Early Influences on my “Business Conduct”

Jim was in the middle of negotiating with Disney in 1990 while we were shooting “Muppet Vision 3D”. We all saw the toll the dealmaking process was taking on him, but as always he pushed on excited about the 3D technology and his new project. He expressed his concern that he hoped he wasn’t making a mistake because of how difficult the negotiations had become. He was entrusting something to Disney that he cared about, and the trust was being eroded by the business process.

It was Jim’s desire that Disney use his chosen performers to continue with the characters, and I was witness to a comment from an executive who chided Jim to his face, saying ‘That’s not how we do business. If Mickey-1 won’t do it for what we offer, then we move on to Mickey-2, and keep going down the line until somebody will do it for our price…’. Jim looked horrified.

During the negotiation of the deal on “MuppetVision 3-D”, our first deal with Disney, two of us, did not close our deals before the shooting began. On the first day of production with Jim directing his first Disney project, a group of three studio attorneys marched into the sound stage, interrupted production, and demanded that the two of us sign our contracts immediately.

Imagine standing in a line, three “suits”, Jim Henson, and behind him me and the other performer who didn’t sign. What do you think Jim did next?

Did he:

A) Tell me that my “business conduct was unacceptable”?
B) Accuse me of “brinkmanship”?
C) Fire me without an ultimatum for holding up his production?

The answer is none of the above. With two of us standing in his shadow, gentle, soft spoken Jim Henson looked the attorneys square in the eyes and slowly, quietly told them to get off his set and never come back.

As we watched them go I said to him, “Jim, I’m so sorry to have caused a problem, especially on your first day shooting with Disney…”. Jim put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I would NEVER want you to sign a deal you’re not comfortable with”.

I miss him so much….

70 thoughts on “Early Influences on my “Business Conduct”

  1. Jim sounds like the best boss and friend you could have ever asked for. He knew what was important – the happiness and wellbeing of his puppeteers. Sadly that kind of conduct appears to have disappeared. I’m sending you a giant hug from Sydney, Australia, Steve. We love and admire you so much. You and your performances helped me get through some very rough times. Now it’s our turn to help you.

  2. I am so sorry for all of those posts in a row! I did not notice my computer was doing that! Sorry Steve!

  3. I miss Mr. Henson, too. I looked forward to “The Muppets,” but from the get-go, it was clear these were not the Muppets I loved and grew up with. The writing, the characterizations… they looked the same but didn’t act the same. Gone was what made them so lovable and fallible. The souls of the characters, if you will. I think that soul came from the writing and the performers. And when a certain performer has acted the character for a number of years, including the movements as well as voice, when that performer is changed… It’s not the same. Especially when said performer created the character. It’s a jarring thing, even if the imitation is spot on, it’s still never quite the same magic. The writing on “The Muppets” was sub-par, the scenarios were totally off, and the jokes… Well, there was an innocence to the original group of writers/performers/characters that was totally missing. You can’t go home again, especially when the original house that henson built has been solidly demolished, and the cute, homey victorian with muppets in every nook and cranny has been replaced by a steel and cloass skyscraper populated with suits that only understand numbers. I am glad the original Muppet Show is on DVD, though it would be nice to have the last 2 seasons.

    Once Henson’s sold the Muppets to Disney, it was nowhere but downhill. I hoped not, but Disney itself is no longer what Walt made it, nor are his visions guiding the corporate mouse-monster. Mickey has fangs, and he does bite. I’ve known people who worked for the mouse at all levels, and they all had bitter tastes in their mouths from the experience. Sorry this happened to you.

    Interesting the Hensons issued a statement in favor of Disney. Never rains but what it pours, eh?

    1. Downhill, my eye. Besides, the 2005 TV movie was developed before Henson sold the Muppets (hence the Simpson writer from VMMX). I thought they reach up more than they did post-Sony deal. Why do people keep picking on the mouse? If the mouse had fangs, he’d be a bat.

      1. It is also quite clear, that there is a great deal of content that Disney Corp. produces, which would horrify Mr. Disney.

      2. That’s really unfair towards bats. Bats are mostly harmless creatures who do a lot of good for the environment. Your use of them to disparage Disney is unfair to the animal.

