Blackballing

“Steve, can you respond to the accusations that you blackballed young aspiring puppeteers? Would be interesting (to) hear your take on that”….comment by Brady on August 3, 2017 at 8:19 PM

If you read my “Understudies” post, you know that my opinion is understudy auditions were tantamount to ‘multicasting’, or having simultaneous multiple performers for characters that I believe should be treated as individuals.

While the understudy (multicasting) initiative was being implemented over a decade ago, it soon became obvious that the four core performers must explain to the puppeteering community at large why we felt this was the end of everything the Muppets were built upon since we were not having a lot of luck convincing the executives at the time why this was important.

For me, this was the beginning of the realization that the intangibles of why Jim worked the way he had worked were important, and yet often difficult to explain in a corporate environment. Jim didn’t need a ‘guidebook’ because what he did and how he did it came naturally.

It was clear that was no longer the case, and my attempts at creating a scientific guidebook began. If you are interested please see my initial paper, Components of the Muppets (link above), which was written 13-years ago. While it could be more polished the concepts still seem to hold up today.

By now, I am sure you know that the key component of the Muppets is the relationships, chemistry, and trust, between the performers in the ensemble. Understand that Jim didn’t hire everybody who walked into the room. On the contrary, he was very selective as to whether or not a new puppeteer would enhance a particular group.

Some worked on Sesame Street, some worked on Muppet Show, some crossed-over, Fraggles were a different ensemble than Dark Crystal, etc. But the core ensemble within a particular group remained consistent with many others coming and going on projects as their careers and project budgets dictated.

To address Joseph Marconi’s August 3, 2017 at 10:09 PM and August 3, 2017 at 11:29 PM comments:

…We now also know that ALL those puppeteers who took what they simply saw as “an opportunity of a lifetime” in the understudy training, were “blackballed” by Steve Whitmire. Those who know which puppeteers were involved in the workshops know that they were absent from muppet productions from 2006 through now- some are back and involved in the hollywood bowl show, now that Steve is no longer involved….”

“Because certain issues which have DAMAGED the careers of innocent puppeteers are never covered.”

I do not recollect ever having met Mr. Marconi, if I have please forgive my memory lapse. I am certain he has never held an executive position at The Muppets Holding Company or The Muppets Studio who is responsible for hiring decisions made for their company, just as Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company are responsible for theirs.

Please remember that I have always been a contract player, project-to-project, and have never had an ongoing employment contract with Disney, Sesame Workshop, or with The Jim Henson Company dating all the way back to Jim, himself. As such, I have no ‘supervisory capacity’, meaning I have no say in who gets hired to work on any project, cast or crew – never did – so I cannot “blackball” anyone.

I would suggest to those interested in the facts to identify “ALL those puppeteers…in the understudy training” and note that many have prolific careers working for The Jim Henson Company in starring roles on current television programming, the ongoing Sesame Workshop projects, and several have even worked on Disney Muppet projects alongside me since 2006 in our bigger budget projects like the 2011 film “The Muppets”.

My speculation is that expectations created at the ‘understudy training’ may have lead to disappointment for participants who may not have been utilized as they felt they should be. I was not there so I do not know what was discussed about future involvement with The Muppets Studio’s projects.

I would just remind everyone that puppeteering jobs with the Muppets are limited when producers choose to uphold the one Muppet, one voice model. Budgets always dictate the number of performers hired for a project. I did not make those hiring decisions.

Like Jim, I have always been on constant alert to spot potential in young puppeteers (and older ones too). I have in fact brought many names to Debbie McClellan over the years and suggested that when we have larger projects with larger budgets that require more performers, she try to use these new people. This is the only way to find the next generation of performers

136 thoughts on “Blackballing

  1. Steve, do individual companies wanting the Muppets to advertise their products (like the Warburtons ad, or the Furchester at Alton Towers) have any say about which performers are used in what is their production? Or once a contract has been signed for an ad or event mean they are stuck with an inferior puppeteer or whomever Disney send along? Because if that’s the case, I don’t think many people will be hiring the Muppets well, if they *arent* the Muppets and most importantly, if they couldn’t pass for them in a month of Sundays either. In the UK, we haven’t had anything new that’s Muppet or Sesame for years apart from the Furchester, and apart from the count, (it really is a poor rendition of him,) most of the characters are either “new”, (so we’ve nothing to compare them to) or elmo and cookie who arent that bad tbh. Big bird is so-so but not in it often.
    We haven’t seen a lot of the “wrong sounding Muppets” but checking them out on YouTube over the years it looks like a bit of a nightmare.
    So I just wondered, what say are the companies, event holders etc going to have, because if the fans complaints won’t work, maybe the companies not accepting an inferior performance will hit them really hard where it hurts, their profits.

      1. Well I hope the companies don’t sign anything until they’ve seen what or “who” they are getting.

      2. I know the Sesame workshop characters aren’t under the Disney label exactly, but do the Henson kids still have final say in a cbeebies/sesame workshop production? It’s so confusing sometimes, I said before its like a divorced family where the kids are split down the middle I’ve no idea who has custody of which characters anymore, it’s just another sign of the division that’s splitting up Jims’ original family.

      3. Mr. Whitmire,

        If Jim was very selective of puppeteers and ensembles, which is understandable, how did the creation of Rizzo come about? Did Jim create him specifically for you, or did one extra rat puppet stand out from all the rest because you performed him? Or both? Or neither?

        Thank you so much for all that you do!

        Lucy

    1. Hi Serena,

      I miss both the Muppets tv series and Warburtons ad that both graced our tv screens in 2015, admittedly it did work as I went out straightaway and bought giant crumpets.

      But yep I totally agree with you.

      Best Wishes

      Richard 🙂

      1. Never got sky 😞 I don’t think Disney realise how few people have sky, missed millions of viewers, but then it took the BBC 50 years to get Disney to allow them to put cinderella on terrestrial TV!

        1. Hi Serena,

          Also, if I recall when the first episode went out there was something else that was also a big ratings puller on the other side.

          Was always hoping they’d release the series on DVD/Bluray, it’s only available via Amazon (to my knowledge). Tv channels over here just aren’t that good, Channel 5 have yet to show the third season of #Gotham and at the end of the month it’s available to buy.

          But yep, I wish they’d have shown The Muppets on regular tv

          Best Wishes

          Richard

  2. Excellent post, Steve!

    Not that any of your true and rational fans believed those claims from the start, I love hearing your honest explanations and behind the scenes perspective. This is the exact type of stuff that makes The Pundit further thrive in its value!

    1. Alex,

      I don’t see why it wouldn’t be rational to believe any of the negative claims about Steve. Obviously he’s an incredibly talented puppeteer and actor and we all feel like we know Kermit after all these years, but honestly very few people on here actually KNOW Steve. We can feel a connection to him by reading his eloquent writing or watching his work, but we have never actually had any real-life interactions with him. It seems like more and more stories keep coming out regarding Steve’s unprofessional and unkind behavior behind the scenes. A lot of people on here keep commenting that these folks must “have an axe to grind,” but if there are THIS many people with axes to grind, then maybe Steve wasn’t as nice off set as he appears in interviews? And if it’s just jealousy then it might have been beneficial for them to complain about Steve while he was employed, but why now? Why did the Hensons feel the need to come forward and make statements after his firing when they no longer own the franchise? I don’t even understand why Disney would fire him if it was just because he politely offered feedback which would take the characters in a different direction than they were currently heading. They must have foreseen the backlash, so I would assume that their decision was a last resort. It seems unlikely that all of these people would work together get to defame a really nice and talented guy who was just offering some friendly feedback.

      I can’t say exactly what did or didn’t happen, because I wasn’t there. But I doubt you, or many of the other fans commenting here were either. So I just don’t see the need to villainize people who are being open minded to all of the information out there.

      It’s really sad that it has come to this, but if the stories circulating around the community about Steve are true, then I can’t blame people in the know for wanting to tell fans the other side of the story. They probably feel protective of others in the community who have become victims of the fallout, and maybe even protective of the fans who are being misled.

