“The Man in the Arena”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

54 thoughts on ““The Man in the Arena”

  1. Wow perfect. We now know why what has been done has been done and what has been said has been said. And it’s all because of integrity. Its like Kermit is that central post in a circus tent, with all the other muppets/muppeteers being the side posts. Holding up the standards, fibre and substance of the original characters whilst still teaching and conveying to us all young and old alike how to act, in situations bad ones and good ones, how to cope, how to live. But one by one those side posts have gone, either dismissed, deemed too expensive etc, or sadly just passed away and the huge weight of holding all that up fell on mainly you and Dave. Eventually without those pillars and posts the whole thing will inevitably collapse.
    If the bully in the playground keeps booting people out of his gang because he’s the boss and anyone who questions him goes, everyone will and he will be alone. The pack will be together with a new leader. (If only you could steal all the best ones and make a new gang!)
    I see Cheryl removed her nasty remarks after the backlash, but the familys’ statements followed up literally hours after by their new deal with Disney speaks volumes. Heck who needs a loudhailer?!

  2. Steve, again (in case you know him), I suggest talking to John Lassenter about your problem. I think he’ll understand your points and could help. On the other hand, this might, unfortunately, be beyond his control and he might have a lot on his mind right not. Still, maybe you should talk just in case. Although, he might be too busy. On second thought, maybe you should-

    Great, I’m sounding like Wembley.

  3. I hope Disney knows they broke the heart of my 15yo autistic son. Kermit is so special to him. This is a child who can name the exact dates of ANY performance on Sesame Street after 1990. He didn’t eat for almost a week when a different hue was used on the box of his favorite mac and cheese. Kermit not being Kermit? Their decisions have far reaching effects.
    We love you, Steve.

  4. 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. What gets me is her apparent opinion that the characters are purely the responsibility of their performers. They definitely bring the characters to life, but the writers are the ones developing dialogue and putting them in situations that are out of character.

      Kermit at his core may be compassionate and kind and stood up for what’s right, but he’s also had a lot more depth that I think they’ve stopped writing for. How many times did his patience get pushed past what was tolerable and he lost his temper? Moments of self-doubt in the Muppet Movie and Muppets Take Manhattan. Personally, I felt that it wasn’t until The Muppets (particularly “Pictures in my Head”) that they had recaptured some of that (although it has been YEARS since I’ve seen Muppets Tonight and some of the other TV specials they did along the way). (Of course, I could probably make the complaint of other characters too, including Piggy.)

      As far as this all goes though, my heart is with Steve while trying not to think too badly of Disney and Henson. Someone further down likens it to a divorce, and I can’t say I disagree.

  5. Steve hey I am sorry for what happened to you. I loved the muppets growing up, but I have felt they have not been like they was for a while now. I am glad you tried to keep the integrity. I wished they would have listened, I believe it could have helped saved the last show if they did. I am a puppeteer also, and that is thanks to you and the muppets. I am sad they let you go. If they just listened to you maybe they could bring the muppets back to greatness. I am from Ga also, and live close to Atlanta. I liked the fact Kermit was done by one from Ga too. Well good luck with your future, the muppets will not be the same without you.


  6. Cheryl Henson posted this on her Facebook (then later deleted it due to backlash)…


    (NOTE *** Got the pic from another source. I swear I’m not the heartless scum who liked it)

    And Cheryl just seems needlessly bitchy here. Like where did she even pull the whole Bitter Victim Kermit from? Hell, shouldn’t the blame be on the writers and not the performers, if that was the problem?

    Why did Disney consult with the Henson family anyways when they have been hands-off for years? Probably they (Disney) wanted to pay the Henson family off before they had the chance to side with Steve. So they could go “See, the actual Hensons are on our side!” and try and nip this controversy in the bud. Disney must have given the Hensons quite a cheque. But wait! 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:

    So yeah, the Hensons threw Steve under the bus all in the name of the mighty dollar.

