this treacherous world. I hope you find peace and look to the future.
    Much Love and Respect,
    Liam K.

  8. And you were in a place where you could fight for the integrity of the Muppets…..sadly we little people can’t. And what is even worse, most of the Muppet fan sites are telling us not to. I am worried about what the Muppets are becoming.

  9. Steve,

    One of things I’m worried about is what will happen to Rizzo the Rat?

    Rizzo was always one of my Top Favorite Muppets! Whether he’s paired with Gonzo or Pepe, I just love that little guy!

    I feel like I can’t imagine anybody else doing that character, but I know that all the Muppet performers are brilliant and always have Full Respect for these characters.

  10. Hello, Steve.
    I will say that first of all, you are one of my favorite performers. I applaud you for taking on Kermit and Ernie after Jim died. I also love watching you as Wembley in Fraggle Rock, he’s my favorite character of all time!

    When I heard the news, I was upset and really angry. Thank you for telling your side of the story, I figured that was what went down. Thank you for standing up not only for yourself and the other performers, but for the Muppets as a whole.

    I give Matt my utmost support as well in this trying time, I know he’ll do a good job. I’ll admit, it won’t be the same, but he’ll do great.

    I’m thinking about you a lot and you’re in my prayers. I can’t say “Thank You” enough. Don’t think for a second you failed or disappointed anybody. You’ve done so much for so many.

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Renee

  11. Dear Steve,

    I’ve had the pleasure of hearing you speak about puppetry, Kermit, and the connection between performer and character both at the Center for Puppetry Arts and at the National Puppetry Festival, not to mention your wonderful panels at DragonCon. It’s so clear how deeply the Muppets and your work with them matter to you, and I hope that the love you felt from the audiences at those events came through to show you how much they matter to us. I’ve never been more in awe of a celebrity–or seen more people gasp in wonder–than when you’ve brought Kermit out. That’s a testament to you, to Jim Henson, and to the power of the work you’ve created.

    You’ve been inspirational (not to mention most sensational, celebrational, and Muppetational). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  12. Remember when Henson kids bought back the muppets from that German company? At what point does Disney put them up for sale ? Or do they just put them away once they don’t produce the $$$ they want.

  13. Hi Steve,
    It was a great honour to meet you very briefly at the “Morning with The Muppets” convention in NYC last year. I was the puppeteer all the way from Australia with the big blue monster. I’ll never forget how you fluffed up his fur (it was too smooth and needed to be a bit messier, which it has remained since). You told me that you guys were heading to Australia for a few appearances and a commercial filming or two. Just wanted to say thanks for Wembley and Rizzo, and for very respectfully and thoughtfully keeping Jim Henson’s characters alive – most notably Kermit the Frog. You talked at that convention about how each puppeteer brings something very personal and unique to the characters, rather than simply impersonating the original performer (eg. the idea of Jim’s Kermit vs. Steve’s Kermit). You brought 27 years of your own heart and soul to Kermit, and you did it with love. You’re a huge inspiration to me and my puppetry work here in Australia. Thanks for everything you’ve done. I’m excited to continue following your journey into the future – with or without Kermit. If that Fraggle Rock movie ever goes ahead, I hope you’ll be there to bring Wembley to life again. Stay strong. Love your work!

  14. To add my two cents to what Dan L. posted, I am in a quandry. What can we “little people” do? If I refuse to support the D Machine in their Evil Plot, I would feel like I am abandoning old friends in their time of need. Then again maybe the Muppets would be cast aside if their revenues don’t live up to projection. My hope would then be that those with integrity to Jim Henson’s legacy could pick them back up. Naive, I know, but I still believe in Hope and Muppet Magic. Some things must be believed to be seen.
    Maybe we should start a Go Fund Me and rescue them!!!! Muppies (Muppet groupies) unite!

  15. I didn’t get a chance to say anything on the last blog post because of technical issue. Hopefully, thing will work this time around. Anyway, there really isn’t a whole lot I can add that hasn’t already been said. Steve, you and the work that you’ve done is loved by so many. We can’t thank you enough for everything.