    2. Well said. The Disney folks have no clue on how to write for these characters. When our family started watching the first Muppets reboot film, my then seven year old daughter said, “Turn this off Daddy. These are not The Muppets.”
      The writing was so horrible that a child could recognize it’s lack of joy twenty minutes into the film. I gave up on the characters then and have not looked back.

  4. I love the stories of Jim Henson doing what he thinks is right and not what his wallet thinks is right. Thanks for the wonderful stories Mr. Whitmire

  5. quoted from above: “The answer is none of the above. With two of us standing in his shadow, gentle, soft spoken Jim Henson looked the attorneys square in the eyes and slowly, quietly told them to get off his set and never come back.” That’s exactly what a person has to do unless they want to “sell their soul to the devil”. Precisely why we wrote the song “Talk to My Lawyer”… look it up on youtube! you’ll get some laughs.

  6. This anecdote reminds me of a similar one that Jerry Nelson once told, in which the performers were doing a table reading, and Jerry saw there was nothing in the script for him, which he figured was a waste of his time, so he got up, tossed the script in the trash, and left. Shortly thereafter, Jim called him into his office, and said to him in an uncharacteristically stern, yet non-confrontational tone, “Don’t you ever do that again.”

    Clearly, Jim was an all-around non-confrontational person. I’ve read Brian Jay Jones’s wonderful book about him, and I can imagine Jim being a turtle retracting into his shell whenever a confrontation arises: I was particularly intrigued by the story of how David Lazer often would reprimand employees for getting out of line because Jim just couldn’t bring himself to discipline people; one such occasion apparently involving David chewing out Richard Hunt for bad-mouthing a recent MUPPET SHOW guest, and Jim simply consoling him with a hug afterwards.

    This is why I continue to remain an independent myself: it’s not often easy to get work off the ground when you’re independent, but it worked for Muppet/Henson rivals Sid & Marty Krofft. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in a previous comment, the entertainment industry has been tainted by these so-called “suits” who are killing the creativity and artistic aspect of entertainment with their blood lust for money, contracts, deals, profits, revenue, and complete control over everything. Andy Griffith cited this once when comparing production of his two major TV shows: he said when he did THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, he and his staff had all of the freedom to make the show the way they wanted to without interference from the network, who simply acted as the show’s “host”; later, when he did MATLOCK, he complained that by then, networks put “kids in suits” in offices and they were the ones pulling the strings and calling the shots, saying it all went to hell from there.

    Jim was first and foremost an artist, and while show business is a business for a reason, he just simply to do what he wanted to do: create art for people to enjoy – I often wonder what he could do if he were alive today, and had access to things like YouTube. In fact, there was a period of time on YouTube I was a part of that I have since christened the Renaissance Age of Internet Puppetry: from about late 2006 to late 2009/early 2010, there were a number of puppeteers (myself included) who were using YouTube as a means of sharing our puppetry with the rest of the world – it was something that brought us together and bonded us over a shared passion that wouldn’t exist had it not been for Jim virtually reinventing puppetry as we know it. It was quite a magical time, and this was something we did without any kind of suits or big-wigs telling us what we could or couldn’t do, we were free to create and perform as we went along. With an outlet like that, who knows what sort of other incredible worlds Jim could have created.

    But, again, this is the sad state of affairs in American entertainment. In a way, I’m glad that Jim isn’t here to see this for himself, but at the same time, I wish he was here to do what he could to try to smooth things over in his own Jim Henson way.

  7. Steve i thank you for your integrity and for protecting what jim henson worked so hard to bulid. I think jim would want his characters to have some morals and having kermit and miss piggy break up does not show those morals he would be very proud

      1. Nic, Kermit and Piggy broke up and got back together loads of times during Jim’s reign. The difference was that they always managed to come to the conclusion that they needed each other in some way. They never stayed mad for long.

