The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable.

Muppet Performers are not created equal, and that’s a good thing! We all bring unique strengths to the ensemble. That’s why we never switch around characters between us (except to stand in) because, despite all the conjecture, there is actually no such thing as Jim’s Kermit and Steve’s Kermit – There is only Kermit.

He either shows up intact with all his historical mental faculties at his disposal, or it isn’t him. This is true for each of the Muppets. Anything else is manufactured, and the Muppets haven’t lasted for all these years without fully showing up. When they haven’t, you’re not shy about pointing that out. Neither am I, and we’ll talk more about that soon.

For discussion purposes, lets split the present-day core Muppet Performers into two broad categories. We’ll call them the ‘Jim-Era Performers’ and the ‘Post-Jim Performers’, those Jim chose to bring in himself, and those who were chosen in a variety of ways after his death.

It’s a real blessing that the Post-Jim performers are brilliant and devoted to doing the best they can to preserve Jim’s legacy by carrying on classic characters as faithfully as they know how. At the same time, they never knew Jim or Richard, and barely worked with Frank if at all, so when it comes to those characters, the starting point in assuming the roles is often limited to their observations as fans. Now, it’s not that fans don’t know who the characters are, they do; you do. It’s just that our job as the linear souls of the Muppets is different than your job as the impassioned viewers.

As fans, you can interpret the characters however you please in whatever way you relate to them. When you sense that something is off, you don’t have to fix it, but I do. It’s up to the Muppet Performers to be purposely maintaining the consistency of the characters they perform. That’s because beyond owners, producers, directors, and writers, that singular performer will be the ongoing thread in the life of a character indefinitely.

Once even the most educated and devoted fan is charged with inhabiting one of the core characters that has its origins in another performer, it becomes necessary to gain as much knowledge of the interior depth of that character and that original performer as possible.

The point is that there is so much vital and significant knowledge that was gained by the dwindling few of us who consistently stood next to Jim. From his characters to his methods and philosophies, it’s stuff you can never fully intuit from watching the Muppets. I know that to be true because I, too, was a completely obsessive Muppet fan with preconceived notions of my own that had to be unlearned when Jim hired me in 1978.

I approach The Muppets as a lineage tradition. For the inside knowledge-base steeped in its origins to survive and be passed down, there has to be a line of transmission, or you had to be there. For the Post-Jim performers to really understand enough about the Muppets to carry on the lineage they need to continue to be around the core performers Jim mentored as long as any of those people are willing and able to share.

None of this is a value judgement of any individual, it is a pointing out of the value of historical perspective so long as that perspective is used progressively. Having had the opportunity to spend the last 27 years cultivating knowledge of Jim along with feeling his presence through Kermit, I find myself at a place where evolving Jim’s vision has begun coming from a deep empathetic connection to him.

So, I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done.

92 thoughts on “The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable.

  1. I keep posting thank you but it’s because I mean it and I don’t know what else to say. I hope that no matter what happens you continue to be as vocal and as reachable as you have been these past few days. I cannot imagine how difficult it has been for you but please keep your spirits up and let us know if we can do anything.

    CT

  2. Sir, you have to be the most subtle yet brutal writer I have come across. Please do the world a favour and write a book!

    I’m certainly glad you brought this subject up early. This is what quite a few of us have been saying all week. It’s important for you and Dave to remain with the newbies for as long as possible due to everything you just mentioned. I’d say Frank too, but honestly, that ship sailed a long time ago.

      1. YES please!

        Age 26 in Frog Years (38 in Rat Years)
        An Analysis of The Muppets by Steve Whitmire

        I’d buy that book in an instant!

        Lucy

        1. a book could be interesting. great idea peoples…….. but if a person signs “non disclosure agreements” and other detailed contracts for a person’s employer(s) or other entities….. a person would have to be veddy careful not to violate such said contracts…. or a person could be entangled in (and lose) heretofore whereas perilous lawsuits…. thus eking a person out of house and home… etc… (Speak this in a RIZZO voice) “get my drift”? 🙂

        2. Interesting thoughts. Maybe a book/memoir would be a good idea if one got a 100K advance from a reliable publisher, after, one’s trusted editor and army of attorneys reviewed its text.

          Or maybe it’s none of our business. Beats me!
          Forsooth!
          It is no wonder I stopped reading the AOL chat windowses.

  3. This is all very enlightening and interesting. So, then perhaps the question is how do you (and what remains of the Jim-Era Performers) continue the job while currently outside Disney? The fate of The Muppets is at stake, and I think I speak for every Muppet fan when I say that we want to help in whatever capacity we are able.

    Are you formulating or do you have a plan of how to continue this job? Is there any way we, the fans, can help, besides doing what we are already (signing petitions, contacting Disney, etc.)? Is there a way for you to continue to instill this atmosphere to the Post-Jim Performers while cut off from Disney? Secret meetings or workshops maybe with those Post-Jim performers who are eager for that taste which can only help and improve?

    I wish there was a way to get The Muppets back from Disney, to buy them back. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to win the lottery right about now…

      1. All I am saying is that if I had a fortune at my disposal, I would bribe Disney to sell The Muppets to me and I would then place the management of them in capable hands that belonged to a person or persons who truly valued them and who would honour Jim Henson’s vision, who would trust the Muppeteers like Steve and Dave who understand better than they. They would work with the Jim-Era Muppeteers to keep The Muppets true to themselves while also appealing to this generation.

        It would not be a death sentence for The Muppets, if sold to the right person. The trick is to sell to someone with money who truly loves The Muppets and understands how crucial it is to give open license to the Jim-Era Muppeteers.