    Thing is, he was let go in October 2016. He kept quiet about it for so long in hopes of getting the job back even in a more limited capacity where he promised not to speak up against what they were doing wrong with these characters. Steve’s a saint for putting up with the Mouse’s crap this long.

    But congrats, Hensons, for siding with those who are trying to destroy your heritage’s legacy.

  7. Cheryl Henson posted this on her Facebook (then later deleted it due to backlash)…


    (NOTE *** Got the pic from another source. I swear I’m not the heartless scum who liked it)

    And Cheryl just seems needlessly catty here. Like where did she even pull the whole Bitter Victim Kermit from? Hell, shouldn’t the blame be on the writers and not the performers, if that was the problem?

    Why did Disney consult with the Henson family anyways when they have been hands-off for years? Probably they (Disney) wanted to pay the Henson family off before they had the chance to side with Steve. So they could go “See, the actual Hensons are on our side!” and try and nip this controversy in the bud. Disney must have given the Hensons quite a cheque. But wait! 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:

    So yeah, the Hensons threw Steve under the bus all in the name of the mighty dollar.

    Thing is, he was let go in October 2016. He kept quiet about it for so long in hopes of getting the job back even in a more limited capacity where he promised not to speak up against what they were doing wrong with these characters. Steve’s a saint for putting up with the Mouse’s crap this long.

    But congrats, Hensons, for siding with those who are trying to destroy your heritage’s legacy.

    1. Please don’t blame “The Mouse.” He doesn’t have anything to do with the decisions being made. It’s “the Mouse’s” bosses that are doing this.
      (okay, I know I sound like an idiot, and I’m sorry, I’m not condoning Disney for Steve’s firing, and I’m certainly not on their side about it, but I am just so tired of Mickey bashing when Disney does something the general public doesn’t like, he’s just a cartoon character, after all, and he doesn’t run things down there)

    2. To be fair, Cheryl’s comments were made on her personal Facebook page. It wasn’t intended to be made public. Having said that, I agree that her comments were catty and hurtful.

    3. So many posts are appearing then disappearing on even the most official pages as well as news sites, with some appalling remarks being made by both the Henson/Disney people and members of the public alike, that you can’t help think things run so much deeper, even to a personal level, it’s so hurtful, but one thing is for sure, folks are angry all over the world. Its so much more than just a job 😦 it’s not that simple, it affects all of us.

      1. deeper? it seems like they’re throwing out miscellaneous dirty laundry as a proxy and that it’s predominately because Mr. Whitmire wouldn’t personally violate nor allow others to violate union rules.

        It’s not just a “hollywood” story, it’s a situation that befalls people the world over… the struggle in maintaining integrity by bullying employers that present themselves as being the happiest place on earth (see Roseanne s8e19? Springtime for David) – and working with Disney can be a great opportunity but this isn’t the first property or person in their employ that they’ve actively sought to destroy… they throw the mascots in front of it and say it’s not us, it’s you… It seems like the Hensons (that have had a few ups and downs, themselves, since big daddy died) are following suit, and likely for the reasons most people $u$pect..

        I briefly thought Farscape was going to be the studio’s turn around… but show went supernova, jumping the shark several times, after Hey left. So many little bits between – MirrorMask – good work but so many shoddy business choices, stories that looked good on paper but didn’t translate so well … even Sesame Street got gentrified. Leaves one wondering if it was really better that the legacy continued rather than die. So many things that used to shine easily get clouded over by situations like these.

    4. It’s certainly possible that Disney offered the Hensons some incentive–monetary or otherwise–to start bad-mouthing Steve, and knowing what I know about Disney, I wouldn’t put it past them. However, from the way that the Hensons–particularly Brian–seem to be taking this whole thing so personally and seem eager to dish the proverbial dirt on Steve, maybe they didn’t need an incentive to get involved.