  8. An open letter from a Muppet fan, puppeteer, and child at heart to Steve Whitmire, Disney The Muppets The Jim Henson Company and truthfully to all the Lovers, the Dreamers, and You,
    I’m nobody at the end of the day. I will never be famous. I will never be in front of people singing, and dancing, and making millions of people happy. I’m just a teacher (I am starting my 20th year teaching). I am a puppeteer. Never anything really amazing, I do my best with it. I get to share that with children as we work with a puppet ministry program at our church (a true passion of mine as I can share my faith, and share my love of puppetry). But again, I am a nobody (no one important will read this and my friends and family will take this as the ramblings of a geek. They love me anyways. And you know what….being a nobody I have no idea what Jim Henson would say or do if he was around right now.
    So why am I writing this open letter? Because this world is cruel and cold. Filled with violence and hared. Because at the end of the day the magic of the Muppets matters more than squabbles about business, matter more than the fact the last Muppet film and TV series did not do as well as some executive wanted it to do, matters more than the financial return that some ceo was hoping would come of them.
    A several years ago I was interviewed by CNN. It really was one of the shining moments of my career as a teacher and a puppeteer, and in my life in general. Scared my wife a little when someone called the house saying they were from CNN too. One of the things I am quoted as saying in the CNN article is that I almost cried when I took my puppetry students to see this (side note: Never say you almost cried in a nationally published article. You’ll never live it down). Why did I almost cry? Because I could share something magical with my students. A film about a gang of wild misfits, who may have had a struggle, but in the end were able to pull it all together and succeed. They would beat the evil oil baron. They would do it with humor, and fun, and a lot of heart. Maybe they would be a bit rebellious along the way (you can’t kidnap Jack Black), but in the end they would pull it off.
    This was the magic I remembered when I was kid. When Kermit went off on a trip. A trip to sing, and dance, and make millions of people happy. I remember the scene where he walked alone in the dessert. Kermit never promised anyone anything. But he did promise himself. And he faced down Doc Hopper, not with violence but with his big Muppety heart. He got his friend’s to Hollywood, and he did sing, and dance, and make millions of people happy. But guess what? It was all a movie. It was all make believe. Or was it.
    Here is the thing about a character like Kermit. He is real. That is what happens when a character like that is created. H becomes real to us. Kermit, not Jim, not Steve is the reason I became a puppeteer. Kermit inspires me to be gentler as a teacher and as a parent. And when I do lose my temper or lose control, hey Kermit does that too, but I can recover from it. I can come back from my little trip in the desert, rally the gang, and bring the heart back to everything. Because I look up to Kermit. A talking, singing, dancing, frog.
    All this fighting now over this is tarnishing that magic. it has turned into a case of he said she said. Some words are vague, somethings are said gently. Some are said harshly and with cruel word choices. I’m not sitting here saying this hurts Jim Henson, or Steve Whitmire, or Disney. I really think this is hurting the frog. Who is real to me. Real to millions of people.
    In the end I ask all parties involved to think about what is happening with the Muppets and with Kermit moving forward. If this fight continues the Muppets may continue, but they will always be tarnished by what happened here. I don’t care if they become a multi billion dollar money maker. They will always be tainted about how this event brought some darkness, broke the magic a little, made Kermit nothing more than a pile of felt with someones hand in it.
    I’m nobody really. And my words probably won’t be heard or read by anyone that matters. And people will probably think I’m silly for posting this. And some people will tell me you should never start a sentence with a conjunction. But I don’t want to lost the magic. I don’t want to lose Kermit.
    -Danny Larabee (A Muppet fan…and despite what some say, more of a Muppet than a Man).

  9. This absolutely confirms what I suspected happened and posted about a day or so ago. It was mentioned that Disney was working a deal for the muppets to be in a commercial. Steve decided it was too little and passed on it which meant the commercial didn’t happen and Disney didn’t get their money for it.

    At that time there was no “Kermit-2” or “Kermit-3″…Just “Kermit-1”. Well Disney has made sure that wasn’t going to happen again. They can’t let conviction and integrity get in the way of their payday so Kermit-1 has been dismissed and now they’ll get someone who will do it for their asking price (or they’ll find someone else) and will “fall in line”.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there will now be a “Kermit-3” or even “Kermit-4” waiting in the wings. Pretty darn sad!

  10. Yes, very Jim. Just one of many stories. Amazing.

    It’s as though the rules had changed somewhere along the way but somebody forgot to tell us…..