  16. Dear Steve,
    Please don’t ever doubt that you’ve made a very real difference in our lives. I grew up with Kermit and the muppets yet, like we do with many of our blessings, I took them for granted. When Jim Henson died I felt a sense of loss that I don’t recall ever feeling for someone I didn’t know. For awhile I wasn’t sure if Kermit had “died” too. Then when I saw and heard my favorite little amphibian again (seeming quite his old self), I felt like I found a lost friend. I’m nearly thirty years older now, much more cynical and quite a bit more tired, but Kermit and the gang still manage to bring a smile to my face. Every year I watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and, for a couple hours at least, I forget about everything bad in the world. I don’t believe that would have been possible without you. 🙂

  17. I just wanted to write a short note of gratitude and thanks to you. For many years of my childhood, I desperately wanted to become a puppeteer. I was punished more than once by my parents for getting caught watching the Muppets on television. Yes, that’s right. They felt I was spending far too much time and focus on ‘babyish’ things like Muppets and they needed to force me to focus elsewhere. Because of that, I did not pursue my passion, which puppeteers like you inspired in me and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Now, I am a middle aged lady, reading your story and it’s bringing up some of the same feelings I had way back then. I now realize just how amazing, creative and magical the entire puppeteering process is. Creativity is not babyish, it’s magical. People like you were and still are my heroes and always will be. The ‘go along to get along’ method only produces mediocrity, tasteless and lifeless products. The sparkle and talent behind the Muppets will inevitably fade at an ever quickening pace if the corporate mindset doesn’t change and that will truly be a tragic loss to this planet. Being “Kermit” was a calling, not a job. It appears that the pattern I’ve seen in so many other creative endeavours that fall under the control of corporations is that sparkle is discounted and minimized in favour of profits and expediency. Those without the ability to recognize that are the some of the same folks who think the sound of a Stradivarius and a cheap fiddle are the same and they will go with the cheap fiddle simply because it costs less. Godspeed in whatever you choose to do in the future, your absence will be acutely missed and mourned. Kermit will always live on in my memories the way you and Jim left him. What a glorious body of work you both have left behind….and that can never be taken from you. Not even by a corporation.

  18. Hello Steve Whitmire,
    I’m a 14 yr old kid and I love all your work.I grew up with your characters like Rizzo and Wembley and Kermit. The love and soul you put into all your characters is astounding.I wish Good luck to you In the future.Also I Hope that you will puppeteer Wembley in that Fraggle Rock movie.I hope I can meet you some day and I hope to become a puppeteer like you one day… I look up to you

    Your My Hero…
    Thank you and Stay Strong because some day you will find the rainbow connection, and Believe in magic words,Believe in love,Believe in buried treasure falling from above.
    https://youtu.be/92JlSjKS0YI 🙂
    From Xavier Lassandro.

  19. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to think up a comment. I feel like all the other Muppet fans commenting on your posts have said it all for me. Instead I will just say thank you, Steve for all the great work you did as a Muppet performer and thank you for fighting for the integrity of the Muppets.

  20. Steve, I hope you know how much we appreciate your fight for the integrity of the Muppets. We fans often feel like we can do so little, and knowing that there was someone on the inside who was advocating so strongly for what was in the best interest of the Muppets and Jim’s legacy was always a huge comfort for me. Thank you.

  21. Dear Steve ,
    I was just a 16 year old kid when when Jim passed away . Watching the Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson special made me feel everything was going to be ok . I fall asleep every night to this day watching it and many more wonderful Muppet videos.
    I am now a 44 year old man , I am a sole parent to my five year old daughter . Her mother , my partner passed away awhile ago now.
    It seems life is just one heart breaking thing after the next .
    It breaks my heart seeing the Muppets I loved as a child slowly become something different.
    First Jim leaves us , and you filled his shoes wonderfully, thank you.
    Next Richard leaves us and was replaced , no special videos for him .
    Then we had to endure the slow departure of Frank , I understand why he wanted out , it would have been so painful for him without Jim , as it would have been for all of you.
    Then the beautiful Jerry joins Jim and Richard in heaven , rest in peace guys .
    Now all we have left is Davey .
    When Disney eventually decide to replace him , then that is that . I am so sad .
    The only happiness I can expect is hoping my daughter grows to love the Muppets as I do.
    I just want to thank you for 27 years of keeping Jim’s legacy . Those years and your work have kept me going really .
    Thank you , thank you , thank you …….

  22. That certainly clarifies your initial comments a little further regarding feeling like a failure…but again i would contend you’re not.

    If you devote your life’s energies to preserving The Muppets’ core values and identity and others fail to take heed, that is quite squarely their failure and not yours.

    Somewhat akin to Cantus trying to impart a message of wisdom to someone who’s initially a little too stubborn or wrapped up in other things to listen but after some time and real-life examples, they eventually come around.

    Just too bad real life doesn’t often resemble a show where everything works out in 30-60 minutes and the good guys come out on top. Not that that should discourage people from trying to see that justice prevails and that mistakes get corrected and poor decisions reversed.

    I’ve been saying this so much lately in different places that it’s almost started to become a mantra but, if any executive at Disney and/or The Muppets believes dismissing Steve Whitmire is “The Answer”, then it’s obvious the wrong questions are being asked. More to the point, if anyone at Disney/Muppets actually believes that firing not only one of the most talented puppeteers in the industry and someone who’s continually been the heart and soul and protector of their spirit is best for the brand, i would counter that having such a person entrusted with looking after the franchise to instead be The Problem and to enable them to continue in that position would be the worst possible thing for the brand. Their own bosses/the people they in turn answer to need to be put on Red (or rather Green) Alert and the top brass at Disney seriously needs to investigate what’s going on at the Muppet division and perhaps make some desperately needed personnel changes…and in the process invite you back to the table to work out any remaining unresolved issues if they even existed at that point.