  4. If I were asked to point a specific moment when I felt like the Muppets were lacking or changed, it would be when Jerry Juhl no longer wrote for the Muppets.

    1. I agree, and I’ve often said the same. Jerry really knew the characters since he was there from the beginning. So much came from the chemistry of the original performers, that I feel it’s incredibly difficult for other people to properly write for the Muppets, especially outside writers.

    2. I agree to large extent. They at least have to try. Otherwise it’s pretty much an admittance that the Muppets were built to leave the world with their creators and performers.

      What most of the new stuff is lacking is bravery. The characters used to have a voice and a mission. They took chances in the shear variety of content. They don’t seem to have that now. They work in an office. They sit behind desks. To go to the post office.

      Where is the singing and dancing and making people happy?

  5. Hello Steve,

    I love when you post new thoughts and stories. You have always been Kermit to me. I am as saddened as anyone here over Disney’s decision. I don’t know what they were thinking when they let you go?!?
    Please know that you have forever and always been an inspiration to me and it’s because of you that I became a puppeteer. While I have never been responsible for characters as great as the ones that you have created or taken over performing, I have felt personal joy by just seeing the happiness that one of my characters can bring to an audience, especially children. The Muppet performers taught me that, and more importantly YOU taught me that.
    If just one person believes in you…

    Too sad to continue.
    You are one of my heroes.
    Thank you Steve.

    A kid from Canada,
    Andrew Barton

  6. Let me share a long-standing observation I’ve had: Jim’s “Kermit” sounded like Jim. Your (Steve’s) “Kermit” sounded like you. But BOTH sound like, and are, without question, Kermit the Frog.

    This post is a as good a lead-in as any to one of the questions that I’ve wanted to ask you, among other Muppet Performers:

    Is it harder to breathe life into a new character (Rizzo the Rat, Wembley Fraggle) and make it lovable and memorable to live on for many years, or to inherit an existing character and continue to breathe life into it (such as Kermit or Ernie)?

  7. This is a great article! I’ve been working really hard on some puppet stuff lately, as I’m hoping to be a Muppeteer one day, so I’d love to learn more from a pro like you!

    1. Yeah, I hope Disney lets you stay on as kind of a “puppeteer mentor” if you will; giving the other fantastic performers tips and advice.

  8. Very interesting insights. One thing that is very clear from your words is that this is something you’ve spent many long hours pondering and formulating over the years. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts.

  9. In the most recent Muppet series Kermit dumped Miss Piggy and immediately started dating a young piglet whilst observing Miss Piggy whoring herself out through Hollywood to ease her suffering and not doing a thing about it. Kermit is then dumped himself by his own younger Piglet fling and decides that now he is ready to start porking Miss Piggy again.

    Yes it is clear that removing Steve Whitmire instead of listening to him was not the right decision because it was not until last year that I lost my admiration for Kermit the Frog, never the performers but sadly yes with the character.

    1. I would disagree considering the fact that Jim did something similar in real life (according to the biography).

    2. I think “young piglet” is a little excessive here. Given ‘piglet’ is usually applied to a baby pig, it somewhat implies pedophilia, no? There were some valid problems with the recent series, but I didn’t read any significant ageism between Miss Piggy and Denise.

      1. Not at all, i’m simply referring to the fact that it was implied throughout the series that Denise was much younger than Miss Piggy. There was no need to imply that Kermit was dating a younger pig, there was no value or need for this part of the story.

  10. Loving your blog and insights, Steve. I am so sorry for what happened to you with Disney. I was hoping that they were understanding about the importance of Jim’s legacy, but obviously these things aren’t so simple. I can’t believe that you and Dave were really the only two guys left from the old days.

    I have watched the part of Jim’s memorial service where you guys performed so many times. It always, to be honest, makes me emotional. You can sense how special the connection was that you guys had with Jim and with each other.

    Thank you for everything you’ve done, Steve. And I wish nothing but the best for you and for the Muppets.

  11. Dovetailing off the previous reply from Jason Bornstein:

    Think of it almost like some who channels spirits (whether one believes in such things or not but stay with me here)

    Let’s say you have two people who can channel the same spirit. The spirit could speak too/through both of them but when either individual speaks the voice sounds like that of the person doing the “channeling”.

    It’s the same thing with Muppets. While you have the interplay of physical puppet, performer, and writer that creates and molds the character, at a certain point the character “IS”.

    So at a certain point when we could say that Kermit (for example) was “fully developed” then Jim was “channeling Kermit” (or Rowlf, or Dr. Teeth, etc). When Jim channels Kermit it sounds like Jim because Kermit’s words flowed through Jim’s vocal chords.

    When Steve channels Kermit, Kermit sounds more like Steve because Kermit has to use Steve’s vocal chords, BUT it is still very much Kermit as Kermit is that complete entity that exists.

    But where the analogy ends/falls apart is that in the real world example it is exactly as Steve says where you have to have that full, in-depth understanding of where the character came from. What makes them tick? What are their boundaries? Really what drives their wants/needs/joys/sorrows/frustrations? There is that intimate knowledge that has to be obtained.

    Also as Steve wrote before the performers once had freedom to play. From everything we, who never met/worked with Jim, know about Jim and the way the Muppets once were, Scripts could still be quite fluid and if anyone had a better idea OR if some random between-take ad-libbing resulted in something really great…well then we’d go with what worked or what was funnier.

    With how modular the muppet business has become I’m not sure how that can still exist. You have the writers, you have the performers, and you have a clock to watch and budgets to worry about. No time for horse play and all pieces of the puzzle (writers, PERFORMERS, etc) are now dispensable and we’ll just replace you if we decide to do so.