      It’s ironic to me that people have accused Steve of unprofessional behavior, and yet, I find the Hensons’ involvement in this matter to be far more unprofessional. They don’t own the Muppets anymore, so it was completely inappropriate for them to get involved.

      1. Mary, I couldn’t agree with you more! I was heartbroken to see and hear from the today show the things that the Henson kids said about Steve. Like you I wouldn’t put anything past the poisonous Disney corporation. This whole thing is just completely sad.

  8. I feel it’s a bit like your parents divorcing. If you are honest, you can clearly see Mom’s failings, and Dad’s shortcomings. You know they’ve been unhappy, in some cases for years. You blame yourself (Why didn’t I go see Muppets Most Wanted in the theatre?) You pick a side to hysterically blame or resent. You make wild promises/threats (I’m going to wear black forever!!!) You vow to hate the new Step-Parent. You make wild, apocalyptic statements about how life will never be the same.

    But sometimes these things happen. People fall out of love. Someone hurts more than the other. The divorce is final. Life moves on.

    It’s a teachable moment, and I hope everyone, everywhere can learn and heal and continue.

    Much love to us all, and an extra portion of love for you, Steve.

  9. Dear Steve

    I worked alongside you on Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets Most Wanted and briefly on The Animal Show.

    I’ll keep this short as I’m sure you have much on your hands.

    I have no idea how to process all that is happening in The Muppet world. When I worked with you I found you to be kind, approachable, supportive and friendly. Very different from many people in the puppet world. When filming the scene in Treasure Island where Rizzo and Gonzo were being tortured in the bowels of the ship, you invited my girlfriend (now wife) to sit next to you while you were operating via an RC unit. She sat with you all morning, and you chatted and engaged with her. To this day she holds that memory as very precious.

    I’m so sorry that all this has transpired the way it has. I hold you in the highest regard as a puppeteer, but more importantly, as a person.

    All my best wishes and thoughts.

    Andrew James Spooner

  10. I read something today, when checking out all the Henson kids’ statements, that really shed some light on this situation. Disney can talk all they want about Steve being “unprofessional” etc etc etc but I think this one detail says it all.

    The story went that Disney/The Muppets Studio was negotiating a commercial in which the Muppets would appear. Steve was consulting with his union rep and in the end the rep told him to refuse to do the commercial. Since there was no “understudy” for Kermit the commercial didn’t happen.

    Right there! That’s the deal! Steve saying no to the deal cost Disney however much money for their previous commercial and they couldn’t go around Steve since there was no “understudy”. They were pissed and I’m sure just waiting for a moment, a reason, a perfect time to cast him aside so they could find someone who they could pay less and that wouldn’t “rock the boat” and might now even know any better. (No offense meant toward Matt!)

    The Henson kids’ response to all of this is really baffling though.

  11. The idea of Disney accusing anybody of “unacceptable business practices” is really absurd. Disney has a long history of breaking good-faith agreements and just shady dealings in general. You don’t even have to dig deep below the surface to find it.

    Yesterday was an awful day. I wish I could give you a hug, Steve.

  12. Dear Steve,
    I grew up loving the Muppets. I enjoyed what Jim was able to accomplish & the caliber of performances in the first decade after he passed (Muppet Christmas Carol is still my favorite Muppet movie). I’d initially been excited for The Muppets to return to TV…until the Kermit-Piggy breakup story hit. From there, the more we heard about it, the less we wanted to watch it. I personally didn’t watch it & I think my dad & stepmom only watched the first episode. We, like you, did not like the direction the Muppets were heading in. I hate to say it, but Disney hasn’t really done a decent thing with the Muppets since Treasure Island.

    Anyway, thank you for standing up for the integrity of the Muppets. Even if we weren’t aware at the time, it feels good to know that at least somebody tried to tell Disney what was being written wasn’t working.

    Much love to you & hope things start looking up soon.

  13. Theodore Roosevelt is one of my heroes. It helps to read this, for all of us who have striven towards a goal or series of goals, and never given up.