      I’ll always be a fan of Kermit, and of Steve’s work as a puppeteer, but just because I give credence to the many claims against him, doesn’t make me irrational. It also doesn’t mean that I’m not a true fan. One can be a fan of the work, without being a fan of the behavior. I don’t think that Jim would have approved of the behavior that’s been described either.

      1. Hi Louise,

        I really enjoyed reading your response to my initial comment. You present a very civil, educated and level-minded perspective. When I mention “true and rational fans” I was referring to the body of Steve supporters like myself who are willing to take a step back and analyze the typical hierarchy of a large corporation. I certainly think you’re a part of the “good stuff” in the readers/posters universe that wants to learn all they can here, utilizing this blog as a valuable place to help mold or shape their own opinions. It’s actually very refreshing when you consider what’s typical of the internet. I do, ask however, that you consider this:

        First and foremost, Steve has had a TON of success thanks various factors such as kindness, creativity, mindfulness of Jim’s vision after having worked and learned from him, and most of all—TALENT. Have you thought it may be possible that those who haven’t had such success within his industry could just be jealous? Unfortunately, not everyone feels good toward successful people regardless of how kind they are, or how much they deserve the accolades brought to them through hard work. Fortunately for the well-being of these puppeteers leading the “axe to grind” brigade, some of the performers who have made such claims HAVE enjoyed success in their careers. Steve even listed success in working on projects for “the big guys” like MS, SW, and JHC. If we really want to dissect it, you can look up some the names of the individuals who attended the Disney workshop, and they performed on Sesame Street for the same years in which Steve was a Muppet Performer for the show (By the way, Steve— if you get around to reading this…I’d really love to know about why you stopped playing Ernie and more about your time on Sesame Street).

        My second and main point- Based on most documented cases, these corporations do not let a contract-to-contract player to dictate who does or doesn’t work on a project, staff, or team. Unless that contract-to-contract player is given an authoritative or managerial role. Sure there can be a “chain of command” or “respect” factor based on various factors such as tenure, productivity, and talent; but for the most part—if the employer wants the contract-to-contract player to make the “BIG” decisions, they find a way to allow them to do that.

        Now, whether your a Muppet fan, or a person who’s just genuinely interested in how this situation unfolded; I agree that there’s only so much information available as we were not there. However, one bit of that information is basic “credits.” None of Steve’s credits on any project whether it be with Disney’s Muppets, the Sesame Street Muppets, or JHC indicate that he was a Casting Director, Executive Producer, or even the prominent “Muppet Captain.” This would suggest that he wasn’t in a position to prevent these performers from working on any of the aforementioned entities.

        I see the perspective you’re coming from, I do. And I think the way you put it, certainly classifies you as a very rational fan. However, please consider this — And you can even put my loyalty to Steve aside for all of the joy he’s given me as the heart and soul of his characters (and the joy he’s now giving all of us for giving us Muppet Pundit)…

        Based on actual DOCUMENTED titles and credits featuring Steve Whitmire’s name, the typical functionality of a large corporation would not suggest that one of the performers in a project listed ONLY within the classification of:

        “Starring”
        “Featuring”
        “Cast”
        “Muppet Performers”
        “Jim Henson’s Sesame Street Muppets”

        etc…is in any position to blackball any other performer.

        1. Thanks for the reply! I’ve tried to respond to you many times over the past week, but for some reason my message never goes through. I really hope that it’s not being held back purposely since I have always made a point of trying to stay thoughtful and showing respect in my comments. Though the irony would be quite rich if Steve was blocking people with opposing ideas from commenting on “blackballing.”

          I will now try replying in pieces, in case that helps.

          1. I agree that Steve has been very successful due to his immense talent, creativity, and mindfulness of Jim’s vision, but I also think that with that success came a great deal of power. Steve himself has even said that he’d talked with executives about becoming a creative producer and weighing in on day-to-day decisions, which makes it sound like he was much more than just a performer. He may not have been in a position that gave him official casting authority, but I don’t think that anyone making the “blackballing” claims has said that he was. According to Lisa Henson, he would refuse to be in shows if specific puppeteers were present, and both she and Brain Henson have mentioned that he played brinksmanship, which could come into play here too. So while he may not have been the one actually casting these projects, he could certainly have impacted the casting decisions.

          2. (2) For the life of me I can’t figure out why Lisa Henson would lie about this. Why would she make something up to tarnish the reputation of a man who’s only goal was to protect the legacy of her father? I also don’t think that several professional puppeteers would lie about that sort of thing.

          3. Hi Louise-

            Just to reassure you, several others have been reporting technical difficulties with posting replies. WordPress can be a funny beast. I also see error messages whenever I submit something, but my comments always seem to come through if I refresh the page. Most importantly, I’ve noticed that they always appear instantly at any hour of the day, so it seems unlikely that any active moderation is going on. (You’ll also have noticed that there is no shortage of comments much more hostile than yours appearing in the discussions under various posts.) Hope this helps.

  3. Great post, Steve!

    Not that I believed such claims, but it’s so great to get your behind the scenes perspective. This is the exact type of content that makes The Pundit thrive!

  4. Well Steve, it must be said that you’re covering the biggest points of contention quite well. Even before you posted this, it didn’t make sense that people were throwing you under the bus for something of which you had no control over, especially since you weren’t the only one warning Disney about it to begin with. I don’t know if you’ve caught wind of Rick Lyon’s response to your dismissal, but considering he was willing to go onto TV and do ‘Kermit’ skits that mocked the situation, I can’t help but feel there’s a stick up his behind that you apparently put there and he can’t get it out.

    Ah well, if Rick and like-minded people want to feel that way, let them. Certainly no skin off your back, that’s for sure.

    1. From what I’ve seen of Rick Lyon’s post he just seems like the type of person that I would have a hard getting along with. He comes off as a jerk in one post I read. I just get a bad vibe from him. But it isn’t the same with Steve’s posts on here. Every post Steve posts makes me feel like we would get along if we met.

  5. Hi Steve,

    I must admit that I always look forward to each new blog of yours, it’s like new comic book day or reading an exciting book where adrenaline is seeping out of every pore, hearing more interesting tidbits of information.

    As Stephen King refers to his readers as “Dear constant reader.” I remain faithful to enjoying reading all that you have to say and long may your teachings continue.

    Best Wishes

    Richard 🙏

  6. Thank you for addressing this, Steve. I knew there had to be a reasonable explanation.

    If you’ll indulge me, I have been developing a theory over the past few days, and I wanted to run it past you before I advance it elsewhere. I hope you will let me know if I am off-base with it.

    You spoke about your responsibility to the Muppets as being similar to the responsibility of a parent to his children, and that even if some of your “children”–like Kermit and Beaker–are “adopted,” that doesn’t lessen your love and concern for them, nor your responsibility to them.

    To expand on the metaphor, when you got the call from Disney in October saying that your puppeteering services would no longer be required, I imagine that it may have felt something akin to being a parent and having social services just show up at your door one day to take your kids away, with no advance notice or warning. And in that scenario, any loving parent would fight back against the injustice of it, no matter what the cost.

    I hope that I’m not being presumptuous, but as Marni said elsewhere, you charged us to help you explain the larger issue to others, and if I’m getting close to the truth, I think this may be an argument that resonates with people.

  7. One Muppet One Voice! Was a huge battle, and I’m glad they learned their lesson with that at least temporarily.

    Steve I just don’t understand it, and maybe you can help me get a better grasp on this. It seems to me that Disney had a vision, or goal for what they have wanted for the Muppets since the very beginning. That vision was so far away from Jim’s vision and I’m just surprised that it has taken so long for us fans to finally notice. Has it really been this constant battle behind the scenes between you and the other puppeteers and Disney? Surly that’s not the case or nothing would have been done, or you and the others would have been let go a long tome ago.

    You’ve also said sevral times that you were in talks in becoming a creative producer. Can you kind of give us some of your thoughts on what direction The Muppets should be going in? Were there some aspects of the latest TV show that were a step in the right direction? And most importantly did you support the Kermit and Piggy breakup, and how it was handled?

    P.S sorry if this is to many questions at once It’s just this last post made me really think.