    Steve (if you see this) I have no frame of reference from which to speak…. but while your time with the “the muppets” portion of things might be over hopefully you could still keep fostering the “environment of Jim” by working with the Sesame Street folks…OR is it possible that the Henson company might have work for such a gifted performer as yourself? There is that Dark Crystal series in development for Netflix right now.

    Also as I, and others, have mentioned it’s time to get things started on your memoirs and here is the boffo socko title for you: “Brothers in arms: my life as a puppeteer with the Muppets”

  12. Gosh, I’m so glad that you’re putting this stuff online! I never knew you were such a great writer! Since I’ve never been able to hear you speak in person, I’m thrilled to see you’re making so much of what you have to say available to us fans online. Your writing sounds just like the way you talk, and that gives it a strong voice that’s very pleasant to read, in my opinion.

    From one Muppet blogger to another, I’d like to welcome you to the family (and, out of my personal biases, recommend Muppet podcasting). I really appreciate that you’re giving this gift to us fans, and I should mention that those of us with Muppet fansites (and Muppet fans in general) are happy to help you out with this new project of yours, if we can. We’re happy to help with your transition in any capacity, not just with the web stuff – we’ll drive doughnuts down to Georgia if that’d help you feel better. Anyway, this comment is getting long, but the short version is this: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and doughnuts are a great coping mechanism.

  13. Hi Steve,

    Life long Muppet fan here (exhaustive DVD and memorabilia collection)… Kermit is all over my house! I grew up on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Muppet Babies. I even saw the touring Muppets Live show when I was a kid. I just wanted to say I am outraged by how you have been treated by the heartless scum at Disney, and that I will never support another single one of their projects, Muppet/Disney or otherwise, until you are properly reinstated with the respect you deserve. To me, if you are not Kermit, then sadly, the true heart, soul, and spirit of Kermit the Frog, have died, and any so called version of Kermit in the future, is not Kermit at all. It’s too bad we live in a world where greed and control matter more than loyalty… I’m all about loyalty and principle, so Disney is dead to me. Thank you Sir for Your Talent and Heart and Determination All these Years to Keep the Original Spirit of The Muppets Alive… I was with you from the beginning, having “Muppet Classic Theater” on VHS (still have it) and seeing “A Muppet Christmas Carol” in the theatre when I was around 12… YOU KEPT JIM HENSON’S VISION ALIVE… and Please Know YOU HAVE NOT FAILED ANYONE. DISNEY HAS FAILED EVERYONE.

    You Should Hold Your Head High. You are Loved and Valued More Than You Know… You have Always ONLY Done Right by Kermit and the Rest of the Gang.

    My Best to You Always, With Much Love,
    Brian Borowski

  14. Thank you so much for making this blog and sharing your thoughts, Steve. You’ve always shown support and love for Muppet fans, and your transparency and honesty through all this is greatly appreciated. Muppet fans are very lucky to have people like you.

  15. Indeed, well put Steve.

    “He either shows up intact with all his historical mental faculties at his disposal, or it isn’t him. ” I love that about Kermit in your hands. I’ve certainly observed this with admiration and a bit of amazement when he (you) has made talk show appearances and discussed experiences or interactions he’s had before you were given the role and yet he can speak with authority about meeting those people and sharing those exeriences because Kermit was there. Thats bringing a character to life (keeping a character alive)! I don’t think a lot of folks get that but it really is essential and Steve, you make it happen.

    May I also just say how maddening it is that media outlets keep reporting “the voice of Kermit is fired” or “Kermit is getting a new voice!” I’ve thought about publishing an Onion style article stating, “Disney fires the man who works Kermit The Frog’s left hand” just to illustrate how absurd and offensive it is to suggest a professional puppeteer is simply a voice over actor.

    Its probably difficult for you to indicate without putting yourself in hot water, but I wish I knew how loud we, who want to see you remain in the role (reclaim the role) should demand that outcome. Are the petitions circulating a good thing? And thats to say nothing about the fate of your other characters.

    What the hey.

  16. Hello Steve,
    Keep posting man. I really want to be a Muppeteer one day, so I hope to learn more from you. Maybe you can give some tips to some aspiring puppeteers like me?Hope to hear from you soon.

    From
    Xavier Lassandro

  17. Thank you Steve. I don’t know what to say except I hope the ability for you to mentor the post-Jim folks presents itself.

    I feel very strongly that you should write a book. I would gladly be a sounding board or text editor.

    Tom Antonellis

  18. Steve, you are a very brave and courageous gentleman. And it takes a bigger person to stand up for what they believe in. Kudos! I saw Jason Segel’s Muppet Movie and will be honest. There were a few funny moments in it, but it wasn’t as spectacular as the previous Muppet Movies. That “fart shoes” joke was very redundant and out of character for the Muppets. Toilet humor belongs in Shrek. What was your gut feeling inside when you found out Frank Oz’s script (The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made) that he wrote with Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl got rejected in favor of Jason Segel’s script? Thanks again for taking a stand and keep on telling it like it is.

  19. It’s a shame this is happening again, it seemed like the Muppets were back to being amazing again after the two movies, but now this is happening.

  20. Steve,
    Yeah, I can’t say anything else other than hearing all this from you is wonderful and you need to write a book someday.

    Also, we’re going to be here right beside you and willing to help you with any future projects you’ve got!