    I Pray everything gets better for you, and the characters you love and carry with you, both in your hands and in your heart.

    I hope you keep this blog going, we’ve learned a great deal from you about what it’s like to be a Puppeteer.

    Keep the Faith Anne Terri

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


    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.

    Your Number 1 Fan

  15. Dear Steve,
    I have loved the muppets my whole life and still do. I just turned 38 a few days ago and we were talking about how Sesame Street and the Muppets aren’t the same as when we were kids. I for one thank you for trying to make that last show better, because someone needed to tell the writers, directors, and producers how they were ruining the muppets. So thank you for standing up for the fans.
    Ps: It’s so cool you are from Ga because I am too.

  16. Dearest Steve,

    I’m gonna make this short and I wish like you it were sweet, with what’s transpired within the last week it really does feel that now nothing is truly sacred.

    How you’ve been treated is wholly unfair and I know this isn’t what Jim would have wanted either, without stating the obvious you know Kermit better than anyone else could.

    In 2012 I had the great pleasure of seeing you and Bill at work at HMV in London – from what I recall it was at least over an hour you spent with many of us and it was all completely improvised


    At the start of Kermits intro a little baby started crying to which he remarked:

    “Someone’s crying already, that’s gonna be us in twenty minutes.” Terrific adlib and apart from the “Potty breaks” Pepe needed you wonderful guys who know these wonderful characters who’ve entertained and thrilled generations of viewers just plundered through.

    I don’t know what’s going to occur next but I am definitely #TeamSteve.

    Much #Love sir.

    The Very Best of Good Energies to you 🙏

    Richard x

  17. Isn’t it ironic that it’s Jim’s own children that just tarnished the Henson name, by throwing their father’s friend under the bus. Especially you Cheryl, spewing your vile for the world to see. There is a dark cloud hanging over Kermit this morning.

  18. Hi Steve,

    Great quote, though I’m still a little confused over this whole mess. It’s hard to tell who to believe, but that’s just me. I support you, though, I really do. I’m just trying to understand both sides of the situation. As someone who has been laid off, I understand how difficult it is in the aftermath. Sending good vibes, and kitty cuddles from my Snowball.

    Live long and paws-purr,
    Erin T. Aardvark

  19. I’m sorry you are going through this and you’re losing some support that you have known since you were a teen. Kermit was ripped from you and that’s going to take some counseling to get through this tough journey. Maybe you can be a puppetry teacher at UConn? You can definitely teach a class on building a character’s personality. Or you can teach a class on video Puppetry. I loved the classes you did at the Center. I know losing Kermit is like losing family. It’s going to take a long time to heal from this.