    1. Hopefully Steve will answer some of this but since he can’t answer every question or address every issue posted in the comments, kindly allow me to toss out something…

      “It seems to me that Disney had a vision, or goal for what they have wanted for the Muppets since the very beginning. That vision was so far away from Jim’s vision and I’m just surprised that it has taken so long for us fans to finally notice. ”

      Keep in mind what or who exactly is “Disney”? If you’re looking just at Muppet Studios, it’s gone through four different leadership changes with each person who’s been in charge having their strengths and flaws.

      The overall Disney company itself goes through management changes – Michael Eisner was gone not too long after Disney acquired The Muppets.

      All the various areas and divisions of Disney go through periodic changes. The President of ABC who was very supportive of “The Muppets” was replaced in early 2016 – and not at all coincidentally that’s when the promos for the show froze.

      But at any rate, going back to what i mentioned about different leaders of Muppet Studio, there’s been:

      Chris Curtin (2004-2005)
      Russell Hampton (2005-2006)
      Lylle Breier (2006-2010)
      Kyle Laughlin/Debbie McClellan (2010-present)

      Each person probably had their own views/perspectives on what was best for The Muppets and some probably understood the brand well while others probably really should not have been entrusted with looking after them (Strictly as someone looking in from the outside, it appears Breier was the best and Hampton the worst – though one has to question the judgement/fitness of the current regime who would be so quick to dismiss someone so essential as Steve without working harder to resolve things and reach a more satisfactory middle ground or resolution.) I’d love to see a future post with Steve giving his thoughts on the different heads and what he felt each brought to the brand.

  8. Steve… stop posting. Nothing you write here is going to get you back into the good graces of Disney or Henson. At this point, all you’ve really done is create a Tea Party-like group of followers, and you’re just constantly the victim. Every Muppet fan knows that there’s a lot of work for puppeteers in background characters and assistants. Those are the people that you had banned from sets. I have two friends who did background work, and according to some of your former colleagues, that’s exactly what you did to them. The only way I’d wanna hear about another post from you is an alert saying you are going to have a sit-down with your “accusers” and they’ll confront you, face-to-face, about the myriad of problems you’ve caused for years. That’s the only way you can get people to stop talking is when they’re faced with their wrongdoings.

    1. Why? What good would come of any of that? You talk as if Steve was some rageinng maniac abusing younger newer puppeteers?

      I have read a lot of things about The Muppets and the prefomers, and it is a very selective very competitive group of prefomers.

      Watch this video, and about halfway through they talk about this very thing.

      https://youtu.be/dJT7HJzfiMQ

    2. Perhaps it’s not about getting back into the good graces of Disney or Henson at all, but to set the record straight. There are two sides to every story. Disney and Henson have painted Steve as the villain. Steve has EVERY RIGHT to tell his side of the story. He is gracious enough to not start a war of words with the Henson children, but that does not mean he should keep silent altogether. This is HIS blog and, last I checked, this is a country of free speech. You, and others like you, have NO RIGHT to tell Steve, politely or no, to “[please] stop posting.” If you don’t like what is being said, then lose this web address and don’t visit it. Simple as that.

    3. Luke, if you don´t like this “Tea Party-like group of followers” as you named this blog, why are you here reading it and commenting ? I don`t see Steve crying for pitty here and saying he´s a victim. Because he is not. I think he was disrespected professionaly, and also his work with the Muppets and Jim Henson. Fans and admirers just want to keep integrity of Jim Henson`s characters. Jim Henson with performers like Steve, created the guidelines who make Muppets a worldwide success. Kermit`s integrity can only be assured by Steve Whitmire following those guidelines. So simple to understand. Steve, as far as i know, always performed background characters too, and assisted other performers, like he was assisted when he was performing his leading characters.

      1. As I got home this afternoon from work, I read something interesting from a friend:
        Someone just combed through IMDB and proved Steve likely did have an influence over blacklisting those who auditioned for understudy roles, and posted it on his most recent blog. Several performers were always in Muppet credits, but that eventually stopped altogether even though they continued to work for non-Muppet Disney things, Henson and Sesame. Yup… Once again, Steve’s not being honest.

        1. It seems to me that you are determined to prove that it is Steve’s and Steve’s fault alone that these puppeteers have not continued to perform with Muppets Studio. What about the other veteran Muppet Performers like Dave Goelz who run on the same principles Steve does? As it has been said on multiple occasions, Steve may have been the more vocal out of the cast of puppeteers, but he and the others were hired on a contract-to-contract basis with certainly no position of power as they were/are not actually Disney employees.

          At the end of the day, it is the executives, producers and casting director who decides which puppeteers work on their projects. The Muppet Performers can make suggestions, but it is ultimately out of their hands.

        2. Well Luke, tell your friend because he probably don`t know: IMDB, Wikipedia and several other public websites of that kind are not reliable and accurate sources of information, because they are editable by everyone. IMDB for sure don´t “prove” anything concerning Steve`s honesty. But it says a lot about the ones who filled that IMDB profiles !
          Use your time a little better as you walk home from work and enjoy life without all that bitterness. We only live once, don´t waist your life !

  9. Steve,

    Thank you for finally clearing this up. The claim about you blackballing younger performers has been a rumor for so long and I’m glad to see you respond to it. Like Marni said, I’m not sure what Rick Lyon has against you, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to address that now.

    Just know that I’m always excited to see new responses from you and don’t listen to others saying you need to stop blogging because every new entry just keeps getting better.

    Valerie

    1. I Think Rick Lyon is, as its called in my country: an “I want but I can´t” kind of person, who blames other people of his own incapacity. He was working on Sesame Street more than anything…and we know Steve has nothing to do in performers contracts with the muppets, and less with Sesame. I think there are a few performers (none principal performers) that are very happy with the Steve situation, and they see this as an oportunity of work…Its sad… but now we now what kind of people are Rick, Tyler…etc etc

  10. I am glad that you have addressed this, Steve. I didn’t believe for a second that you were “blackballing” puppeteers. It just didn’t hold water. If you had had that kind of power, I reasoned, you would not have been let go in the first place.

    If I may speak with candor, I get a strange feeling with Rick Lyon. I don’t like that he verbally attacked and slandered you, especially when you were down. I also don’t like that he had no problem whatsoever taking advantage of the situation and using a Kermit puppet to mock you and dirty, in a way, the Muppet name. Regardless of his gripe with you, I feel that if he had a single shred of love for the Muppets, he would not of done those skits. Therefore, if you truly had “blackballed” him as he claims, then I feel certain that it would have been well-deserved. Someone with such a mean spirit has no business working with the Muppets.

    1. I agree, I one post Rick posted he said something like “Steve now you know how I feel” it was like he was gloating and cheering. That gave me the impression that he was a big jerk because who else would do such a mean thing?

      1. He’s also irrelevant and spiteful, while Steve is an actual legend.

        To make a baseball parallel, as both the Muppets and the sport are huge passions of mine:
        If Jim evokes a legacy as great as Babe Ruth in the world of puppetry, then Steve is Mickey Mantle…that would then make Rick Lyon a utility infielder on an unmemorable small market team. A forgettable footnote in the history of his craft.

        Steve— if you were to have become a creative producer for The Muppets Studio, would you technically have become an employee of Disney’s? Was the old guard of performers excited about this? Or was it kept under wraps?

  11. The way I see it— if someone doesn’t like Steve posting— then why come here and keep commenting? Almost like someone’s got an axe to grind on limited, supposed, secondhand information, and for what?

    Nothing.

    It’s just garbage when folks want to do nothing but stir the pot, and I’ve said this before: Steve didn’t have to set up his website, go through the trouble and continue a personal connection with everyone.

    But he did— and that should be respected.

    Keep on, Steve…

    1. And here’s what’s especially funny!

      You get the kind that says over and over “Shaddup. Stop blogging.”

      Then in the next breath they hurdle an accusation at him and ask/dare him to address it.

      Steve actually does then address it and answer the questions asked.

      Then same people despite being satisfied that Steve answered and addressed a question/subject that they themselves asked about can then only go back to saying “Stop blogging.”

      Reminds me of the quote “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

      As for the “Stop Blogging” contingent, i agree…it would be nice if instead of blogging, he did something else — like FROGGING! But since that decision is out of his hands right now (no pun intended, blogging it is!)