    I know some will agree with me, others will disagree. But whatever side you fall on, i would strongly encourage everyone to be fully supportive of Matt Vogel in the process. Being an understudy/replacement is a very hard job and position to be in (Steve, you’d know this more than anyone!) and he needs to know he has fans’ support and sympathy and any wishes by fans that Disney/Muppets Bring Back Steve is not at all a reflection of the job Matt’s doing, but rather of the fact that he shouldn’t have to be in the position of doing so just quite yet at this point of time when Steve rightly should still be there.

  23. Steve,

    Thank you so much for clearing things up. I’m so glad you saw how loved you are by us fans, because we appreciate everything you’ve done for The Muppets and still do. That’s the one thing I was hoping you’d see and I just want you to remember that.

    Also thank you for fighting to keep integreity of The Muppets. As a long time Muppet fan, keeping them relevant and true to themselves is so important.

    It’s been a rough week and I’ve been so depressed and upset about this, but I really hope you’re okay and keeping going because you’re amazing and should continue to do wonderful things!

    Valerie

  24. I couldn’t agree with you more, Steve. Integrity is indeed everything, and Jim would be so proud of you for standing up for the Muppets. Don’t fear that you didn’t fight hard enough. Instead be content that you stood up at all! I think you will easily recall these lyrics from The Tale of The Bunny Picnic…

    When you stand all alone
    And you feel the weight of zero in your bones,
    When the wrong just goes on
    And the fight is like a night without a dawn,
    There’s a voice you will hear;
    It will tell you what is right in spite of fear
    And the voice is a drum —
    It will lead you to your courage,
    It will tell your friends to come.

    You just lived your very own Muppet moment, Steve. You became a real-life Bean Bunny, the bravest bunny of them all, fighting against a big, mean Farmer. But I fervently hope that you didn’t stand all alone, that Dave Goelz and the other Muppeteers rallied to stand beside you in defense of the Muppets’ integrity despite the fear of being ousted.

    Thank you for gathering your courage and standing up against the wrong. Thank you for doing the right thing in spite of fear. It wasn’t for nothing, and it means the world. I’m sending you the most enormous of mental hugs. <3

  25. Hi Steven:
    I hope to express myself correctly, since my original language is Spanish.
    The Muppets were born in the ’70s. And Jim Henson always maintained some of that irreverent and contentious politics spirit. And real fans always knew that the commercial side was necessary to support the product but that was never the main reason. Disney doesn’t understand what it has in his hands.
    I’m very sorry about all this situation! Without the personality you have given to him, Kermit won’t be the same, I know.
    And neither the Muppets if their natural irreverence is displaced by a commercial mold humor, an aggiornamento to the company’s productions, a too candid a perspective.
    We’ll love to help as much as we could. We’ll be faithful to Henson.
    And we hope to hear about you, about your personal projects, if there is no possible return.
    I share here an artwork I’ve done months ago:
    http://diego-fiorucci.blogspot.com.ar/2017/03/fantoches-del-piano-jim-henson-rowlf.html
    With great fondness.

    Diego

  26. Or to sum up Steve’s post, the moral of the story is that:

    There’s a place in every corporation for both bean counters and Bean Bunnies.

    (Now if some people at Disney could LEARN that lesson and take it to heart…)

  27. I think you need to PLUS this situation. Allow me to explain – I am stealing from the people who took your job away (hope your don’t mind). Disney, when a ride or attraction has been designed does not leave it at that. They are told to then PLUS the ride/attraction and make it even better. You, Steve, are now free to not only make yourself better, but puppetry as a whole.

    As one of the originators of the Muppets, you have a unique perspective and are now no longer grounded by any corporate entity or otherwise to PLUS your own idea of puppetry. Even better, you have name recognition, perhaps not at the same calibre as ‘Henson’, but darn close as most people know who you are when they hear your name. Each puppet has its own unique individual personality and the best have yet to be born, because this is not an ending, but the beginning of something more wonderful. Mr. Henson saw something in you, and that hasn’t changed.

    The public knows who the muppets are, but are primed to now have something new, with more depth, and dare I say, smarter, with characters that will live with more than two dimensional scripts. I have always thought, for example, that the Dark Crystal started as something darker that brought out something that was missing from characterizations that was never followed through in subsequent Henson films. Give creative writers a chance to bring these characters to life and yourself to find your new ‘voice.’