  20. Steve–
    You know puppets, but you also know me, and I know a LOT more than you do about this kind of situation. Think back. I learned so much from my very first moment like this–in that play devising theater class in high school, when we were developing the bicentennial play in 1976. Sigh. You got involved at the production stage, but before we began production, I was involved at the writing stage, and I got a D in that class. Why? Because I was the annoying one who wouldn’t stop complaining about the way things were being done. But I was the most knowledgeable one about what we were doing, wasn’t I? And do you know what the teacher said to me about the D? “You could have been a more positive influence.” And they wound up with a crappy script, right? I knew that I was right and I was a thorn in the teacher’s side, and yes, maybe everyone else’s, too. But I was right. And that’s where I learned how to be a teacher, right there, and how not to be. And as an artist–or a plumber, or a surgeon, or an astronaut, or a guy flipping burgers–maybe you do have to care about the work. How many people reading this have been in a situation like that at work? I’ve been in several, and sometimes, if the work is inane and stupid and it doesn’t matter, I move on and I keep my peace. But I’m a teacher now, and have been for going into my 28th year. In between that experience in high school and the time you called me to get me to apply as a writer on the Muppets team, I got two college degrees in writing and worked dozens of jobs before I became a teacher. When you called me, which was right around the time you became the voice of Kermit, I was in the place I wanted to be. So I walked away from the opportunity to work for the Muppets. It wasn’t about money, it was about instinct. But things were the same in the school as they had been in so many other job situations for me. Heck, once I was working in dairy in Georgia and I kept stopping the line to tell them that there was something wrong with the chocolate milk half-pints. They didn’t taste right. No one else could tell and they kept turning the line back on. In the end, after thousands of gallons of the stuff had been bottled, someone discovered that the milk used for the formula had been spoiled. They poured it all out and I was given the job of taste tester. And again, in my teaching job in Hawaii, I was in a private school in which the management was wrong and I was right. They had hired me as a middle school history and English teacher and part time drama coach. They wanted me to teach writing the old-fashioned way, with a focus on grammar and spelling and rewriting a single piece until it was letter perfect. We weren’t allowed to send a piece home or share it with parents until the student got it perfect. Sometimes students rewrote a piece five or six times and when you mentioned, “Today we’re going to write,” to them, they would groan out loud. I tried to tell my boss that the school was killing the love of writing. And my boss threatened to fire me. Finally, I told her, “You really do need to fire me. Or you need to move me entirely into the history department. I will NEVER teach writing the way that it is done here. It means too much to me.” I have a master’s degree in writing, but my boss had a master’s degree in Education, from Stanford, no less, and it was a gutsy thing for me to do, especially since I had a wife and young baby in tow. But I was kept on because the students and parents loved me. I was moved into the history department and went on to improve that department and the school. And my boss retired very shortly after (make of that what you will). And years later, when a new headmaster came into the school, after a couple of years of observing me, he asked me to start up the history department for the new high school. I said, “I don’t have a history degree.” He was shocked, but had the intelligence to say, “I don’t care. You’re the best history teacher I’ve ever met.” And still later, when the school got big enough, I was asked if I wanted to be a full time theater teacher, since my theater program, which was based on devising original plays and which I learned to do all those years ago, was so successful. Two years ago, I won a national award as a theater teacher. Right after that, a college professor visited my class from the Mainland to observe it for a book he was writing on how to teach play writing. And right after that, one of my first students from one of my first English and history classes published a time travel novel for young adults with Harper Collins. In the front, she acknowledges me as her major inspiration (even though I haven’t seen her since eighth grade). The novel was named by NPR as one of the best books of the year and the author is now working on the third book in the series. Her book is a time travel novel story, by the way, set in Hawaii (where I live now and teach, as you know). The author lives in New York with her husband and baby. And that’s just one story. And all of the naysayers are long, long behind me.

    And why am I able to stand at this point in time and look back and talk about my success? Because someone figured out that someone else should shut up for a change, and that maybe management was wrong, and that the thorn-in-the-side shouldn’t be fired after all. Maybe he was right and someone else was wrong. Sometimes it works out like that and sometimes you stick your neck out and someone is there to chop off your head. But you just put your head back on and smile and move on. Before my teaching gig, while you were working for the Muppets, I was fired more than once. Always for the same reason. And sometimes I was the golden child. And again, for the same reason. And it was never about me at all. It was the work. It was always the work. Work does matter. And sometimes management can swallow their pride and realize that the job matters more than their egos. Maybe your work mattered most because it affected so many. Or maybe because it was so personal to you. And lots of people all over the country are going through this or have gone through it, especially in the work climate we have right now. But your work still matters. Put your head back on. There is work to be done. There always is.