      Really, “Stop Blogging”…how thuggish and authoritarianism can you get? Trying to silence and suppress someone from speaking – that goes against American values and it goes against Muppet values where communication is key to understanding each other and everyone matters. Let’s try “Stop Reading” if what he says causes you to gasp so deeply and clutch your pearls. Maybe take a walk instead or better have some tea…Be More Tea!

  12. Steve,

    You have answered many questions for those who asked, and have laid to rest some rumors which currently follow you during these trying times.

    Yesterday I was thinking that it is paramount to uphold what you have stated here as ‘the one Muppet, one voice model.’

    I also thought that it is important that The Muppets continue to keep their original size and shape.

    I remember at Disney park seeing a show where humans were dressed in costumes, as huge forms of smaller cartoon characters, and were were dancing on stage to prerecorded voices to music. This is not unusual at Disney parks to have all their own personal characters over sized. It never worked for me. I pray they have not done this yet with the Muppets.

    I have great respect for Kermit. Ask him what he thinks, I’ll bet he answers you with clarity.

    Anne Terri

      1. Thank you Carolyn, understood. I missed this part of Steve’s interaction. I visited several Disney parks long ago, before the Muppets were a part of Disney, and the walk arounds or stage shows.

        Anne Terri

  13. After giving it some thought, it probably wasn’t the smartest idea for me to name-drop Rick Lyon, but he is one of the best examples of the inner-Muppet Mafia (not a term I came up with BTW) who was determined to paint Steve in a bad light the first chance he could. I suppose there’s still the question of what made Steve a prime target in the first place. Jealousy? A misunderstanding? I guess we’ll never know.

    Actually, ‘The Muppet Mafia’ would make one hell of a film….Take one wrong look at Lew Zealand and you’ll be sleepin’ with the boomerang fishes…..

      1. Yeah and especially what the Hensons had against him too. I know he won’t address that in respect of the family, but it seemed like they never wanted him to take over Kermit.

        So, how will they feel a few years later when Matt has performed Kermit?

        1. Well never know unless they do the thought for the week, have I missed it yet? Wondering what’s up if it’s not been released still…

          1. We’ve guessed that they’re gonna debut Matt as Kermit at the Hollywood Bowl instead of the Thought of the Week

            or I’ve also heard they’re re-recording the Thought of the Week because maybe Matt’s performance has gotten better but who knows?

        2. I don’t think it’s accurate to say they never wanted him to play Kermit, since it’s been said many times that Brian is the one who asked him to. Certainly I think they would have preferred to not have lost their father, and thus not have had to ask anyone, but things being as they were they did ask Steve. So their dissatisfaction with him happened after the fact. I believe their comments indicate they are currently quite supportive of Matt taking over the role.

  14. Hi Steve,

    What I like best about this post is the fact that you explain how it works behind the scenes without pointing fingers, and playing the “blame-and-shame” card. As for the person who keeps telling you to stop posting, he should grow up. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I’m all for free speech, but there is a difference between stating an opinion, and being rude about it.

    Live long and paws-purr,
    Erin T. Aardvark

  15. I’m getting the impression that there is a younger group of Puppeteers who are happy about Steve’s early dismissal because it means more opportunities for them, everybody deserves an opportunity but not at the expense of The Muppets, that’s just proves why you should not be part of the group. There have been quite a few vocal with their hatred for Steve and many (who might feel the same) have remained silent. I personally would not mind seeing those who have remained silent eventually work with The Muppets regardless of the current situation.

    I’ve seen some names associated to certain posts, what you think is not what is important, it’s the way you’ve acted. These names are names I hope I never see attached to The Muppets, those who have verbally insulted Steve have simply made their name stand out as one that doesn’t belong alongside The Muppets. There are certain names which if they ever appear in the credits will simply remind us how badly this situation was handled.

    About “blackballing” i’ll just say whoever were involved in this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKW8iI0WlC0 have basically just “blackballed” themselves. If anyone who worked on that also works in any current/future Muppet production then one could argue that this unofficial Kermit the Frog appearance regarding politics and Donald Trump is actually somewhat official. If you hope to one day become a Muppet performer, trust me those kind of appearances actually do the opposite of what the performer intends. This time they have nobody else to blame about being blackballed than themselves, thanks to their immaturity.

    As a Fan I would hope that aspiring Muppeteers don’t attack Steve online, you’re welcome to share your side but remember to Muppet Fans Steve is important, not you. Steve’s name is associated to Kermit, your names (at least for me) is associated to anti-Muppet behaviour. Make your name known by performing a worthy character that Fans will take the time to research not like children fighting in a playground over popularity.

    I like to think of it like this, many people hope to one day be a Muppeteer, many might not be on Steve’s side but those who have been professional and have stayed out of the situation, they deserve a chance in the future. Those who have been vocal, deserve to be blackballed for life because within the Muppet community (that supports Steve) they’ve tainted themselves. I imagine The Walt Disney Company hope fans that support Steve will eventually come back, having his enemies (who made it public themselves) associated to The Muppets will not help.

    To the younger generation of Muppeteers be glad and grateful that your working in the background for the Muppets and not some generic puppet show. Grab a chicken and upstage a penguin, be respectful of the core performers and your time will come or be an idiot and see where life takes you.

      1. I think this proves why not just anybody with the ability to Puppeteer should be allowed to be a Muppeteer.

        “I might tarnish The Muppets for millions of people but at the end of the day i’ll get paid for it”

          1. Definitely not Kermit. Mannerisms all wrong, and phrasing completely off. Comes off like a meth-addicted Kermit needing a fix desperately.

          2. Seeing as there are a number of these clips available online and The Walt Disney Company has not taken them down, leads me to believe that this is somewhat official. Might this have been the first few attempts at having multiple Kermit’s performing smaller bits. He has a bad imitation but he’s trying his best to make it sound right, he’s not simply performing a Kermit the Frog puppet, he is also trying to act like him and singing Kermit’s songs. Why is The Walt Disney Company so concentrated on trying to keep Steve quiet but letting this guy continue performing Kermit the Frog?

            I really hope these weren’t the first few appearances by Kermit 2 because if it were then basically that makes the realistic looking Kermit on Late Night talking about politics and swearing our first official glimpse of a second multiple Kermit.

          3. Nicholas, Rick Lyon is DEFINITELY not performing in a Disney-sanctioned way here. What he’s doing has nothing to do with what Disney and Matt Vogel are doing, and the mere act of not taking a cabaret performance off of YouTube does not mean some Disney exec okayed any of this. You could build your own Kermit and film a performance in your hometown, too, if you liked. Unless you started making tens of thousands off it Disney would probably leave you alone.

          4. but if The Walt Disney Company eventually plan on having multiple Kermit’s in the future how are we supposed to tell which ones are real and which one’s aren’t?

            I had lots of friends calling me asking why Kermit was acting the way he was on late night, they knew something was off but they didn’t know that wasn’t Steve Whitmire’s Kermit.

            Those clips have done more damage to Kermit’s reputation than anything else but yes The Walt Disney Company keep your focus on Steve Whitmire.

          5. I don’t think Disney plans on having multiple Kermits at this point. Matt Vogel will be the one official Kermit. And I actually don’t think Disney is focusing on Steve anymore. They haven’t released further statements at all. I totally understand fans disliking what Colbert and Lyon did, but it’s not on Disney to police other networks’ comedy shows. There are casual viewers who think every Kermit puppet on YouTube is the Real Kermit.

          1. I hadn’t seen these videos before. Rick is a talented guy. It’s unfortunate that people think he was “the real Kermit” on the Colbert show, though.

          2. Why does Disney not sue this guy? He is making money off of their character. Is this not ileagal? If Steve started to do this he would be.

      2. I never watch his stupid show, he makes money making fun of people, that is why we still have bully’s in school, the world teaches it.

      1. Haha that is a fair call actually, well-played…or maybe Jose Canseco? Either way, it was upsetting to see the opportunistic approach taken on the Late Show here. Especially since Steve gave such a stellar performance as Kermit in the “Big Questions” bit.