    I am reading about many tears from yourself and fans being wept. Frankly, I am concerned that you are writing about an end of a career; I’d be depressed too with thoughts such as these. Take care of yourself first. Then it’s time to wipe off the tears. There are many lemons lying around. When it is time, soon, you and a new team should be thinking about pulling out the lemonade recipe, and letting the public know, “you haven’t seen anything yet.”

    To borrow from another fictional character (for a ‘Next Generation’), “Make it so, Steve.” It only gets better from here.

  28. Steve,

    You have long been my favorite Muppet performer, as I understood the challenge AND responsibility it was to assume the role of Kermit. While I do a pretty good Kermit with puppet, it lacks the depth and experience that is necessary to *be* Kermit. Your Kermit, like a living entity, is the sum of all the memories and history of his “life”. That life and those memories are in you and your performances.

    Matt Vogel is a wonderful performer and I truly loved Constantine. While I’m sure he will put this heart into continuing the legacy you and Mr. Henson preceded his with, it wasn’t the time and place for Disney to do this.

    You’ve handled this horrible situation with the utmost class and I continue to admire you.

    Wishing you all the best…

  29. Steve,
    There seem to be a couple problems that the Muppets have had a hard time shaking.
    The first and most obvious is Jim’s death. Jim was the original creator and visionary. While he certainly surrounded himself with amazingly talented people in all key positions (from writers and performers to the builders and business folks and beyond) he was still the wellspring from which everything emerged. We’ve seen it time and time again that someone builds some sort of business and they retire or die and the business is sold or the kid(s) take over but then the business crumbles. Maybe the people that take over such businesses just don’t have the keen vision of the creator. Maybe they don’t have the passion. Maybe the general public believed more in the visionary than the vision. Who knows?! But either the general public moves on or those in charge make bad decisions and things just crumble.

    The other issue, as I see it, is the fragmentation of the Muppet organization and corporate structure governing it. After reading the Jim Henson biography from a few years ago and understanding how stressed and frustrated he was negotiating with Disney I wonder, had he lived and the deal gone through, if he would have regretted it. Would he have had the creative freedom he desired or would he too have been lost in the mire of corporate red tape?!
    The fragmentation comment relates to my comment on your previous post about how the Muppets (or rather the muppets studio) doesn’t seem to be any sort of cohesive organization.
    The best example I wrote was about the writing. In Joe Bailey’s book “Memoirs of a Muppet writer” he mentioned how if you wanted to start writing for the Muppets you’d be assigned the tasks like writing answers to a newspaper “interview” with Miss Piggy. But to be able to do that you had to really know the pig. You’d have to try to talk to Frank and get inside his head and really be able to understand and think like the pig.
    But to be a regular writer you REALLY had to understand the characters, the relationships, and the balanced chaos that exists in that universe.

    I think that the corporate mentality of bringing in whatever writers we can get…and if they don’t work out we’ll get new writers, and if they don’t work out….. it’s just unfortunate because it seems that there just aren’t people being brought in that UNDERSTAND the universe and the comedic style.

    I’m sure you did fight for the integrity of the characters and I’m sure it did get you in trouble. That’s really sad but it just proves more and more that Disney doesn’t really care about Jim’s vision and the integrity of these characters. What they see is a property that they want to wring as much money out of as possible and that’s all that matters.

    1. Hear, hear. I agree with all you have said, Bobby. All of it.

      It is unfortunate that Disney only cares about money and how much of it they can wring out from The Muppets. I truly believe that if the beloved late Jim Henson were alive today, he would have come to sorely regret joining with the Mouse. So many other Muppet fans have told me for years to give Disney a chance with the Muppets — and I have — but for all the good they have done, they have rendered it all hollow in this one cold, greedy, callous act.

      I do wonder though if the roles were reversed, if some other entity was showing such blatant disrespect to Walt Disney’s vision and his creation’s integrity, would they like it? I doubt it very much. It’s the Golden Rule, common decency and kindness. They wouldn’t like it in the least, so why can’t they see that it’s wrong to dishonour Jim Henson by treating The Muppets and Steve Whitmire in this way?

  30. It’s ridiculous that I am tearing up while reading other people’s comments. Steve, you had seriously big shoes to fill when Jim left us. I was very skeptical at first I have to admit. I wasn’t sure I could accept a new Kermit. I have seen many clips from talkshows where the frog is ad-libbing with the host or guests and these bits are more “Muppet-y” than much of the rehearsed, pre-planned stuff. You understand the humour Jim and Jerry Juhl instilled in the characters. You understand how these characters would naturally behave in a situation. Disney, unfortunately, don’t seem to “get it”. They don’t seem to understand the history. They don’t seem to understand what makes these characters tick. To make the Muppets work they need a spontaneous realism behind them but without taking themselves too seriously. You get it. You understand who the Muppets are or, more specifically, who they should be. Disney have been moulding them into something else. I’m not sure on how much control Jim wanted Disney to have when he started deals with them but I am certain he would not be pleased by all this. He may even have raised his voice a little. I worry at the direction the Muppets are now going. I hope Disney hear the fans and maybe even view all the archive material they are sitting on and understand what is was and what it is that makes the Muppets great.