  21. Dear Steve,

    I’ve only tried to write you via a post once, and am not sure where or when that was. So please forgive me if you’ve heard this already…

    When I decided to pursue puppetry in 1994, you were my hero, idol, person of great import. I emailed you about mentoring at a then upcoming festival. You didn’t email me back; you phoned, from London to say you were busy with Treasure Island, but invited to maybe visit the set one day.
    I scored an airline ticket in a raffle and headed out in 96, after graduating high school. The three days I spent with you were a huge moment. Though everyone was great, your kindness, encouragement and tips on pursuing my puppetry goals was key.
    Though I ultimately chose not to try and join the Muppets (as I knew I would not be able to spend long stretches away from home) I still credit you with my good fortune in life. I must admit when I chose to pursue something else, it was very difficult to find myself or purpose. I’d spent years running towards one goal and was not prepared to deal with the motivational loss. But it was my decision.
    I cannot begin to fathom how lost and hurt you are having had everything torn away from you. I know I am just one of thousands of voices supporting you and hoping for an amicable conclusion to all this.

  22. From today’s Gizmodo article:

    ‘But Whitmire apparently also had a capacity for cruelty, displayed when Disney attempted to cast alternate performers for some of the Muppet roles. “[Steve] told Disney that the people who were in the audition room are never allowed to work with the Muppets again,” a source told Gizmodo. “It’s not really fair to someone who just went in for a call or they’re looking for a bit more notoriety as a puppeteer which, as you can imagine, there’s not a lot of puppetry jobs out there.” ‘

    Why would you do that, Steve? You seem to think you have a pretty strong connection to what Jim Henson would have wanted. Would Jim have blacklisted young and aspiring puppeteers just for auditioning for roles? I thought the Muppets were supposed to be inclusive and kind. Would Jim have excluded and banned these people?

    You don’t think others deserve similar opportunities to the ones you were given?

    I can assure you, many in the puppeteer community knew of your behavior in this respect- and we thought you were a total jerk for it. That sentiment also extends to each of the other Muppeteers who supported this “blackballing”. It’s not all Muppeteers by a long shot, but there are a few- and we know who you are.

    Hopefully with you and your selfish attitude off this ship, the Muppets will be able to become closer to what they once were.

    1. If you click on John Mines name at the top of his comment, you will be re-directed to the Jim Henson Company web page.

    2. As much as I admire Steve my full devotion lies to Kermit the Frog and at this moment anyone who stands up for Kermit I will support. Steve is very passionate about Kermit, if he was aggressive to work with I imagine it was out of frustration for fighting for the character he performed for 27 years and not feeling any progression for it, the idol I admire, the character I am fighting for is Kermit the Frog.

    3. Interesting….. and wrong 🙂
      If you knew and worked extensively with Jim and his characters, you would know he very carefully vetted his performers. He would test them out to see what they were capable of. He was very much a captain of the ship. If someone ever overstepped their bounds he would certainly chastise them for that and rightly so. I saw him calmly tell Richard Hunt off on set one time for misbehaving 🙂

      But he knew puppeteers weren’t interchangeable. One character, one voice, one principle performer. That never changed once a character was established – EVER!

      Steve tried to protect the integrity and legacy of his principle characters. If I understand correctly, early Disney thought this was a way to have multiple performers be available at any time for cruises and the like. Possibly to save money too for all I know? I wasn’t around then so I don’t know what happened. I can only speculate. But if new kids came in and disrespectfully tried to muscle in on the principle characters, well that is very wrong and totally going against what Jim had established. Jim wouldn’t have stood for that either. They would have been shown the door whippety-quick! Jim was smart enough to “not suffer fools gladly”. He ran a delightful magical fun but tight ship.

      If that was a misguided early Disney decision, yeah, it was right to push back on that. If it was such a good idea, how come there aren’t three Gonzo performers and five Miss Piggys already? It’s never going to happen because it doesn’t work. Muppets understands that. You cannot put this all onto Steve. If I found out after the fact that someone else was trying to perform the character I had worked so hard at building up, I would have thrown a fit, that’s for sure. It’s no different to being a head Chef at a big restaurant with decades of training and experience, returning after a day off and finding the restaurant are using cheaper less experienced head chefs thinking it doesn’t matter and no one will notice the difference. Then when the customers begin complaining of substandard food it’s the head chef who takes the fall for it. Total nonsense!