  11. Wow, I can’t imagine being told to bugger off by someone like Jim Henson. Damn.

    So, the moral of the story is that Jim would never have wanted you to sign contracts if you were uncomfortable with them….and that under his management, there was no way you’d ever be treated the way Disney ended up doing so?

    Okay, that makes sense. But unfortunately Disney isn’t Jim. Maybe you could give us an example of a time where one of these instances came about and the higher-ups didn’t take kindly to your questioning of it?

    And yeah, we miss Jim too….

  12. Steve, I know you feel like you have to defend yourself. To most of us, you don’t have to. Were behind you 100% you knew what the best was for Kermit. And I support you.I would be more upset if I found out you didn’t tell them what’s Un-Kermit like. And btw was Cheryl always that much of a —– your Kermit and Jim’s Kermit acted exactly the same. I don’t know what her problem is.

  13. I miss Jim, too… The Muppets were never exactly the same without him, for all the valiant attempts to make it so. Then, as death slowly began taking even more beloved people away from The Muppets (Richard Hunt, Jerry Juhl, Jerry Nelson, etc.), it felt like it became harder and harder… Like a beach slowly becoming engulfed at high tide…

    The world has changed. It’s become more cruel, more ruthless — especially in the business world. It is a wonder that there still remains good people in such an environment but there is, and I think it is partly due to Jim Henson who wished to bring peace to the world. It was his body of work instilled with his spirit and led by his vision that worked (and continues to do so) in the hearts and minds of others. Jim was like one candle lighting another candle, and another, and another — and all of these candles make up a sea of light that pushes back the evil of darkness that would encroach completely… So that means, at the very least, that darkness can’t win no matter how much ground it may take — the silver lining to a very ominous cloud.

    It’s just lamentable that the Henson family has allowed their candles to blow out in a cold wind of greed. They have succumbed. However, you haven’t and your candle, Steve, hasn’t gone out. You still remember, and those memories shelter the light from any wind that may blow.

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: you are so immensely brave, and I am in awe. It would have been so easy to just be compliant, to keep your head down and your mouth shut, to see it as just a job and a paycheck and nothing more. If you had, your position would have remained secure, and you wouldn’t be where you find yourself today. It takes a strong person to stand up against wrong and and to be uncompromising in the face of it no matter what the outcome. You are truly a role model, and I applaud you endlessly. Jim would too, were he alive.

    Whatever you decide to do from here onward, no matter where you go, I know you will continue lighting the candles of others with the same light that Jim sparked in you so many years ago.

    And we must also. <3

    https://app.box.com/s/z4drshr2kjwm0nc0dtss10r3ub7xswe1

  14. Jim sounds like a great boss, I always wanted to meet him, but never had the chance. I have worked at places and cared about what I did so much, I tried to make sure it was done right. I had something similar happen to me, not nearly close, but I do kind of understand how it feels. I have struggled with depression so I hope you don’t let this bring you down so much you go to a bad place. I know it doesn’t help but I believe you, and thank you for all your years of trying to keep Kermit like he should be. I do not know if I have much hope for the muppets without you, but I do have hope for whatever you do.

  15. This is a bit off topic but I accidentally subscribed with the wrong email address and need to remove it from the mailing list. How do I do this?

  16. Steve, that is so Jim. Sounds like he truly had your best interests. Have you thought about creating a podcast or doing more TV interviews to share your story? What was it like working on Sesame Street? Do you miss performing Ernie?

  17. WOO HOO, GO JIM!! Mr. Whitmire, please tell us more stories about him. Especially for younger ones like me who were born after he left.