  31. Dear Mr. Whitmire,

    As a Muppets fan for more than 30 years, I could say so much, but the lion’s share of it would simply be to regurgitate and render even further redundant what so many have already said. So I will keep my comments brief, and break them into three easily seen portions (as you’ve said you wish to do, yourself.)

    1) THANK-YOU. (Two simple words, but please receive them while imagining enormous, flowery, fireworks of love and heartfelt gratitude.)

    2) If what you seem to be intimating here is the cause of your dismissal… I’m truly heartbroken. I try not to get angry… but anger is just pain without a means of expression or relief, so… yeah. Heartbroken.

    3) THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE. Once the multitude of emotions surrounding this experience for you have passed… the anger, sadness, shock, dismay, feelings of injustice, feelings of betrayal, feelings of defeatedness… please… PLEASE… get excited. Get motivated. Get creative. And start working to create something new. Remember that while the Muppets are a beloved family and BECAME an institution… they didn’t start out that way. Jim was full of brilliant, beautiful ideas, and the Muppets were simply the one that caught on. But they were all no doubt worthy. And I have zero doubt you are capable of such creativity as well. If not your own creation, then in the service of other passionate creators. The world does need your skill and artistry. Please don’t deprive us of it.

    Whatever you may believe (all of which I respect,) God bless and much happiness to come. Dramatic change is not the end, just a new beginning.

  32. What integrity are you the heck talking about? Kermit being an on-again-off-again jerk to his leading lady? And speaking of which, why the hell can’t the puppet builders create a good-looking Miss Piggy anymore? She’s fallen a LONG way from the Muppet Caper days. Everyone can see it except you guys. Maybe Disney can fix that now. Hopefully.

    Anyway, keeping these characters going beyond their expiration date is going to be problematic no matter who handles them. They’re like zombies now, the walking dead. What more do they have to do, or to say? How about a graceful exit? And maybe you should think about that too, Steve. Just sayin’.

  33. Steve–
    As a creative artist myself, I understand exactly what you mean. You know that I do. I think back to those mud people you and I made up in that long-ago art class back in high school. Remember that? That seemed so alive to me–that whole silly world. And that stupid beaver play in that bicentennial frickin’ mess. But it was important to do it right, and I fought so hard and alienated so many good people who had no idea what they were doing at all. And you were there, helping me along, and I remember thinking–how come Steve gets it and Paul gets it and no one else gets it at all? I remember caring so much even way back then, and taking a hit for it. I got a D in that damn class because I wouldn’t shut up about doing it the right damn way. And I’ve been doing the same thing all my life. And now I’m a theater teacher myself and a darn good one and I still won’t shut up when I know that I’m right, and that shouldn’t surprise you either. But my bosses are smarter (or maybe just better human beings) than the Disney bosses, so they let me do my thing. My current boss says I’m brilliant in fact (hey, maybe you should come work with us!) Sometimes you take a hit. But you never back down on the integrity of what you know is right. As an artist, there is really little else that could be more important than the integrity of the things you create. You have to stand up for them, or else you are going against the nature of what you believe and the reason you chose to be an artist in the first place. That’s not idealism; it’s a fact of an artist’s life. I’ve written something like fifty plays at this point in my life, and you’re right about so much of what you say. It is true that you didn’t have to stick your neck out for the integrity of the Muppets. That you did so is to your credit and that’s a fact and that’s your legacy and your gift to all of these wonderful fans of yours, God bless ’em. And it is true to the spirit of Jim Henson and the rest of that original crew. I know how much it all means to you, and you’ve done right by them. You know that better than anyone. And you have many, many good things to do still. And you’ve got an army of supporters, quite clearly.

    1. Robert, I remember that bicentennial play well. My grade wasn’t so good either! (SMH).
      I agree with you. Hope you are well!

      Steve, shake the “D” dust from your feet and be YOU! You are free to be you, now. It seems like such a hard thing to do after all these years of upholding a legacy. I often said to my family that I wished I had the creativity that you have in just ONE of your little fingers. Ive always been so proud of you. You have all you need to go to the next phase of your career & life! Change is good!