  16. “I would suggest to those interested in the facts to identify ‘ALL those puppeteers…in the understudy training’”

    Okay Lets do this…

    First lets start with the whole idea that this understudy auditions held with no regard to Jim’s legacy (or that replacing Kermit would NEVER have happened if Jane was alive).

    In the video you can see that some of Mr. Henson’s family and one of his most trusted allies (Martin Baker) are present. With the inclusion of—and coaching from—Mr. Baker on this workshop AND noting that this was only 2 years after the sale from JHC to Disney, its hard to argue that this casting process was purely a Disney decision. It seems that this was a project to ensure that Kermit and other characters would survive and not disappear after their current performers have moved on. Steve, as well as Eric, Bill and David R. are proof that characters can “live” through another person.

    Back to the video…

    Lets start with the big guns…
    Jane Henson
    Heather Henson
    Martin Baker
    Debbie McClellen

    The above players are hardly “Disney” employees and have each known Jim longer than Mr. Whitmire.

    Now lets move to the puppeteers auditioning for understudy parts:

    Gabriel Velez
    Drew Massey
    Victor Yerrid
    Artie Esposito
    John Kennedy
    Brett O’Quinn

    Dave Stephens

    Micheal Lisa

    Tony Whitten

    Not featured in this video (but present at the audition was Allan Trautman

    Steve wrote:
    “and note that many have prolific careers working for The Jim Henson Company in starring roles on current television programming, the ongoing Sesame Workshop projects, and several have even worked on Disney Muppet projects alongside me since 2006 in our bigger budget projects like the 2011 film ‘The Muppets.’”
    Yes, many of them went on to VERY successful careers, but one thing they have in common is NOT working for Muppets Studio after the 2009 appearances of Artie Esposito.

    Lets see… Gabe, Drew, Victor, Allan and John had MANY Muppet credits to their name before the fallout of this audition.
    It’s important to note that Allan, Drew, Victor, Artie and John would go on to perform (or had already performed) roles that have been played by Steve.

    I think its telling that all of these performers at the audition (Tony Whitten excluded) would still have careers with MANY other companies. Sesame Street, Jim Henson Co., Sid & Marty Krofft and The Pee-wee Herman Show. Not to mention the many commercials and movies.

    Also important: Many of them would also work on very high profile non-Muppet Disney projects. So what gives? Why are they good enough for Disney (and every other major puppet player on the market) but not Muppets Studio? Especially, since so many of them had worked for The Muppets BEFORE the audition/workshop?

    AND many of them would also be asked to audition for Kermit after Steve was fired.

    So look at the players in the video. Look at their long careers before and after the audition.

    It is safe to say that that they were indeed blackballed, they were punished for following their dream. They got a little to close to Steve’s liking and when he was replaced in 2009, he made sure that it wouldn’t happen again.

    They were absolutely blackballed.

    1. **correction**

      Debbie should not have been in the list of those who have know Jim longer than Steve.

    2. “Yes, many of them went on to VERY successful careers, but one thing they have in common is NOT working for Muppets Studio after the 2009 appearances of Artie Esposito.
      …It’s important to note that Allan, Drew, Victor, Artie and John would go on to perform (or had already performed) roles that have been played by Steve.”

      Wow! You make it sound like decades of conspiracy to get rid of Steve, was it really?

      Or could the reason be that there is a limited number of performers in every Muppet event, and Steve/Eric/Dave/Bill/David/Matt/Peter were already on the cast?

      1. Your assuming this was only about the core roles.

        They (the auditioners) had roles–background and supporting–sometimes as doubles to be dubbed over later BEFORE the audition.

        Then nothing.

        So let’s not pretend this is about replacing the core performers.

        This was about punishing the ones who auditioned.

          1. But he can make their performances/experiences bad. If the “star” is giving you zero-support, you’re not going to be good or having a good time. He doesn’t have to say “don’t hire so-and-so” to make sure so-and-so doesn’t succeed in getting the gig.

      2. It does at least seem like a preference was expressed to hire other additional puppeteers that were not the auditioners. I glanced at IMDb for John Kennedy and Drew Massey, who I knew had worked with the Muppets quite a bit, and didn’t see them on anything recent. There have only been a few Disney-era productions that would require more than a few additional puppeteers, but I still would have expected to see them there for those.
        Certainly there are plenty of talented puppeteers that get passed over for jobs just because they aren’t in the mental rolodex of those doing the hiring and jobs are always limited, but I think this may have been a case of being aware of them and choosing not to hire them. I am glad they have been able to do some work with Henson and Sesame at least. Very competitive field, puppeteering.

    3. If Disney aquired the rights to the Muppets from The Jim Henson Company, it`s very hard to believe that Steve Whitmire had any power to decide who was going to work with the next Muppet projects ! No blackballing.

      1. Julia,

        You fail to recognize how strong Steve and Debbie’s relationship is/was.

        The two of them absolutely had the power to insure certain people weren’t cast.

        1. Debbie is The Muppets Studio Vice President with The Walt Disney Company only since 2012, and Director since 2004 i guess. Her previous background was with The Jim Henson Company. If she chose some performers in detriment of others, i think it was because they were best qualified and understand & meet Jim Henson`s vision for the Muppets. Anyway, there`s always a cast director for each show or movie, and i truly believe Disney had always the last word and imposed limits.
          Even if they had a “strong” relationship, Disney was and is in charge protecting their investment $$$ with the Muppets.
          Debbie works under Disney`s supervision also, she was Steve`s boss, but also a Disney employee, nothing more than that.
          Steve Whitmire`s super and only power (unfortunately), is to give us the best Muppet characters performances we could ever wish since the Jim Henson`s era.
          I wish he had the power to make decisions related to the Muppet`s future productions.

          1. I think that the casting director on any project would have to ask someone with experience in the field for advice on hiring puppeteers. Now that I am thinking about it, wouldn’t Bill Barretta, as Muppet Captain, have had more imput? I am sure Bill would take into account the working relationships of anyone he was going to suggest to the core performers. If Steve didn’t like working with someone it makes sense they wouldn’t hire them to work closely with him. He clearly had a great working relationship with Mike Quinn, so he was hired more frequently. I don’t think this issue has to be a “conspiracy” on either side.

        2. So, let me see if I have this straight. You’re claiming that Debbie (who has actual power to make casting decisions) failed to hire people because of influence from Steve, with whom she was very close. And because of this, Steve deserved to be fired for his behaviour… by Debbie. The person who had the complete prerogative to accept or ignore his input in her decisions.

          Be careful how much more you say, because you’ve actually made me start wondering for the first time if a different head should have rolled instead.

    4. As a muppet fan, my dream was to work with Steve and others not replace them. At least not without their wanting me to take over when they no longer can do it, like in Jerry, and Carroll’s case.

  17. Steve,

    I’d like to say something generally about the negativity that your blog has unfortunately attracted in the form of trolling and sockpuppeting (ironic).

    One of my favorite authors is Madeleine L’Engle, best known for writing A Wrinkle in Time, but she wrote many other books, both fiction and nonfiction. One of her nonfiction books is called The Irrational Season. In it, she describes being emotionally vulnerable after the death of a close friend; then, while still in that emotionally vulnerable state, she received a particularly nasty piece of hate mail. Madeleine turned to a friend for comfort and described the encounter thus: “She [the friend] thought briefly, then said, ‘You are very much loved, and where there is great love there is also great hate,’ and her affirmation of the love made the hate less terrible.”

    Then Madeleine turned to another friend, who had been in a similar situation. This friend said, “It’s all part of the dust anyone kicks up who sticks out his/her neck, takes a stand on anything significant, has any impact.”

    Steve, this harassing behavior towards you is indefensible; I’ve said before and I’ll say again that no one deserves to be abused as you have been and continue to be. However, in a way it goes to show how much of an impact you have had, and are having. If these small-minded trolls didn’t feel threatened by what you have to say, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to silence and/or discredit you.

    Please keep doing what you’re doing no matter what. Eventually, the “dust” will settle.

  18. I just wanted to thank you, Steve, again for continuing this blog. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and experiences, and I appreciate your willingness to allow discourse and dissent in the comments.