  18. I just got done reading an article with the Henson family and Disney responding to all of your posts here, and I thought “Wow Steve was an ass I guess”
    But then I come back here.
    I read this story.
    And I’m back on your side.
    Similarly to Walt Disney himself, Jim Henson believed the performers and the fans should be happy and screw the suits, the only thing that’s important is that you change lives of those who truly care about the work, and that has become one of my life goals.
    Reading the articles, Disney, the Henson family, and the writers themselves make you out to be a horrible, grumpy old man who could care less. This blog proves otherwise.
    It proves that you held true to Jim’s ideals that the fans matter more than anything.
    As for what someone said about you no longer being funny (Cheryl Henson?). That can be proved wrong by watching even 10 minutes of the SDCC panel from the other year.
    As I mentioned in a previous comment, your work has inspired and moved me and created memories with my past relatives, of which can not be replaced by anything in this world.
    Though it seems like Disney will refuse to bring you back, I’ll always be able to listen to your “Rat Scat” on the Muppets Take Manhattan vinyl, and “Rainbow Connection” on “The Muppets” soundtrack, and relive those memories.
    If you do in fact read this, thank you for everything. My life is so much brighter because of your work and dedication.

  19. Thank you for your blog entries Mr. Whitmire. You should really think about getting on Twitter. You’ll have much more access to fans and a bigger voice since people use Twitter these days instead of blogs. Just a thought.

    1. Also, if you’d lile help/advice on how to navigate Twitter, I’m here to help. I actually run 6 different Twitter accounts (2 of them are for non profits) . So just reach out and I’ll get you started, if you’d like.

    2. Not all people. 😉 I suppose I’m an old-timer, even though I’m only 35. I much prefer blogging to tweeting. I tried Twitter once; it didn’t agree with me. I can be a wordy lady and blogs allow for more freedom to get all my thoughts and feelings out there, than Twitter which allows for a limited number of characters in posts.

      Plus, I find Twitter simply has way too much drama working against it.

      Of course, it’s Steve’s decision. I’m just throwing two cents into the well. 🙂

      1. Well, I didn’t say everybody in the whole wide world was on but it’s a great place to post blog entries to reach far more people.

        1. Mr. Whitmire is being attacked on twitter so maybe he should use it for defense as well.

  20. Steve, I can’t say that I know what it’s like to have my name publicly dragged through the mud, but I do know what it’s like to be unfairly maligned.

    As a student teacher, and later as a graduate teaching assistant, I had students who, in talking about me to my supervisors, misrepresented statements I’d made so that I sounded like some sort of cruel, unreasonable harpy. One of my supervisors took it with a grain of salt and backed me up; the other one forced me into the role of bad cop so he could swoop in and play good cop, which was particularly galling because the conflict never would have happened if he hadn’t written the syllabus and made us all strictly adhere to it. In retrospect, I should have raised concerns about the more arbitrarily rigid rules in the syllabus at the beginning of the semester before classes started, but I was relatively inexperienced at teaching and scared to rock the boat.

    In both instances, there was no one either willing or able to corroborate my story. I was telling the truth but had no way to prove it; I was being mischaracterized and had nothing but my own good word to defend myself. It was so frustrating, it got to the point where I wondered if I should start recording encounters with students. Even if the students in question weren’t actually trying to bear false witness against me, but had retold the events just as they remembered them, it’s frightening how small things can become exaggerated in memory according to one’s own perception. Eventually, for these and other reasons, I decided that teaching was not the best career path for me.

    But my point in all this is just to reaffirm that I stand with you, because I remember how lonely and scary it was to have to face up to a somewhat similar situation all by myself.

    1. You know, maybe it doesn’t matter, but I feel like I need to clarify something. The first time this happened, when I was student teaching, there was nobody WILLING to corroborate my story. There were a roomful of students in the room when it happened who COULD have done so, but none of them did. Then the second time it happened, when I was a teaching assistant, there was nobody ABLE to corroborate my story, because the incident happened after class and no one else was there anymore.

      So it would have been more accurate to say that there was no one willing and/or able to corroborate my story in either case.

  21. I to have had conversations with people who worked for Disney referencing the same thing that if they couldn’t get Mickey 1 then off to mickey2 they would go, one person I talked to who had worked a long time with the muppets not as a main performer had been approached by Disney asking if they wanted to be put on the voice acting list for a few of there characters and as this performer said but I’m not good at being those characters Disney replied by saying it didn’t matter we just need back ups you could be pooh 3 for instance. I love Jim’s work value and it’s truly missed in most work places I my self have been told many times I want the same standard of art but quicker and for less. It really is a stressful process and I myself have had disputes over things can only be accomplished in certain ways to much heartache. I stand by your beliefs Steve and honour you and your values Well done, jim will be so very proud of you.