  34. Hey Mr Whitmire
    I’m a 40 year puppeteer/builder & singer songwriter from London.
    My earliest life memory Is coming back from the toilet at 3 years old to find the Muppet show had finished and then going crazy at my parents “for making it finish”
    What damned sorcery is it that today my 20 year old son, 16 year & 11 year old daughter can point out Jim, Frank, Jerry, Richard, Dave and yourself from the pages of “Of Muppets & Men” and know that you were the guy with the infectious laugh who “nearly drowned” in a recording booth recording fish gurgle sounds.
    Jim passed and I flashed back to when I was three.
    But then you were handed the baton and were entrusted to “run with it”
    You were trusted with being the straight man as Rizzo to Dave’s Gonzo but more importantly trusted to be my straight man as Kermit in The Muppets Christmas carol and to this day.
    About as many people as there are who trully understand the importance of the Muppets Leagacy there seem to be as many who underestimate their power.
    To me this is such a big deal and like before a situation I don’t yet understand and like before I’m looking for answers! Why? What happens now?
    I understand things change, Henson to Disney, workshop to puppet heap some are necessary to aid progress but i dont know how this latest change sits with me at the moment I feel three years old again.

  35. Hi Steve,

    I agree with you about the core values. I’m sorry to say this, but it feels like the top brass at Disney is spitting on Jim Henson’s legacy (my own opinion, not necessarily the opinion of anyone else). Just let me say that I love your work, and I think you are to be admired for having the courage to stand up for yourself and what you believe in. You will always be one of my favorite Muppeteers, and nothing will change that.

    Hugs, kisses, and kitty cuddles from me, and Snowball the Wonder Cat.

  36. Steve, I want to say thank you.

    If this door has closed to you for now, please don’t give up, but as said here before, go create, perform, go out and meet the fans, who share the passion for why you started in the first place. We’d love to meet you.

  37. Steve, you are absolutely right that integrity is everything. The one thing that any of us can take with us to the grave is a good name.

    If you will indulge me, I have another story I’d like to tell you. At the very least, I hope it makes you smile, but more than that, I hope it demonstrates that the Muppets still matter.

    A month and a half ago was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which they celebrated with a big party. My mom handled all the logistical aspects of the party planning herself; when my sister asked her what she wanted us kids to do to contribute to the party, she said, “Sing.” More specifically, she wanted us to come up with a program of about 20 minutes of vocal music to entertain at the party. For reasons that are still kind of unclear to me, most of the responsibility for planning the music program fell to me, and I made a concerted effort to pick music that was meaningful to our whole family.

    My mom loves the Muppets. She loves to tell the story of when she first saw the Muppets on TV when she was 12 years old, on one of those ’60s variety shows. She and my dad got married and started having kids about the same time that Sesame Street was getting started, so she was able to share her love of the Muppets with the five of us kids while we were getting our preschool education.

    Some of my most cherished childhood memories are listening to my sister and two older brothers sing “The Rainbow Connection” and “Movin’ Right Along” during car trips, family gatherings, or just quiet evenings at home. The three of them were pre-teens when The Muppet Movie was released, while I was not yet born. I was probably about six years old when I finally got to see The Muppet Movie on home video, and was both surprised and delighted to discover that I already knew some of the songs. Discovering that it was Kermit who originally sang “The Rainbow Connection” made it all the more special to me.

    So when it came time to plan the music for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, I knew we had to sing “The Rainbow Connection.” And we did, the five of us siblings together, now in our 30s and 40s, and joined by my sister’s three kids: two boys and a girl, ages twelve, nine, and six. Thus, three generations of us were able to relive the fun, laughter, tears, and–most of all–the deep joy that we gained as a family from Jim Henson’s creation, and to share it with a roomful of friends and relatives.

    You helped make that possible. Thank you.

      1. Mary A.,
        What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing that. (She says with tears streaming down her face…)

  38. I had the most incredible Muppet dream last night – i usually forget my dreams upon awakening so let i wanted to get this out while i can still remember enough and i figured i’d post it here since you and the other fans reading these comments would enjoy hearing about it…

    It was in two parts though the second part is the really amazing part. It started off with me being chosen to perform different Muppet characters as backup for when more than one puppet from a performer is in the same scene because the number of puppeteers vs. characters was getting out of whack. They had me making an appearance as Miss Piggy in a mall – not hidden, but walking around with the puppet on my arm. (Someone was filming it and of course they would only frame it so you saw the pig) At one point, she poses in a store window display where the set-up is so i have her quip “Ir feels like I’m on Hollywood Squares”