    Valerie

  21. I love this post because it resonates fully with everything I do also. The biggest challenge is always to loose my preconceived notions about everything I had ever learned or thought to undertake my each job I’ve been asked to do. Steve, your mission was and is to do the same. I believe this applies whenever taking on a unique line of work, requiring one to go into the depth of a character to be able to understand him or her, so that they become amazingly real to you; a constant companion in your heart, and to those who watch you breathe life into to their performance.
    Anne Terri

  22. Hi Steve,
    In the hopes you are reading all of these, I just wanted to tell you something that happened in my household in the past three weeks. I’m 47 and have been with my wife for nineteen years now, and she’s apparently absorbed a lot more of my Muppet obsession than I realized. We were up late one night, just talking in the dark in bed, and I suddenly realized I must be sleepier than I thought, because I totally blanked on a name that I normally know quite readily. I said “the current performer of Kermit, Steve…” and nothing. I was already thinking I could click on the light and grab some Blu-Rays from the shelf at the foot of the bed, but before another heartbeat had passed, she supplied “Whitmire” and I smiled. ‘Poor kid’, I wrote the next morning on Facebook, ‘she’s picked these things up by osmosis’.
    The moment my friend Jaime– who built a puppet for the last theatrical play that I directed– posted the shocking news that you were no longer performing Kermit, I thought of that conversation wistfully.
    Thanks for all you did and still do. Just wanted you to know, your name is known by even more people than you– or I– realize.

    Best,
    Alex

  23. Disney dont realise that you (the muppets performers) are one half of the two halves of the coin that are the muppets. Watching them be replaced, with all the obvious negative effects, it’s like the old movie, invasion of the bodysnatchers. They look like the muppets, but they sure didnt sound like em! Or act like them either, every head tilt, mannerism, everything was beyond squiffy. If they fired you for digging your heels in and demanding quality, well quality hasn’t been of interest to Disney for years, look at the appalling dubbing in bedknobs and broomsticks, they didn’t even get the right COUNTRY for Mrs hobday! But surely as part of a team you are somehow legally entitled to insist on certain standards being met, if only not to have your work (and that of other muppeteers ) seen in a bad light right? They may “own” the muppets, but your work is being reflected here on a public stage, surely you have to be allowed a certain amount of say legally? Stay green and keep us updated 🐸🌈🍀

  24. Dear Steve,

    First off, this blog is like wow you know, I’m so glad that you’re posting such insightful pieces here and this stirs up so much within- how that the intricacies with the Muppets is more than many could fathom.

    I’ve always enjoyed watching or indeed reading how the behind the scenes elements work, Of Muppets and Men and Inside The Labyrinth are two favourites of mine – so reading your beautiful words is greatfully appreciated.

    I #Love what you’re doing and how through your words alone there is such devotion and compassion.

    The Very Best of Good Energies to you

    Richard x

  25. I feel Jims spirit with you very strongly. Hes with you wherever you go. You may feel lost right now but you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing right now. Your writing is what will guide you to where you need to be.

  26. Hi Steve,

    I know I sound repetetive when I comment, but sometimes, I just want to. Thank you so much for your insight. You really have a way with writing. With everyone telling you that you should write a book, if you did, I’d definitely buy it.

    Live long and paws-purr,
    Erin T. Aardvark

  27. This is really, really interesting. Discussions on and development of a character is something that always interests me (and eludes me, given I have a tendency to make a character and forget x number of details about him/her almost right away). I don’t think I ever really considered the amount of history that has to go into Muppet characters specifically, but it makes a lot of sense. Please keep writing! Your posts are fascinating!

    Also, I would definitely throw money at you for a book. Just saying. 😀

  28. Steve,

    This is very much like the “One Frog One Voice” campaign that circulated shortly after Disney bought The Muppets. I hope Disney is listening.

  29. I wish to say thank you for all you have done Steve, and I totally agree with you about Muppet performers are not interchangeable. Robin the frog has always been my favorite muppet since I watched the Muppet show when I was a kid, and I miss Jerry Nelson’s Robin. I really hate the new Robin’s voice it’s too dopey sounding and not enough of the sweetness to the voice that Jerry’s had. I have a puppet that I perform and I use a voice for it that I feel is closer to Jerry’s Robin, of course I’m not a professional, I just enjoy performing puppets. It just wish that those in charge would consider the character more when assigning voices, because I would rather the character disappear for a while, as they find the perfect performer instead of being stuck with the wrong performer.

    1. Matt’s trying to do the best he can. The voice isn’t everything. Besides, he trained under Jerry.

      1. Yeah I know the voice isn’t everything and will have differences, there is differences in Steve’s Kermit and Jim’s Kermit, but you still hear Kermit and think of Kermit when you hear Steve’s voice. It might be just me but I don’t think of or hear Robin in Matt’s Robin voice. Also the changes Disney is making to the Muppet characters doesn’t help.

      2. Besides I don’t think it’s Matt as much it is Disney wanting him to make Robin something he’s not.

  30. Steve I just wanted to say that I love you and thank you for all that you have done/given for The Muppets for the past 20 + years. You have given me a great childhood and I am very thankful for that.

  31. Hi Steve,

    I’m not sure if you’d remember me, but 27 years ago, when i was 14, I met you on the set of Muppetvision 3D at the Walt Disney Studios thanks to the Mickey Mouse Club. You spent the better portion of the day showing me around the set and explaining what it takes to be a puppeteer for the Muppets. It’s one of the greatest memories of my life (next to getting married and having our beautiful daughter).

    Even though it was only a day and for the sake of the Mickey Mouse Club, I have always felt a kind of bond with you. I’ll never forget what you told me, “Be a Fool!” You even signed that with your name on a drawing that I had brought with me. I took that to heart and I feel like I loosened up after that. I’m now an animation director at Cartoon Network Studios where it’s very important to not only take my job seriously, but also to “be a fool”.