    1. I remember watching the first tmnt cartoon as a child, and sometimes they had a different voice on episode and back to the other the next. I guess they thought kids would not know it, but I did. I was like what is wrong with his voice? The whole mouse and poor thing reminds me of that.

  22. I saw a post that told what one of the Henson girl said about his Kermit. Doe she not know some of that was writing? Steve’s Kermit was great in the last few things Jerry Juhl helped write. I bet Steve did not make so many notes for those things, and that is why after all these years they just now fired him. Juhl knew the muppets well, so he had know issue with his writing. Another thing, how much have the Henson childen had to do with the muppets recently. These things they have said was they there when it happened, or just what Disney people told them?

  23. All my life, Kermit and The Muppets have meant so much to me. It’s hearing stories like yours that make me, as an adult, understand why. Please know your creative commitment to Mr. Henson’s legacy means something to us.

  24. Steve,
    Several years ago, I had a chance meeting with you while you were buying dinner. In chatting, you said that you were there with Eric teaching a workshop for Disneyland performers. You invited me to sit in for the second half of the workshop. There was no earthly reason in the world for you to show me this kindness, but you did anyway. I like to think that’s how Jim was too. After the workshop we had a brief chat and all you did was show interest in me and who I was. You even let me share a moment with you in front of the mirror with Piggy on my hand. People say you should never meet your heroes. I say that’s because they’ve never met you. No matter what’s being said about you during this messy time, know that they will never tarnish that moment for me, nor the legacy you have left for generations to come. For that, all I can say is…thank you.

  25. Thank you so much for your writing, Steve, and for bringing us all along on this quite disorientating and very sad journey with you. I recently devoured the Jim Henson biography that was written a few years ago. Your story is very much in line with my perception of him and of the comraderie between Muppeteers at that time. I read your last four blog posts tonight and found myself tearing up as you spoke about the depth of care to pass down the history of each character to each new cast member. Your question about the relevance of The Muppets in this World also struck me. I think the World needs the Muppets more now than maybe ever. And the World needs the kind of Muppets who will speak out about kindness over capitalism and peace and acceptance and friendship over fear and bigotry. The World needs music and dancing and helpfulness. The World needs Kermit and it needs a Kermit that isn’t Cynical, that isn’t sarcastic and hardened or holding the world at a distance. The World needs the Muppets who aren’t afraid to be optimistic and soft, hopeful and joyful, sweet and genuine, but never saccharine or too solemn- Muppets who can sum up the essence of the human condition in one pithy line and then immediately get eaten by a monster or blow something up. It’s so frustrating that Disney hasn’t learned from its own experience that their lack of attention to the care and the detail of their characters is reflected in the way people interact with them. Mickey Mouse right now is a commodity people consume, he’s not a character people love or engage with like Kermit the Frog. I think they have underestimated the purchasing power of the Muppet fans and the loyalty that they have to you and to Jim.
    Sending you love and strength. You have been a hero of mine since I was a kid and you continue to make me proud and grateful to be a Lifelong Muppet fan.
    Amanda Campbell: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

  26. Mr. Whitmire:

    I realize that this may not be the appropriate avenue for such a request, but I work with 960 The Ref, a sports talk radio station in Athens, GA, and I would love to do an on-air interview with you soon as an internationally-known performer and as a huge Bulldog football fan. If this is something you would be interested in doing, please let me know. It would be an incredible honor if you would allow us that opportunity. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

  27. Steve,

    Please please please write a book.

    Contact me thru my website, I’ll tell you how I published mine. (My website is my name all one word dot com)

    You are so awesome.

    And so was Jim. I miss him and I never met him. I can’t imagine how much you miss him.