    I have been a big fan of yours since before I became aware of your existence, which was probably while watching a Nickelodeon re-airing of “Secrets of the Muppets.” I read whatever interviews I could find with you and was always disappointed there weren’t more.

    My Muppet fandom has ebbed and flowed over the years, and I think the commercial failure of Muppets Most Wanted (no one went to see it with me when it opened) made me feel like the last hope for a real return to Muppetiness was dashed. The TV series only gave glimmers of hope, mostly towards the end. And hearing about your being let go made my inner fan girl just want to give up entirely.

    Having taken your recommendation some years ago to listen to a book on Integral Theory, and just having lived a life, I know there are always many perspectives and experiences in any given situation. I resist the urge to paint anyone here as the Bad Guy, and I appreciate that your recent posts have veered more toward the diplomatic.

    I am not “excited” about a new Kermit, as some fans are. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to connect with him (and I will dearly miss Rizzo). But the situation is what it is, and that’s not Matt’s fault. So I’m also not coming from a place of fan-anger (fanger?). I’m disappointed. I’m sad. But I’m also trying to be open.

    My cats are telling me to stop typing, but I want to reiterate how grateful I am for everything you have given to me, us, the world, and am glad you are reaching out.

  19. Hmmm… on verifiable side we have Mr Velez post on this blog with a message of support for Steve, on “The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable” post. He sounds sad about dwindling of original Jim Henson group but certainly not bitter or antagonistic towards Steve.

    https://stevewhitmire-muppetpundit.com/2017/07/16/the-muppet-performers-are-not-interchangeable/#comment-739

    On non-verifiable side we have certain posters who certainly do sound bitter and happy about Steve’s removal from the show. They do not claim to have first hand evidence for the accusations they make (quote “according to some of your former colleagues, that’s exactly what you did to them”).

    The thing is, these posts or attitudes do a great DISSERVICE towards puppeteers listed, by making it seem that these feelings could be expressed by them.

    If words like “Jim Henson’legacy” or “spirit of original Muppets” mean anything to them, they sure would not be happy about removal of one of the last remaining members of Jim Henson’s original team.
    Otherwise, well, the Muppets might have been better off for all these years without people with these particular personality traits.

  20. Wow I go to work for 8 hours and look at what yall are doing! Steve has said that he is A contract player, and has been since before Jim passed away. He has also stated a number of times that he has had no control over who or who dose not work on any givin production. So your getting mad at the wrong person.

    1. Your right Steve doesn’t have the final say, but he does have influence.

      Who is the right person to get mad at?

      You can’t possibly believe it’s a coincidence that everyone of those puppeteers suddenly became un-hirable after the 2006 auditions? Did you do any research on this?

      1. Being “unhireable” and simply “Not being hired” are not the same thing. You continue to adamantly present your conspiracy theory as fact, which it is not. Is there any truth to it? Maybe. But maybe not. You have taken a series of events and assigned some sort of intent to the fact that the performers you’ve mentioned have not worked on a Muppets production since the auditions. The two may be correlated, but that does not mean one event necessarily caused the other. Further, your insinuation that Steve Whitmire had direct influence over that outcome is nothing more than a personal opinion, as far as I’m concerned. Steve has already defended himself against this accusation; whether you choose to believe it or not is on you.

        The fact is, none of us will ever know the truth of the situation – especially those of us on the outside, completely removed from anything related to Muppet productions, which I assume includes you. Spinning our wheels on conspiracy theories and the blame game merely distracts from the larger issue – the integrity of the Muppets and the preservation of Jim Henson’s vision moving forward, which has been in a precarious state in recent years, and is even more fragile at the moment.

  21. On a much lighter note than previous discussion on this post, here’s a really cool behind-the-scenes vid from…actually, I’m not sure when, but it was a BMW commercial. It’s always fun to see the way you had Kermit interact with people who weren’t quite used to being around Muppets, Steve!

    1. Taking Marni’s lead, I’d like to point to one of your possibly less popular but incredibly memorable roles, Steve…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCRUPWDIgYM

      I absolutely LOVE this video and it never fails to make me grin and laugh. The song is wonderful, of course, and Big Mean Carl is hilarious… but who steal the show are the bunnies as played by you and Dave Goelz!

      “Please…”

      “Don’t eat me…”

      “Don’t-do-it.”

      ….

      “Ahhh!”

      That’s Dave Goelz gold right there.

      And then when you start in with the chorus, Steve, it’s simply a joy to listen to. It’s one of the more current things the Muppets have done that I feel is completely saturated with the spirit of Jim, untarnished by any Disney ploy to look more hip or more “profitable” — the characters being true to themselves in that zany, lovable way of theirs.

      That little singing bunny of yours, so wide-eyed and excited to see Big Mean Carl’s giant carrot/bunny-thumper, is one of my favourite characters. Right up there alongside Bean Bunny, Wembley, and Meep-Zorp.

      1. To continue the trend of affirming video, here’s a a moment in a larger interview with Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Michael Frith where Jim compliments Steve on his piano playing as Rowlf. I thought that was particularly nice since Steve has said that performing Rowlf’s hands has been one of his favorite things to do with the Muppets.

      1. I haven’t seeing it either, Mary and Carolyn. This interview is hilarious, and because the Muppets come along to add to the fun, I love how this interaction works. They are never still if being held and always react to what’s being said.

    2. “Oops, I missed the steering wheel…I went right in the hole there.”

      Ha! 😀

      That’s something that I’ve wondered about, Steve: how the lack of depth perception factors into the puppeteering when you’re looking at a flat image on a monitor.

  22. “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” — Winston Churchill

  23. Thank you Marni Hill , and Pamela Anneliese for putting this here today. I was beginning to think I’d mistakenly stepped into a war-zone, versus Steve Whitmire’s site with dear Kermit and friends. I do not like mudslinging, and when I arrived, I was feeling buried in it. The two videos you shared made me feel like the Muppets are still on the right track. I know it’s a pipe dream, but it did help.

    Anne Terri.

  24. The absolute truth here is that we’ll never likely know the absolute truth. We can just pick sides and decide which one is telling us the truth based on the limited information provided.

    In answering this particular question, Steve never actually provided a simple no. There was rambling and ambiguous denial. Anyone who’s ever seen a behind the scenes documentary knows that many top stars can influence who’s allowed on set (and Kermit is as high as one gets on a Muppet set), so these claims that Steve’s not officially part of the casting is blissfully unaware at best or disingenuous at worst. I don’t know the answer to that and won’t pretend that I do. Also, the fact (that was recently pointed out) that many of these performers worked hard on Muppet content as background puppeteers and assistants before auditioning and substituting in limited runs as understudies, yet haven’t been on an official Muppets Studio set since, also reveals that someone likely blackballed them. It’s particularly telling that they still work for Disney, Henson and Sesame, but no the Muppets proper. That still hasn’t been adequately addressed. Personally, I have no information either way and neither does anyone here. There’s just suspicion.

    I have no dog in this fight. I just love the Muppets. What I don’t understand is what purpose there is in protracting what has happened here. It is Steve’s right and I do not wish to silence him nor do I wish to silence anybody. For me, it just reads like someone who’s been through a bad breakup/divorce and is telling their side of the story to anyone who will listen. There’s not a person alive who wouldn’t understand that or empathize with it. It’s very normal. There comes a time to move on. I can’t set that time. You can’t set that time. It is up to Steve. I, like many fans, am confused as to what these ongoing revelations are supposed to accomplish beyond venting. If I were Steve, I’d be positively raving! There’s also a point when people are naturally going to grow weary of hearing the same information again and again. I hope this place turns into an insight blog with more posts like the one over the weekend. That was really cool.

    I wish there was a way for Steve to get all of this out while respecting the wishes of Jim Henson’s family to move on from the ugliness. These are Jim’s kids and this is the legacy of their father that’s getting raked across the coals on a daily basis and they’ve made their casting and ownership wishes quite clear. There’s also the fact that Steve is family in the sense that he dedicated his life to this enterprise and it’s his right to speak as much as he likes on the subject. It’s all so horribly messy and depressing. The one thing that is clear is that he’s no longer going to perform Kermit. There’s also the weirdness that he was let go from Sesame Workshop years ago without any controversy. That’s troublesome. There are several performers who work with the Muppets and Sesame full time so it couldn’t have been about scheduling issues. Maybe it has to do with Steve only providing his services for Ernie. Who knows? It’s just weird that no one’s calling for the heads of the people at Sesame Street.