      Are you one of these puppeteers who was hoping for a principle Muppet character? It sounds as though you are. The correct way is to work your way up through the ranks. If you are good, it will be noticed and you will get more work. There’s no short cut. I can see that you just don’t get it. Perhaps that’s the difference right there, between the old and the new?…..

      Quality over quantity always otherwise the brand value diminishes. But clearly that’s what you want. A watered down bunch of characters. Cardboard cut-out versions of whom they once were. Good luck with that 😉

      1. Do you remember what it was like to be a young puppeteer starting out? Would you have gone to an audition for the Muppets? Disney held auditions for the Muppets.

        Do you think every single person who auditioned was aware of the internal labor dispute between Disney and certain Muppeteers?

        Every single person who auditioned was blacklisted by certain senior performers and prevented from working with the Muppets.

        Is it fair to punish aspiring puppeteers for a decision Disney made?

        How is one to “work through the ranks” when the ranks are closed?

        Just to be clear- you support the blackballing policy?

        Though I was not one of the “blackballed” performers, I know many- they’re brilliantly talented and what happened to them is no secret in certain communities. I believe that excluding this crop of talented performers only hurt the Muppets.

        1. perhaps the reason for blackballing young actors could be referred to as Steve not wanting Disney to have anyone being Kermit 2, Kermit 3 or Kermit 4, there is only one Kermit at a time and this time his voice was coming from Steve. Had Steve not wanted anyone taking over Kermit after his passing then you would be the biggest asshole in the world but as of right now I sense this is not the full story.

          If all this is true and Steve is in fact the bad one then why it took those with the power to change this 27 years to “fix” Kermit baffles me. Let’s also say Steve is a nightmare to work with, that nightmare kept Kermit alive for 27 years, as much as everybody involved might hate him he should be treated with respect publically as not to demoralize the character of Kermit in any way.

          Does anyone remember that Steve performed Kermit in both Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, he had good scripts to work with and it showed through Kermit’s performance.

          1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

            There’s Only One More Sleep Til Christmas

            I love this Kermit the Frog.

  23. Steve,
    Sometimes one door closes and another opens. I don’t think these guys will back peddle but I do believe that you can reinvent who you are. All of your knowledge and experience are valuable to another generation. You are a great writer, share what you have learned and mentor a new generation of people to do things the “right way”. I personally have had a similar experience happen to me this year, perhaps not on such a large public scale but similar in that my job was redefined. I see that happening a lot to people of our age. However, where when our parents were devistated by a change like this, forced retirement or moved to be replaced by someone or something else, we on the other hand are a different generation. Dont let these actions define you. You are much more than this. Take everything that you have learned and done and make something wonderful with it. The hardest thing is taking your identity that you thought you had and facing everyone in the realization that this is who you no longer are. The best feeling is taking that plan B, becoming successful with it and realizing that the past identity wasn’t the sum of you. Kermit was Jim, then he was you, and now Matt…

    I am an educator, a trainer and curriculum writer. My teaching was heavily influenced by Jim and the muppets from the first Sesame Street episode I watched when it debuted when I was 3 to just last week when my family and I were singing along to muppet bohemian rhapsody on vacation. None of us here responding know what you went through as a performer. What we do all have in common is that we know what it’s like to have this happen, we have empathy. We have brotherhood. Keeping up with all things muppet, I know that you aren’t the only muppet performer who had a difference of opinion on which way the muppets were going. Many have been vocal. You aren’t alone

    So what would Jim do? He would have created a world to work in that he had control over. Where he had the creative control to do what he wanted. When you set your own rules you have the creative ability to call your own shots. Take what you know, create your own rules and be who you are. Don’t let anyone define you. Your main purpose in life was not to be Jim, it was to perform and make others happy by that performance. Maybe it was to teach others the joy of doing just that as Jim did that for you. All I know is that I am busy trying to redefine myself and on the days that I’m not feeling like I failed, my convictions tell me I’m right and that I’m heading in the right direction. It’s not easy but I’m okay. Keep writing this blog and continue to share what you know. Sometimes you can only sit on the sidelines when they decide to jump the shark.