    -Tom Antonellis

  28. As a fan of the Muppets since the very early 1970s, and someone who has – in a very small way – tried to get a little “cultural” recognition for Jim Henson in the UK, I just want to say :
    In my opinion, you – perhaps more than anyone else – are the spiritual successor to Jim Henson, his ethics, and his ideals. You are the Keeper Of The Frog’s Faith. Not Disney, not the Henson children.
    Move on, as difficult as it is to put such a huge part of your life behind you, and use your expertise, experience, and integrity to create a new group of puppet characters and situations that you have the final say on what is right for them. We’ll all be behind you, and we’ll all watch. Prove to the money-is-everything types that there’s an audience for silly, caring puppets that sing, dance, and blow things up, and that Disney have wasted a huge asset by mis-using them. It’s a pretty pathetic situation when the best Muppet production of the last few years was a bread commercial for British television.
    Oh how I wish Lew Grade had still been around and bought the Muppets when they came up for sale.

    1. Don’t forget, no one in the USA wanted the Muppets in the 70s, not until it became obvious that they were extremely popular and could make TV executives money.

  29. Steve,
    It’s so sad that Disney cares more about corporate greed than its employees and the so called family values for a company that is supposed to be family entertainment oriented.
    The more I read about everything that continues to come out the more depressed I get. And while I never had the opportunity to work with you, I have had many opportunities to see you work on set and work alongside people who have worked with you, and I never heard a bad word about your “business practices” or saw you conduct yourself in an unkind manner to anyone whether it be crew members on film sets or your fellow performers.
    I always felt the issues with recent Muppet projects was the writing and not the way the characters were performed. I don’t know how much imput the performers have with scripts and writing, but I have no doubt you all gave it your best with the material given to you.
    I know times change and things change, but the essence of these characters should not and I doubt very much Jim would have allowed his characters to be in the state they’re in.

  30. One of the best ever stories of Jim Henson and his gentleness. I’m pleased he said what he did to the attorneys and to you, for when I read the three choices, none of them were appropriate. I cringe now, when I read the name Disney, for it’s being worn by those who do not represent well the founder, and I do not believe Walt would have run business this way.

  31. I wish I could have met Jim he sounds like a great guy that would bring out the best in everyone. I’ve had the bad misfortune to work in retail these pass years,not by choice but only job I could get, and you’ll be lucky to find a boss like that.

  32. Wow. Been reading about this for the past week. To me it boils down to the greed of Disney and He sons kids beng in Disney pockets. How dare they fire this ma after years of service. Another iconic character ruined. Just cancelled Disney subscription for kids. Will find more wholesome less greedy entertainment

  33. The Muppets Take Manhattan

    Kermit the Frog & The Rizzo The Rat fighting their boss for a job.

  34. The minute the Muppets were sold to Disney was probably one of the biggest mistakes that could be made. Jim clearly put the welfare of his team far above any financial gain. When money over shadows artistic expression we need to start questioning what is best for the Henson Company. The Muppets lost the magic it once had when Disney got its claws into it.

    It’s about time someone spoke out against Disney.

    1. I truly couldn’t agree with you more, Emma.

      Ever since Disney sunk their teeth into The Muppets, they’ve been slowly dwindling and twisting into something utterly unrecognisable from how they were in Jim Henson’s care. Steve Whitmire was one of the very last defenders of everything good and wholesome about the Muppets. And now that they’ve disposed of him, the deterioration will only accelerate.

      So many people are blinded by Disney, but I’m not. If they ever cared about artistic expression and wholesomeness, they certainly don’t anymore. Disney has been nothing but disrespectful and greedy toward The Muppets. In my opinion, any good that has come from Disney owning them has been negated by their dismissal of Steve. This, more than anything, should be a wake-up call to those who refuse to see Disney in anything but a positive light.

  35. Hi Steve, I’m Sorry People at Disney are jacka**es. They Had No Right To let you go. B. Henson really was out of his place when it came to Commenting, since he hasn’t been involved in the actual setting of production since 2004. You Did A Great Kermit and Ernie, and Jim Would Be Proud! That you Tried at your greatest power to not let kermit turn into a Disney Jacka*s. Hopefully once they realize they made a mistake and bring you back, Would You Go Back?

  36. Pretty obvious Steve is under a NDA about some specifics — which makes all these spoiled henson kids comments even worse. Hang in there Steve. Thanks for the Kermit through the years.

  37. I’m really sorry you’ve been treated this way.

    I have only ever known you as Kermit, and my memories of you on Sesame Street and as other Muppets, like Rizzo the Rat, shaped my childhood and the person I am today.