    I would also like to add that Steve is the one who named this place “Muppet Pundit” and pundits, by nature, invite critical thought. Trying to silence any part of the discussion is antithetical to the alleged purpose of this blog. Shouting down any position in such a discussion reveals sycophantic motives instead of truly informational ones.

    I’m sure to get attacked for what I’ve pointed out here. This is the internet so I expect nothing less. But nothing I’ve said here is over-the-line for a pundit blog nor is it personally critical. I’ve just raised questions about ambiguities and inconsistencies. That should be allowed. I hope my words are taken as intended.

    I value Steve’s contributions to the Muppets as much as any of the founding Muppeteers. That’s the bottom line.

    1. As a fan, i don`t agree with all you said here, i am very sorry. But i respect your opinion.
      About “blackballing” you refer Steve Whitmire “never actually provided a simple no. There was rambling and ambiguous denial.” Well i believe and it`s clear that Steve provided us with a full explanation of what happened. I don`t consider it rambling or ambiguous denial. I call it consideration for the fans and having the good will to reply to their questions in his blog.
      You can`t say also that Steve was part of the casting like if he had the power to decide who should be performing in the Muppets productions, and that no one here have informations on that matter and that´s all suspicion, because it`s incorrect. Please just read the comments to the several posts and have your conclusions.
      Disney aquired the Muppets rights, so they had the power to select all the performers / actors for all their productions.
      It`s also obvious that The Jim Henson Company and The Walt Disney Company are aware of the things writen in this blog.
      You stated here that “I wish there was a way for Steve to get all of this out while respecting the wishes of Jim Henson’s family to move on from the ugliness. These are Jim’s kids and this is the legacy of their father that’s getting raked across the coals on a daily basis and they’ve made their casting and ownership wishes quite clear.”
      Steve was and is respecting Jim Henson`s memory and legacy. Jim Henson sons are not, and that´s what they should be worried about. If they where, they should know how much their father would disaprove all they did with Steve Whitmire in the media publicly. The Henson Family created the “ugliness” in this matter in the first place.
      I`m sure if Jim Henson was alive today none of this would have happened.
      But hey i`m just a fan like you ! But i have faith that`t everything will work out for the best. And as far as i`m concerned, Steve Whitmire is one of the last remaining extraordinary minds from the Jim Henson era, that could bring us the greatness of the Muppets back, as a perfomer or giving his contribution in any other ways.

    2. Totally agree with Julia on blackballing. “I have no say in who gets hired to work on any project, cast or crew – never did – so I cannot “blackball” anyone” sounds to me MORE definite than a “simple no” and not ambiguous at all.

      As for personalities, I’d rather have addressed the issues raised rather than people involved. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I think everyone on this blog agrees that “ugliness” never helped anything. Well, maybe except a couple of trolls we have here.

      As for my own personal opinion, I am reluctant to let go of hope that things could work out for the best for everyone, at this point. Let’s see what happens next.

      NOT that I pretend to have any say in the subject, or being privy to any unpublished information. Just a fan’s honest opinion. 🙂

      1. Hi a muppet fan since the 70’s… (me too as in, i’m a fan since the 70’s) so watch out who U are calling the trolls and what is ugliness. And then maybe listen to what the trolls are saying without taking it too personal. They might have a point and or can point to something that went wrong…
        Otherwise this *fight* isn’t happening.
        Muppet fans on this site are pretty f*cking rude. They don’t see themselves as equals to Steve and think everyone should be feeling blessed if he responds. If people don’t take his word for what happened, they become a troll. How come?
        It’s not a black and white life and Steve can spell out what happened according to him…
        and still be considered a bore.
        His blog is boring excepting for the controversy…
        I am still awaiting the genius…

        1. “Muppet fans on this site are pretty f*cking rude. They don’t see themselves as equals to Steve and think everyone should be feeling blessed if he responds.”

          Really? Aside from a few idiots who have nothing better to do than name-call and unnecessarily start arguments, the majority have been quite respectfully civil.

          And as for seeing ourselves being equal to Steve, you yourself placed Steve and I together on the same level when it comes to looking out for the integrity of the Muppets, so yeah, I suppose I would consider us to be on the same page.

          “If people don’t take his word for what happened, they become a troll. How come?”

          It’s pretty simple, Katherine.

          There are people who don’t take his word for what happened, but will treat people who do believe Steve (and Steve himself) with respect and are capable of having a civil discussion about the differences of opinion.

          And then, there are those who don’t take Steve’s word for what happened and take the time out to ridicule and annoy those who do believe him by attempting to belittle and undermine their intelligence. THAT is a troll.

          “It’s not a black and white life and Steve can spell out what happened according to him…
          and still be considered a bore.
          His blog is boring excepting for the controversy…
          I am still awaiting the genius…”

          Well, if Steve is such a bore to you, no one is begging you to hang around. All you have to do is click on that exit button and suddenly all your problems with Steve and this site will disappear,

          1. Yeah hi Marni… I’m not leaving just ‘cuz U can’t handle my comments. I will not be policed by u. Steve can do better than this. He deserves all kinds of people talking to him about art and not just fangrrrls. Goodbye sweetie.

          2. Ladies!!! Back in your coners while I get some more mud for this here mud wrestling match!

        2. You find this blog “a bore” yet you refuse to leave? Logic would reason that

          A) you’re lying and you find it more entertaining and enlightening than you let on

          OR

          B) you’re intolerably lacking in intelligence

          Oh, “sweetie,” I feel sympathy for you.

          1. Howdy Pamela… I think calling me a liar is a little extreme. So you beg for some fisticuffs too, honey?
            Yes.. I have been reading Steve’s posts and they bore me but you fan grrrls are truly interesting sociologically.

        3. Kate, Dwayne gets it. Me too. For everyone else, let’s prepare mud and slings, but wait with that healthy bit of slapstick until we know if this is a vigil or a wake — for something we used to call The Muppet Show back then (awww, ya know it, ur a fan too) 🙂

  25. You know, I genuinely believe that Steves dismissal coupled with other events are a sign of some sort of end of times. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney s next muppets would be the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.
    Disney according to the BBC have now ditched Netflix too, opting for their own streaming service due 2019. Netflix paid a billion, for what turned out to be just 1 and a bit years rights to Disney stuff. Wow, I thought the Disney fraggle movie issues were questionable.
    To me, it sounds like huge HUGE decisions at are being made at Disney by financial advisers, not Disney OR Muppet people 😯 the beeb did a business report on Disney recently, all I can say is someone has hired a real butcher of a financial adviser, who isn’t taking the public opinion into account. Whether it’s only airing on Sky, Steves dismissal, or the dumping of Netflix, the exclusion of huge numbers of people who can’t afford premium services, or people who just stand by their principles, eventually they will drive consumers AND profit away.
    Lets hope they are Hoist by their own petard lol.

  26. I can’t be the only one who reads all the negative comments here in either Sam the Eagle’s voice (for the male posters), or in Miss Piggy’s voice (for the female ones). Try it sometime. 🙂

      1. Haha, no definitely not you, Anne. I was referring to the anti-Steve commenters (and no one in particular, to avoid raising the ire of anybody). Helps nullify their intended effect. Kind of like the “celebrities reading mean tweets” on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Hey, now there’s an idea for a new Muppet YouTube bit! The Muppets reading out “mean” comments from trolls on Steve’s blog, haha (though it’s unlikely Disney would allow such a thing).

        1. Yeah, blown away, as am I with the idea. Disney would end up taking it out on the wrong ones. I’m not even certain if anyone as the permission to use their character without permission from Disney, out of context, or even after being exiled. Kermit has a voice, He knows who he is. They cannot take Kermit’s voice away from either Jim or Steve, for Kermit is a part both of them, and this is so no… matter how hard they try.