    I’m so glad you created this blog to share your thoughts on the recent news. I know how difficult it must have been to make your decision, and know that many Muppet fans (myself included) stand behind you.

    Thank you for your dedication to the Muppets and thank you for spending that day with me and my Mom on the set of Muppetvision 3D, even though it may have been a small moment to you, it affected me for the rest of my life. Thank you.

    I look forward to more puppet projects, or whatever else you have in store, from you in the future!

  32. Very interesting insight. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hang in there!

    – Johanne

  33. Dear Steve,

    It is so refreshing to read about this from your point of view because no one can truly understand what Muppet Performers have had to endure other than the ones who lived and breathed it. Glad to finally hear it from your lens, Steve. Amazing! I noticed in the last couple of years that while a few originals have stuck around, many of them are long gone. They either sadly passed away, retired or pursued different careers in the Film & TV industry. Do you keep in touch with Frank Oz, Fran Brill, Dave Goelz or Caroll Spinney?

  34. Steve,

    Of all the Classic Muppet characters that you’ve performed over the years, there is one character that I am dearly going to miss your performance as. And that character is Rizzo the Rat.

    Rizzo was always one of my top favorite Muppets, and he still is. Whenever he was paired with Gonzo or Pepe I just love that little guy!

    Also, Wembley was always my favorite Fraggle too!

    1. hi y’alls. Steve’s Rizzo is brilliant. Another character that I would not accept as a recast, along with either Jim Henson as Kermit, or Steve’s version of Kermit. Neither do I enjoy any Miss Piggy performance except that of her originator, Frank Oz. The depth of character, talent of acting and expression of both vocal and puppet movement emotion is just not there.

  35. Steve,
    I can so relate to this article you wrote.
    As a puppeteer that was trained by Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jane Henson, Kermit Love, Frank Oz & a little by Caroll Spinney they instilled puppeteering values that have never been forgotten.

    And yet there is no room for me either in the Muppet world nowadays.

    Here’s a short clip ( https://youtu.be/K4ZpiL2pTJw ) of me (blue arrow) being trained by Jim which lead to being Osvaldo the Grouch on Sesame Street and being Junior Gorg in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And becoming an employee at the then corporate headquarters at 117.

    Yes, once in a very rare moon they might send work my way, such as my most recent Sesame Appearance in April on their website. ( https://youtu.be/UH4RG3P6IKU )

    But I feel as if the knowledge I learned from these masters is of little or no value nowadays. At least that is how I feel. Or does anybody even care that I learned from masters?

    There are many people associated with the Muppets that I have loved past & present and hope to continue a working relationship with them still. It’s just seems hard to get them to recall my positive history with them.

    I have admired the respect Fran Brill showed once when she confronted a camera man and insisted that a camera shot had to be set up “Jim’s way”. The camera man gave in. The same goes for Kevin Clash, another supporter of doing things Jim’s way.

    I’m sorry this situation happened to you. Definitely an admirer of your talent.
    I was wondering, even if you couldn’t be Kermit anymore, if it was possible to negotiate to still be Rizzo & Beaker?

    Half a loaf is better then none.

    And perhaps only performing Rizzo & Beaker, would allow you time to open a new door for new Muppet characters for you to develop (and earn new marketing rights). Which is something I have wanted to see from you for years! …But you were just to busy with Kermit.

    I hope we get to work together some day. Thanks and God bless.

    Gabriel Velez
    One of the “dwindling few of us.”

  36. I have been a fan of the Muppets – and Jim Henson my entire life. Growing up, Jim Henson was my hero (along with my dad) and I appreciated his work along with those who worked closely with him. Much of what I do in the entertainment industry is based upon my love of the Muppets and the need to create, entertain, and bring smiles to people’s faces.

    These characters are more than just… characters. They are alive and infused with personalities either created by… or carried on by those who worked with Jim.

    I’m so very sorry to read what has happened, but where there may be a lot of younger people who won’t care… I trust there will be those, like myself… who do.

    You have been the voice and spirit of Kermit (and so many more), and are irreplaceable.

  37. Hi Steve,
    I have so much to say, and I don’t know where to begin. I guess first with: Thank you! Thank you for all of your decades of service in the Muppet family. We know that’s what they always aimed to be. A family of characters and a family of performers, builders, writers, etc.

    Obviously, things changed once the creator and person in charge, who was also a performer, in the trenches, left us far too soon. You have done so much to carry his torch, as well as fit in your own characters where you could (not to mention a top notch Beaker, honoring Richard).

    This current situation is unfortunate, to the point of getting ugly, but I truly believe you wanted nothing but the best for characters and the franchise, so that it could continue to look backwards for inspiration, to once again becoming the fun-loving, warm, semi-anarchist family it once was.

    All of that being said, there are multiple sides to every story, and we will likely never be privy to it all. Still, and even while you have this blog to share your thoughts, I was wondering if you would consider being a guest on my puppet’s podcast (Yes, you read that right). I actually gave you my card at the Vulture Fest event, last year. If you are interested in coming on, to elaborate in spoken words, rather than just text on a screen, it would be an honor and a privilege for me (and Wally) to host you.

    Of course, we’d delve into your entire career and history with puppetry and The Muppets, but obviously, we could cover this current hot topic, as well. Beyond that, I wish you nothing but the best, and I look forward to any future endeavors, whether with or without the Muppets (though hopefully, with time, cooler heads will prevail, and some peace can be arranged between all parties). Thanks, again!