    Then the dream shifts to a whole different setting – like my subconscious loved the idea and decided “let’s go with that instead”. So now it cuts to my playing Miss Piggy on Hollywood Squares! She’s in the top center square. To my surprise next to her is Sam the Eagle in the top right square with Sam being played by Eric Jacobsen. I remember thinking how odd that not only is Eric doing Sam instead of Piggy instead of the other way around given major vs minor character but just even the fact that they have Sam doing the show to begin with. We’re the only Muppets, everyone else is human celebrities. The show is just beginning – they introduce the contestants and the celebs but just before they start the first game, Sam asks if he could make an announcement. After being told yes, here comes the really incredible part. To my surprise (i’m watching all this on a monitor so i see it from the audience point of view ands for the rest of the dream i’m just an observer of what happens next til i wake up) Eric has Sam leave the square and walk down the stairs onto the floor – and the entire time he’s doing it, he manages to keep himself hidden from view staying behind this large mass of blue feathers – and the Sam puppet being used is really large and even has feet. He gets down to the stage where he’s still actually behind the puppet and unseen and it looks like Sam is standing there on his own by himself. Sam then goes on “I just want to say…”) and at this point Eric’s head pops out from behind Sam and he starts to use his own voice and peels the puppet off his arm “…that the way The Muppets have been represented is all wrong. They are all just puppets. My name is Eric and there are beautiful talented performers that bring these characters that everyone loves to life.” Pretty soon after that i awaken and i’m left with this stunned amazed feeling of what i just saw happen.

    This isn’t meant to serve as a comment on anything or something i would probably wish to see happen, but given that i don’t remember my dreams over 99% of the time within the first minute of waking up and that i figured a lot of people would appreciate it/enjoy hearing it, i had to type this up and share it as soon as possible. There was probably a bit more of an “epilogue” but the speech Eric gave and the visual aspect of watching him go from totally obscured to completely revealed combined with the reason for him doing it just stuck out.

  39. Thank you so much, Steve. As disappointed and heartbroken I am about the news, I’m so grateful for how much you care about The Muppets. I’ve grown up on your work, and it’s clear how much you put into these characters. Your passion has not gone unnoticed by fans, and we all have nothing but love and support for you.

    I’m not very good with words so I’m not going to drag this on – other commenters have put my thoughts into words better than I could, anyways – but I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am for everything you’ve done for us and everything you hopefully continue to do. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  40. Hi Steve.

    The Muppets and Jim Henson have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I’m 38.
    What’s happened is extremely upsetting to me so I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling right now.
    But I still have loads of questions that I’m hoping you’ll eventually answer.
    What happened here? Why were you sacked?and replaced.
    What were the problems with Disney?
    Does the company want to reboot the franchise as cheaply as possible?
    Where do the Muppets go from here? What are your biggest fears about what happens to Jim’s special creations now?

  41. You truly are an inspiration, I can’t stress highly enough the impact you’ve made on my life. Thank you

  42. Steve, this is so much more than just a story about you and your puppets. You breathe life into them. Like Henson, you are a true master of your craft. We love you and support you. xx

  43. Steve, so much has been said that I don’t want to repeat it and bore you, but I second almost all of the positive sentiments expressed above. Disney was never the same after Walt passed, and the Muppets were never the same after Jim passed. That doesn’t mean that good things didn’t happen with each group, it’s just that without a visionary creator at the helm, the original visionary creator, the end result is just an approximation of what they would have done had they lived longer.

    That said, use this as an opportunity to follow your own vision. Be bold! Be daring! You have a legion of fans and supporters. Use your heart, mind, talent and vision and create something fresh. We will follow! This is not a time to hang your head and wish things had been different (Walt on the train home after losing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit); it’s time to create something new that will be better (Mickey Mouse).

    I can’t wait to see what happens next.

  44. The job of performing Kermit the Frog might be open to everyone but only one person in history will ever be able to say they were recommended by Jim Henson himself to take on the role and that person is Steve Whitmire.

    “Life’s like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending…”

    I wish you all the best, I will always be a fan of yours no matter what you do in life.

    Take care,
    Nicholas

  45. Hi Steve!
    Thank you so much for your posts on what is going on. I am sad and angry to hear what Disney has done to you. It is their loss!
    You have brought so much talent and awesomeness into the Muppets for so many years and I thank you for bringing them into my life. I hope everything works out for you!

  46. Everyone before me has expressed my heart felt sentiments, thus I will be brief. Without you, Kermit and other characters would not have lived. Bless you Steve, for your dedication. Anne Terri

  47. Steve,

    As we continue to ponder a Kermit without you, I also reflect on the future of the Muppets as a whole. What they were under the vision of Jim, Frank, and the others seems to slowly slip away under the vision of Disney. What Disney has done to Sesame Street in recent years borders on abysmal.

    And I read your posts and the replies, I chuckle at what lays at my feet. Hubby and I adopted a cat a little more than 2 year ago. It took about a week for us to settle on a name for the little guy but in the end it came down to 2 options – Hobbes and Gonzo. We both grew up fans of the Calvin and Hobbes comic and with the Muppets and this little cat was (and still is) also “our little weirdo.” We finally settled on Hobbes but there are so many days that Gonzo would be an appropriate name and tonight is one of those nights as he sleeps with his belly up in the air, his front paws stretched over his head, and his back toes curled in happiness. Earlier tonight, he was bouncing through the house like a rabbit while sounding like a raccoon. Yep… we have a little weirdo who would have gotten along perfectly with the Gonzo of the 80’s.