          I do not think Steve would want to sink to the level of the meanies, using any of the existing characters. Now, if there were a new show…………

    1. Phil- you could well have been the only one doing that before, but no longer. My mind is BLOWN by this fantastic idea.

      Can I also recommend using SkekTek/Marlon for when the gender is unknown…

      1. J.S.- Thanks for the recommendation! XD Count me among the ones who need to find a copy of The Dark Crystal. I watched it only once as a child when it first came out (the “scary” creatures prevented a return viewing lol) but I’d probably appreciate it more now than I did then.

        By the way, hi from another fellow Australian! 🙂

  27. Back in 2006 Steve apparently blackballed many performers or made them feel as such, depending on the control he had. Now that Steve is gone their are more opportunities available to return working for The Muppets and his other characters apart from Kermit are/were all up for grabs. As a Fan I hate the thought of thinking that people hoping to work with The Muppets were blackballed, everybody deserves a chance and I hope they get it but that doesn’t mean everybody is worthy to actually work alongside The Muppets.

    If you are given the opportunity to perform Kermit 2 whilst Matt performs the main Kermit and you take it then you don’t deserve it because a true Muppeteer would know One Muppet, One Voice. Now if The Walt Disney Company is offering the chance to be Kermit 2, Kermit 3, Miss Piggy 8, Fozzie 11, Gonzo 72 etc… how do you say no to that? If you pass up the opportunity then someone else will take it. Is Steve the bad guy here for blackballing those performers or rather for hoping to prevent multiple Muppets at a time or is it The Walt Disney Company for offering those positions? it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just a bad situation, one I think (from what I’ve read) was important enough to Jim Henson that he was hesitant to make the deal before his death.

    Now those who brought the backstage mayhem onstage and exposed it to fans have ruined a bit of the magic for us, those performers in my opinion have just blackballed themselves. I’m not defending Steve here, i’m defending The Muppets, if there is a dark side to them backstage keep it there, don’t bring it onstage because if you do I would no longer trust you in the theatre.

    1. If I were a background Muppeteer instead of hoping to take over established characters i’d work hard establishing my own character. This is exactly what Steve Whitmire did on The Muppet Show, he didn’t wait around hoping to one day become Gonzo, or even Kermit for that matter, he established Rizzo the Rat. Steve picked out a Rat, from all the Rats, Chickens and Penguins available and turned him into his own character even though he basically resembles all the other Rats also working backstage. At home he made a jacket for Rizzo, i’d be interested to hear what other performers have made cloths at home for Muppet Rats, Penguins or Chickens.

      I remember when Muppets Tonight first premiered, I was not a fan at first, where were the original Muppets I was hoping for? At that point someone stepping in to take on Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Dr Teeth, Floyd, Zoot, Janice, Scooter, Rowlf etc.. would have been very welcomed but instead we were introduced to new Muppets. During Muppets Tonight Rizzo was already such an established character that he along with Gonzo made it feel like a Muppet Show for me. Now here we are in 2017 and characters such as Pepe, Bobo Bear and Big Mean Carl feel as classic to fans as Dr Bunsen, Beaker & The Swedish Chef.

      It might take a while but establishing your own character into the Muppet family is much more rewarding than simply taking over. Peter Linz comes to mind, I had heard his name before but never considered him a core performer until Walter. Peter Linz is now in my eyes part of the core group of Muppeteers not because he took over an existing character but rather he added a new one. As a Fan the Muppeteers who stand out to me are the ones performing the characters I admire, not being a classic Muppet does not mean I will not admire a new character, it might take time but I will, in fact over the years I think new characters are very much needed.

      In the newer productions, the only time a background character has stood out for me is when that Sheep was eating part of a script backstage in The Muppets (2011). Afgahn Hound made a brief return in The Muppets (2011) I have no idea who performed him but as a fan that performer is now on my rader, I really hope it was a newer performer, it would help prove my point.

      Why do we never see Dr Phil Van Neuter, Sal, Seymour, Clifford, Polly Lobster or Droop anymore? Their performers don’t work with The Muppets at the moment but i’m sure the puppets are their in the workshop, at least from the bohemian video we know the Sal puppet exists. If you’re a background Muppeteer realize these are characters up for grabs which fans want to see return. It is your duty to make sure the puppet gets from the workshop on stage, perform them in the background, try to bring them upfront, they’ve already been established once so it’s much easier than starting from scratch. There is no need to fight over Muppets because you can just create a new one. Now I know this is very easy for me to say, perhaps the environment isn’t as it used to be with Jim Henson back in the day, perhaps now people feel they have to strictly perform to the script and whoever’s fault that is, that is the true person to blame.

      1. um… get a grip Nicholas… duty and blame? on muppeteers? really?
        how about YOU get a job and develop yer own character.
        ‘cuz wow…
        Rizzo the rat has a jacket?
        LOL!
        anyone who didn’t learn how to sew in the 4th grade is a boyscout.

      2. Perhaps The Walt Disney Company could allow the secondary Muppeteers a chance to develop their own characters, trust me new Muppets which relate to today’s mindset might be more beneficial than forcing people to remember Kermit. The second group of Muppeteers would feel appreciated and in a sense as though they have their own character, the better they are, the more recognition they’ll get, that’s now up to the performer. I’m also sure the second group of Muppet performers would like the opportunity to make live appearance. Send Mr Penguin or Lucy the Flamingo to the event alongside Miss Piggy instead of Kermit or Gonzo, mix it up a little.

        The Walt Disney Company fail to realize they bought The Muppets, not only existing characters, why have you only given us Walter after all these many years? Imagine if tomorrow every Muppeteer was offered their own character, one they would perform in the backgrounds, occasionally get a line or two ala Rizzo throughout the history of The Muppets. In five years you wouldn’t have to worry about multiple Kermit’s, you’d have a vast cast of recognizable Muppets, many performers to make live appearances, money and happiness.

        1. Hi Nicholas… “perhaps Disney” could do what for you? ‘cuz Hey You guys!!! Disney is “allowing” it’s films and crap to be taken off Netflix so they can become their own engine. They want you to reach them, and they don’t gotta reach you. They own all the marvel comics, all the muppets, all the fairy tales… star wars, star trek, etc…and they can re-write anything they want to sell you the same old popcorn.
          They have decided to put computer aps in the toys they sell so they can market your children to YOU.
          You think they R gonna allow what with their f*cking puppeteers now? They got rid of STEVE Whitmire!!!!
          and it wasn’t his fault. It’s YOURS Nicky. Keep thinking maybe Disney loves u.

          1. Katherine, you seem like you’re very upset about something and just lashing out at everyone. Maybe take a breath. Nicholas was just throwing a suggestion out there, not making a demand. Also, Disney does not own Star Trek. Yet.

    1. Thanks for sharing, I had never seen that clip before, nice to see Jim Henson in action. This video has led me to a few others I had never seen, especially one including Kermit the Frog bringing a parcel. I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve seen this one.

        1. Annnnnd, this is the reason many of us are here, those who are the puppeteers with their family of intelligent puppets, and their fans, who believe they are alive .

          I am a fan. We want to explore, to be surprised, to be amazed, to witness and feel the love of the Muppets in their full brilliance. These are the Muppets who are 100% real, with all the laughs and craziness in the right place, the heart of Jim Henson, where it all began. Steve learned to feel the heart early, and he has not yet lost it.

          Love these videos, and Love the Puppeteers who wear their hearts on their sleeves, extending this to their charges.

          Anne Terri

    2. Wow, that’s amazing! As fans, we usually only get to see Jim in interviews, where he often seems a little uncomfortable. It’s nice to be able to see him in his natural element. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  28. Steve,

    I have my own blog that is dedicate to uniting Muppet fans together, call The Muppet Movement. I have started a series of posts simply called “Thoughts on the Components of the Muppets” which everyone can see here: https://themuppetmovement.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/thoughts-on-the-components-of-the-muppets/

    The reason I am doing this is to help the general public, and even die hard fans understand the importance to everything you have been saying. Your sharing things that have recently happened on a professional level, and I think for some it is confusing. My hope is that everyone will read this and will get a better and deeper understanding of the issues at hand and there meaning.

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