    -Zach

  38. I can´t imagine a Muppet production without you Steve, you performances are brilliant. Its all like a bad dream…I can`t stand Chelyl Henson comments, you are a performer, not a writer, that ugly comments should have centered on Disney shoulders, not yours. I don´t think her father would aprove none of her comments, she should think about the direction The muppets went after Jim died and the Disney sale. You was the best kermit anyone could give us, besides your own characters…Love love love Rizzo I would like to learn why you aren´t on Sesame anymore. was your election or was Disney/Sesame? All my love and respect from Spain…

  39. Lisa Henson in the New York Times today:

    “Ms. Henson said Mr. Whitmire was adamantly opposed to having an understudy for his role, which presented problems when it came to what she called “B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting.” She said he was unwilling to appear on some of these occasions but also refused to develop an understudy and that he “blackballed young performers” by refusing to appear on the show with them.”

    Why did you blackball young performers, Steve? Don’t young puppeteers starting out deserve opportunities like you had when you were first starting as a puppeteer?

    Is it really in the spirit of Jim to have blackballed young puppeteers?

  40. Anybody knows who played the original Hamlet or Henry V? And this is just the Muppets.
    Life goes on with or without us, we ain’t that important.

  41. Hi Steve,

    I’m sory to post on the same entry twice, but I’m just confused over this whole thing, now that other articles and comments from the Henson family have come out, and some Muppet fans are now saying that, because of the Henson family’s comments, are making it sound like you have been a control freak with a huge ego. I mean, yeah, nobody is perfect, but seriously, for some reason, I don’t even know who to believe anymore over this issue. Something is just not adding up to me. If they found you to be the jerk they say you were being, then why did they wait so long to “get rid” of you, as it were? I can understand sending notes to the production team of the 2015 series over the way the characters were portrayed (I only got through two and a half episodes, and I seriously hated the way Kermit was acting in it). I’m just so confused, if you could please try to help me understand some of what the Henson family is saying.

    Live long and paws-purr,
    Erin T. Aardvark

  42. My entire family and I are all lifelong Muppet fans. We’re ALL Muppet fans because of the many wonderful Muppet moments we’ve experienced over the years, even decades; an inspired history that has touched us and affected our lives, shaping and influencing not only who the Muppets themselves are, but who we are up to this point.

    Our collective Muppet fandom and CARE for the Muppets has been cultivated by what has been. How they have been taken CARE of and handled in the past. Not necessarily what is to come in the future. Of course, we have our hopes and dreams. But who can say that they’re a fan of the Muppets based on what they will be tomorrow or ten or twenty years from now, if the Muppets even still exist?

    It’s incomprehensible to me and my family that all of the sudden, after all these years, fault can be found in CARING enough to “push back” and question what is to come with the Muppets.

    The irony of firing someone or the dissolving of a relationship because someone CARES!? Since when is CARING a bad thing?? That’s exactly how the person who embodies Kermit the Frog, the main Muppet of all Muppets, should CARE. Because that’s exactly where Kermit comes from. That sturdy foundation that Jim not only allowed but supported and encouraged his fellow performers like Steve to build upon. Some of us get how vital, indispensable and irreplaceable that is. And that kind of CARE should not be hushed.

    Which brings me to recent postings on Muppet Fan sites. Telling fans HOW to care about the frenzy their breaking story caused after these sites were all too happy to pat themselves on the back for reporting it first? Isn’t that a little too much like what Disney is doing here with Steve? Hushing the CARE? In all fairness, any loyalties or biases those sites have towards any particular performer(s), company, etc. are understood and respected. But please don’t attempt to tell us how to feel, or what to do with feelings we have about the story they broke.

    Also worth pointing out, is this similar scenario that has been playing out with another of Disney’s acquisitions:

    http://fandom.wikia.com/articles/mark-hamill-doesnt-like-luke-written-last-jedi

    Basically, Mark Hamill CARED enough to express his own fundamental disagreement with every choice that has been made for the character of Luke Skywalker in the next Star Wars film, “The Last Jedi”. While Hamill admits that it got him in quite a bit of trouble, he was not fired or let go. But he was instead given the chance to do damage control, unlike Steve who expressed desire for the same, but was not even given the chance.

    Disney would never think of replacing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Because if they did, can you just imagine the reaction of Star Wars fans worldwide? Why in the world should we Muppet fans respond any different, simply because a Muppet performer is completely hidden out of sight below the puppet character?

    “If you CARE about what you do and work hard at it, there isn’t anything you can’t do if you want to.” — Jim Henson.

    Thank you for CARING so much for Kermit, the Muppets, and Jim’s vision overall, Steve. My family and I CARE very much that this happened to you. Because we also CARE about Kermit and what this means for the Muppets, we feel like this has also happened to all of us as fans. That’s why I’m taking the time to type this here today. We need more CARING in this world. Maybe Disney could demonstrate that they actually CARE, too, and reinstate Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog!

    1. ⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆
      THIS!!!

      Great analogy, with Mark and Steve both portraying icons of a similar era, caring similarly about these characters, becoming icons in their own right, but being treated entirely differently by the very same company because one of these performers is, unfortunately, hidden out of plain sight! And it’s not even the one who PUBLICLY criticized the company to begin with!!!

      No wonder all the news sites are only ever reporting about a change in “voice actors” – they’re all so much more than that! A brain fart that must’ve occurred even way up in the executive ranks… OR do they just know how to make use of this general misconception? Are they using Steve to cover their own behinds when having to report a reason for their failure with the latest TV show (or rather the franchise, lately) to THEIR higher-ups? If Steve has become their scape goat in this, I’m glad he won’t have it without speaking his truth (and possibly exposing them along the way for their bigotry)!