    Disney owns a lot of IPs now such as Marvel – but in essence, Disney himself was quite ruthless. I recently watched a documentary about the early days of the Disney studio, which glossed over the meagre pay his animators got and the appalling pay gap between men and women. That means that it’s really the same as it always was, and all their acquisitions haven’t changed much. Anyway, that’s in some ways a separate issue to The Muppets.

    The main issue is Kermit the Frog, and thanks for being Kermit for 27 years.

    I actually loved the recent ABC show, which certainly grew stronger over the season. To be honest, that’s what most shows do nowadays, particularly ones premiered on Netflix/Amazon. I’m surprised it got canceled, but maybe that’s due to so many other forms of entertainment being available now (which, ironically, is one of the themes of the 2011 Disney Muppet movie).

    I think it’s sad how big business wins everything and money talks – even with The Muppets. Keep being you and please keep writing your blog.

  38. If an actor portraying a role on a television show or movie franchise is asked by the producer/director/writers/management to do something which the performer thinks is also out of character and might ruin their integrity, their image, they will stand up for both of them. Not just the Character they portray but the Actor/Person themselves, as they do not want to have their face attached when portrayed as an idiot or a horny green toad interested in piglets. In this case the acting Performers thoughts are taken into consideration because it will be hard to replace them with the same character they portray on screen. Sometimes the character is killed off, moves away, has a piano dropped on them, replaced by a random new relative or they simply recast the actor and hope it goes unnoticed and that those who realise it will simply accept it. The thing is these real acting Performers will eventually pass away, their legacy, the integrity they thought for will always be remembered and along with them in death they will no longer have to worry about their image being used for what they did not intend. These iconic stars of film and television will not be able to continue to inspire in the present or the future with their values or believes once they’re gone besides the inspiration they’ve left behind for us in the past. Sadly in many years to come once a person is no longer currently in the public eye they are not forgotten but slowly become simply a memory of the past, history for future generations to study. 

    Universally loved characters such as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Gobo Fraggle, Hoggle, Aughra, Robbie Sinclair, Yoda, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Homer Simpson, Fred Flintstone, Eric Cartman, Stewie Griffin, Pinocchio and even Beaker don’t have that disadvantage. That is why as silly as it might sound these iconic characters will be able to continue sharing their voice and face with future generations to come, they will outlast all of us, it is important they always share the same belief and values as their creators, this way their spirit will always live on and if they’ve achieved in creating an iconic everlasting character the whole world can appreciate then they deserve that respect. Unfortunately unlike Human icons throughout film and television history these forever lasting iconic role models can’t stand up for themselves, they can’t decide what it is they want their followers, their fans to believe. The voice actors are usually the most passionate when it comes to defending the integrity of their cartoon characters but when it comes to The Muppets it’s not just about defending the voice, what the character says but also the performance itself. 

    In the case of puppet/animated characters/icons this does not apply, these “performers” cannot stand up for their integrity, if the ones in charge feel like it they can make the character appear to viewers however they wish and those character e.g. Mickey Mouse/Bugs Bunny/Homer Simpson cannot do anything about that. This is what is unique about The Muppets, these are fictional characters who if they wish can actually keep the integrity to their legacy as a real human performer (actor) would if they found themselves in the same situation. Then unlike Animated Character the actual Muppets can also appear at live public events, they have best of both worlds, The Muppets have so much value besides modern entertainment.

  39. I shared my two favourite Muppet videos on their Facebook Page (The Mooppets Rainbow Connection & Man or Muppet) and am having difficulty liking my videos.

    This is the comment I left on their Facebook page just in case it get’s removed.

    “The server found your request confusing and isn’t sure how to proceed.” I can’t seem to like my post although on other Facebook pages that is not a problem perhaps this could be looked into and fixed Kermit the Frog.

    The Jim Henson Company I think The Muppets are having problems with their Facebook page… can you help fix the problem or am I mistaken and this is The Walt Disney Company’s problem to fix. I’m so confused what your position is when it comes to Kermit the Frog’s website being a bit slow and not working to it’s full potential (I can’t like my video posts). Thanks for helping.

Comments are closed.