  48. Hi Steve ! I found out about you because my husband played in a band for many years with your brother, Mark in Georgia, before he met me and moved to NY, and your career fascinated us both. We are so disheartened to hear this news. 🙁 I met Jim Henson many years ago when I worked in the entertainment division at NBC in NYC and I know exactly what you mean about his personality and integrity of keeping the characters true to what they were originally meant to be – a path started by Jim, himself. He was a very passionate man, serious about his love, which were these characters, and he spent his life caring for them and doting on them like they were his children – because that’s what he considered them to be. And he wanted the foundation of his work and craft preserved by individuals who had the same vision as he did – people who would continue his legacy of these characters with just as much passion as he had for them. For Disney to just carelessly dishonor his life’s work by tossing away someone that Jim, himself, chose and felt was key in preserving the passion of his character is just horrible. We are so sorry Disney has chosen to do this, which is a slap in the face to both you and Jim. I hope, if nothing else, you are comforted by the out pour of anger and disgrace over this reckless decision. My hope is that the backlash from the decision will force them to re-consider and give you back a position that you were meant to be in and continue for many many years.

  49. The Muppets matter. Oh, how they matter. They mattered to my parents, who raised me on them. They mattered, and continue to matter to me. I am a high school teacher and work with the youth of this nation, and I can tell you, very sincerely, that The Muppets still matter to them.

  50. I wanted to share a post by Cheryl Henson, I cannot post photo so here it is typed out… I have no words for the level of cruelty that this displays.

    Steve’s version of history is ridiculously self-serving. My father never asked him to perform Kermit, my brother Brian did. Steve’s performance of Kermit has strayed from very far away from my father’s good hearted, compassionate leader of the Muppets.Steve performed Kermit as a bitter, angry, depressed victim. Worst of all in the past few years he had not been not funny, fun. Recasting Kermit is long overdue. Stop with the pitty party! Let’s get back to the true spirit of Jim Henson’s Kermit.

  51. Steve,

    I fear the internet ate my post so I’ll retry it here. Apologies if it appears more than once.

    We met briefly at your “The Sentient Puppet” class and workshop here in Atlanta at the Center for Puppetry Arts some years ago. You stopped the class for a minute and asked this room full of legit puppeteers to watch me, a total amateur, because I had managed to get relaxed and comfortable and apparently it came through in my movement. After class, you told me I needed to find a troupe to work with because you thought I was a professional when I was, instead, just a Dad with a kid who likes puppets, so I spend a lot of time with felt over my hands.

    That moment is one of the highlights of my life, Steve. The compassion and encouragement you showed in that moment has never left my memory. To be an enthusiastic amateur in a room with so many accomplished people was intimidating enough, but finding myself face to face with one of the people who had helped shape my early years as a performer – and to be given such encouragement – was beyond belief.

    I know we only met for that brief few minutes, but your sincerity, your enthusiasm, and your genuine love for the art in that moment was so real and so powerful that I come back to it when I’m training people in my field (sadly, not puppeteering) and at other times when I find myself leading through motivation and encouragement. I try to be as genuine, honest and inspiring as you were that day.

    We named our son Henson, after your mentor, because my wife and I spent years in Children’s Theatre, writing and directing shows where we always tried to treat our audience with respect, and never dumbing down the show “because it’s a kid show.” Our work was so informed by the work we grew up on – primarily the Muppets, and of course all the CTW Sesame Street material we grew up on. Our sense of comic timing, how we directly engaged with our audience the moment we rolled up into public parks with our mobile shows, how we would craft our shows with wild, raucous, barely-contained energy – all of it fueled by the performances that you, Jim, and all the other amazing creative performers and writers gave to us. We simply would not have been the performers we became were if not for your influence. Your work, Jim’s work, and the work of puppeteers like Rick Provow (who wrote and performed in the same theatre program a generation before us) truly made us who we are today.

    I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now, but I’m grateful that you’re willing to open up with your blog. That’s such a brave thing to do while dealing with all this.

    Please know that no matter how this turn of events makes you feel, that a couple of generations of performers owe our approach to you and your colleagues. That legacy is vast. No one can take that from you. It will always be.

    Should you ever find yourself wanting a quiet, decent dinner away from the hype, the door’s always open. We live on the South side of Atlanta and would love to have you and your family as our guests if ever the situation should arise.

    Much love and support from our family while you navigate this, Steve.

    Michael

  52. Somehow it didn’t seem right for a post with a title like this one to not include the following comment…

    Let there be Lips!

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