  43. Hi Steve,

    We want to thank you for all the wonderful years of laughs and memories you have given us through your performances as Kermit, Rizzo, Bean, Beaker, Wembley, Ernie, and so many more. Your characters in particular have always been some of our family’s dearest favorites – there’s rarely a day that goes by that we don’t quote Rizzo! You brought real warmth and wit to all of these characters we so gratefully welcomed into our homes time and again. The Muppets will truly never be the same without you. I can’t imagine ever enjoying any of their future projects now, knowing all of this.

    We are so sorry this happened, but we have no doubt that you will go on to do even more amazing things. The Muppets’ loss is the world’s gain.

    Thank you so much again, and we’re anxious to see whatever it is that you do next!

  44. Wow, just read the Henson familys comments, I’m so sorry Steve, that just because you didn’t want Kermit to lie, and rightly condemned lousy scripts, because you wanted to maintain standards so fill in people couldn’t appear with Kermit to cut ribbons for trashy store or event openings you have been abandoned. Now Cheryl and Brian put the boot in and side with Disney literally HOURS before announcing their new series, a series where the Henson family get a massive bunce and major say so over the show. Money money money….
    This was on another site,
    BREAKING NEWS!
    For the first time in years, Disney is letting the Jim Henson Company be involved in a new Muppet production! Brian Henson is set to direct a new television series starring the Muppets in 2018, and the other Henson children will serve as writers.
    The theme song for the new show was released on the Muppet’s Youtube page:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7Uz8rk7H6Q [Embed]
    Well NOW we know why they said what they said!
    We are still here for you Kermit 💚

    1. Like you, Friendbear, I am disgusted and so utterly disappointed by the way the Henson children are behaving. They should be ashamed of themselves, allowing money to so corrupt their hearts that they would turn vicious against someone that SHOULD have been (or WAS, for that matter) like FAMILY. Their father would likely be so upset with them. Jim enjoyed money to a certain extent, but he NEVER would have let it control him and turn his heart cold against his friends.

      I can see now that this rift may be permanent. If Disney had been acting without the approval of the Henson family as I had previously thought… I didn’t think they would ever treat you like this, Steve. I also cannot fathom Cheryl’s words of vitriol: your Kermit NEVER came off as a “bitter, angry, depressed victim” and I severely doubt that any Muppet fans would agree with her.

      Perhaps you refused an understudy for events like ribbon-cutting because you were remaining true to how Jim Henson did things. I can’t recall a time when Kermit ever appeared in public without Jim Henson. It was always important to him, I think, that he be entrusted solely with how Kermit represented himself.

      With all due respect paid to the Henson children, Steve had worked with their father longest. While they did have many moments where they collaborated with their father in his work, they would go off and pursue other things while Steve Whitmire remained constant and in the thick of things with Jim. Just because they are Jim’s children and bear the name Henson, I don’t think that means their word is the utmost authority on the matter. That honour goes to those Muppeteers who worked long hours beside Jim Henson in the trenches and who know better than anyone the Muppet characters and Jim’s wishes for his creation.

      The truth of the matter is that the Henson children, as well as the Disney execs who wielded the axe, have betrayed Steve Whitmire. From Disney, I pretty much expected it. But from the Henson children who are supposed to carry Jim’s values and treasure each Muppeteer like extended family? No. No, I certainly wasn’t expecting it from them, and it feels soul-shattering.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I stand by you, Steve. The Muppets may be behind you, but there are greater things ahead. You are of the Jim-Era and that means greatness. Heck, create your own lovable puppet creations under a name of your choosing and use everything at your disposal to build it in the same way Jim Henson did The Muppets. It may be too late for The Muppets, but it won’t be for a new family of “bears, and chickens, and frogs, and whatevers!”. Keep soaring, Steve. <3

      1. One of the first sites was here about the show,
        http://boards.4chan.org/co/thread/93946133/cheryl-henson-daughter-of-jim-henson-kicks-the
        The YouTube one has gone

        The second regarding Cheryl was here, with the now removed post by Cheryl attached,
        https://muppet-stuff.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/muppets-studios-and-hensons-releases.html

        There’s some not so nice stuff on some of these blogs, Steve, it’s not nice reading, but as people have complained, some posts like Cheryls have disappeared. Some are being monitored. Whatevers said stay strong. 💚

      2. I think friendbear was kidding. I haven’t seen anything regarding a new Henson/Disney co-production on any news outlets.

      3. Steve I have tried to reply 5 times to your comment but can’t due to technical issues, Both Cheryls comment and the news story have been removed as people jumped to your defence, Cheryls can be seen here
        https://muppet-stuff.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/muppets-studios-and-hensons-releases.html
        The original post which I first thought was about muppet babies 2018 (which I was sure was cgi anyway), but apparently wasn’t, has gone but can still be read about on fan boards discussions and here again on debs post in your latest blog. I did try posting the latest chat board it was on but my comments just aren’t appearing, it’s so frustrating!
        I read your latest comment in the press about if you were asked to step in you would, but if your new contract (if they offered you one) was a veritable gagging order would you accept it? To enter into such a hostile environment with what has been said? You’d be braver than I, that’s for sure, please stay strong, there are some really bad things being said by both Henson/Disney people and the public in response alike, I can’t help thinking what we could have done if we knew when you first did, maybe it wouldn’t have come this far, so much has been said, it would take a miracle to put things right, but you have right on your side 💚

  45. Steve I’m curious do you plan to keep puppeteering in the future? Would you ever try to revive your old characters before the muppets, do you “remember” their characters so to say?

  46. When one door closes, another one opens. Your fans will always be by your side, Steve. No matter what. Be well, my friend.