    On a side note, I LOVE Rizzo. You took a minor silly character and created a character with depth. He’s got hutzpah. He’s got spunk. I know all original characters have a bit of a puppeteer personality inside them. I’d like to think that this spunk is what makes you who you are and what will help you reinvent and help you on your journey. Much ❤️ to you

  24. Steve alledgedly black balling puppeteers may not have been a question of puppetry but a question of CHARACTER. Not just the characters being performed but the characters of the individuals auditioning themselves. If someone could do a perfect Kermit voice, manner, poses, but didn’t SPEAK like Kermit, his values and standards, but replaced them with their own, especially in live ad lib situations, where you can’t edit what’s said, it could damage Kermits’ reputation forever. It takes a special kind of person to be a Muppeteer, and to write for the Muppets too. Good for you for standing up for yourself Kermit 👍

  25. To Steve-

    I’m sure the last thing you want to do is engage in a war on words with Jim’s children, but I truly believe they’re just speaking from a corporate mindset with hopes of their studio teaming up with Disney in some capacity for their own financial gain in the future. I believe none of their claims having watched your work, and the way you interacted with your fellow performers from the inside at Sesame and JHC. On a side note, you treated me incredibly and I’m so grateful for those memories.

    You did everything right and hope that one day Disney will realize their mistake. It’s a real shame they’re letting the art suffer just to have someone they can manipulate performing Kermit. You did nothing but represent Jim in the most special way possible, and were kind, caring, and mindful of your duty to the purity of The Muppets.

    I don’t think I’ll be able to extend my Muppet (or should I say now — ‘The Muppets Studio’) fanaticism without you. I will support you no matter what and pray you return. I will also pray for you and your family, as you’re the only person I can ever see as Kermit after Jim. No one deserves the good vibes more than you. You’re the best and will always be one of my heroes.

    To add to your quote theme, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys once wrote in song:

    “At three score and five
    I’m very much alive
    I still got the jive to survive with the heroes and villains”

    You, sir…will ALWAYS have the jive.

  26. Dear Steve. Your subsequent posts verify what I felt about those official complaints about your “poor business behavior” or whatever gobbledegook that was from the corporation.

    I put it into a muppet meme, which probably hasn’t been seen outside my circle of friends, and I couldn’t blame anyone here for hesitating to click on the link I left yesterday. So, just in case you have time to read these other posts, I’ll put it here: “I tend to side with the creative mind who spent years proving he knows what he’s doing…over the corporate suit in control who thinks he knows better.”

    I’m so sorry you’re being so ill-rewarded for loyalty to what you inherited from Jim.

  27. Last week Steve Whitmire provided an interview for Inside Edition. When I heard this interview for a second I wasn’t sure who was actually fighting for Kermit the Frog, Steve had been painted as a Kermit-Obsessed-Crazy-Frog by The Walt Disney Company and by saying “I am Kermit and Kermit is Me” I felt Steve Whitmire might have been a bit at fault here. I wasn’t the only one who felt like this, across the message boards I realized this was a big moment when Steve Whitmire lost a lot of fans and followers. Then I stopped listing to what was being said, sat on my balcony and listened to what I thought of this and I realized he had obviously been asked a question, it’s an interview, what was the question? Is Kermit Jim? That would have been the wrong answer to give Steve, I would have lost respect for you there had that been the question. Maybe he was asked “are you Kermit?” if so they are leading him into having to say something along the lines of what he said which if that was the question actually makes it a very responsible answer. For those interested in listening again the same interview is still available online but unless we all missed it before the question is now asked before Steve Whitmire answers.

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