  47. Thank you Steve!

    For keeping the spirit alive.

    We all know what happens to things once Disney gets a hold of it.

    Kermit goes with you wherever you go!

    Say it loud, say it proud, or don’t say it at all!

    🙂

  48. To all my muppet related friends out there please feel free to share. I am trying to get this letter to reach Steve Whitmire.

    Steve,

    My name is Jake Thompson, I am a 12 year old boy from St. John’s NL Canada. Of course I am to young to have been alive at the same time as Jim, even though I still think of him all the time as if he was a close friend. Without having Jim you were one of the other puppeteers I looked up to. You were the only Kermit I knew. You were one of the main inspirations for me to become a puppeteer. You, Jim, Dave, and Matt have been my main inspirations. You guys inspired me to get my own tv show on my local cable channel, just like how Jim started with Sam and Friends! But I have to say you must have been my main inspiration for creating my own characters. I love the story of how you created Rizzo on your own just from a plain rat puppet. I have just recently started to design my own puppets and have professional puppet builders make them for me. It has always been my dream to meet you and the other puppeteers. And one last thing, what you said at the end of your blog post about disappointing Jim. No. You could never disappoint Jim.

    Thanks
    Your Number 1 Fan
    Jake

  49. To all my muppet related friends out there please feel free to share. I am trying to get this letter to reach Steve Whitmire.

    Steve,

    My name is Jake Thompson, I am a 12 year old boy from St. John’s NL Canada. Of course I am to young to have been alive at the same time as Jim, even though I still think of him all the time as if he was a close friend. Without having Jim you were one of the other puppeteers I looked up to. You were the only Kermit I knew. You were one of the main inspirations for me to become a puppeteer. You, Jim, Dave, and Matt have been my main inspirations. You guys inspired me to get my own tv show on my local cable channel, just like how Jim started with Sam and Friends! But I have to say you must have been my main inspiration for creating my own characters. I love the story of how you created Rizzo on your own just from a plain rat puppet. I have just recently started to design my own puppets and have professional puppet builders make them for me. It has always been my dream to meet you and the other puppeteers. And one last thing, what you said at the end of your blog post about disappointing Jim. No. You could never disappoint Jim.

    Thanks
    Your Number 1 Fan
    Jake

  50. Steve i am so sorry to hear this…you have so much support all around …you have even more support from your alma mater berkmar..so many upset people…so we are sharing the petition on fb getting people to sign it to help get you back.. because this is unheard of.. you are KERMIT, WILL ALWAYS BE KERMIT..THERE IS NO OTHER KERMIT.. EXCEPT FOR JIM… i cant imagine what you are going through right now.. my heart breaks for you as i know this is and was your lifes passion and even more than that for you.. whatever we can do to help please let us know.. is there a number at disney we can get everyone to call and just flood the phone lines complaining over this…hang in there buddy… im excited to have this blog now to see what is going on with you..take care… tracy seehorn callas

  51. Steve i am so sorry to hear about this…know that you have so much support all around …you have even more support from your alma mater berkmar…..so we are sharing the petition on fb getting people to sign it to help get you back.. because this is unheard of.. you are KERMIT, WILL ALWAYS BE KERMIT..THERE IS NO OTHER KERMIT.. EXCEPT FOR JIM… i cant imagine what you are going through right now.. my heart breaks for you as i know this is and was your lifes passions.. whatever we can do to help please let us know.. is there a number at disney we can get everyone to call and just flood the phone lines to complain over this..you are such a talentd guy… i knew in highschool…loved every puppet show you put on… tracy seehorn callas

  52. Dear Steve,

    I’m so sorry that the Disney Company has treated you and the Muppet legacy so poorly. They really don’t get the Muppets. It must be painful to have to leave Kermit, Rizzo, Bean Bunny, and all of your other amazing characters behind. I wish you the best in your future endeavors. Terrific Muppet-style television puppetry may just need to be created outside of Disney, just as terrific hand-drawn animation does. I hope to see you involved in a creative project as important as Fraggle Rock was someday soon.

    Yours, Craig Svonkin

  53. Steve,

    First off, long time fan, not just of the Muppets, but of your work in particular. You will definitely be missed with the Muppets, and it is my hope that you will find something that is equally fulfilling for you.

    Your fight for the integrity of the characters (and of Jim’s teaching and philosophy) is one that I fully support. You are indeed one of the last “old guard” performers, and one that had the unenviable task of carrying on THE signature character of the Muppets (which you’ve done admirably for nearly 3 decades). You can’t expect a giant corporation like Disney to take over such a unique troop of players and characters and expect that troop to not have some ideas as to how those characters should be portrayed. But then again, it’s Disney….and one apparently doesn’t question Disney.

    I for one would love to see you perhaps do a music project. Maybe you can do an album of your favorite Muppet songs, but as yourself….

    1. Ya know, I just gotta ask….how “involved” were the Henson family in any of the Disney negotiations?? If I remember correctly, the Henson’s tried to get Disney to let them use Kermit on the most recent DVD release of “Emmet Otter” for HIT Entertainment, only to be told no, requiring all of his scenes (including the bike-riding intro) to be removed from the production. Why would they even know what your “conduct” with Disney was unless Disney told them directly (or offered to pay them so much to support Disney’s claims)??

  54. The New York Times says members of the Henson family said they supported the dismissal as well.

  55. Mr. Whitmire;

    I am purely speculating here, but the fishy smell emulating from all of this sounds a lot like Disney/ABC is letting you go for the same reasons Tim Allen and his show was non-renewed by ABC. Am I hitting the nail on the head with this one??

Comments are closed.