Let’s Talk – Negotiations

“…Delay? Renumeration? Difference of opinion? Who knows. The nature of business is negotiation, that’s the whole point of why contracts require signing. On the other hand, great artists may be lousy businessmen, or negotiators, etc etc etc — There are always tons of different things to factor in.
….comment by A Muppet Fan since 70s on August 1, 2017 at 9:16 PM.

I like your post, everyone should read it if they have not already.  I really appreciate your perspective.

I think in these days and times everybody thinks everything is about deals that fall apart over money. What you need to know is that my fees were based upon a day rate, and were the same in 2015 as they were for twelve years before we were at Disney. Also we continued to use the Henson boilerplate agreement as the basic contract with Disney for hundreds of projects of every shape and size.

The point of staying consistent with fees and paperwork was so that all involved could be nimble in meeting the often overwhelming demand for Kermit with no surprises for anyone. Making deals with me is simple. We all know the terms because they’re the ones we used last week and for years before.

All we need to do is plug in the name of the project, slap on the proper union agreement required by SAG-AFTRA, and we’re good to go….if I have a negotiating style, that’s how simplistic it is.

This approach was supported by Debbie who is responsible for putting together budget proposals for projects, and far from being cited as a problem, it was a huge help for everyone. What it leaves no room for is regression of deal points. In other words, if a new executive decides to overturn the apple cart by changing the deal or taking away items with a long standing precedent in place, it presents an unnecessary impediment to getting the work done.

In a case like that I would, naturally, negotiate for terms to remain consistent. I don’t believe that to be unacceptable conduct in doing business.

66 thoughts on “Let’s Talk – Negotiations

  1. So you being fired had absolutely nothing to do with money? It was all about you taking a stand for the integrity of the characters…Interesting.

  2. And fair enough, too! I see we’re going to hit all the major points this week. Good.

    I haven’t much to add other than….You know what? I can’t think of anything. Seriously, a five year old should be able to read this post and be able to understand what you’re saying. Any doubts about your business conduct should be going down the drain every time you post.

    As always, keep it up!

    1. Maybe there is! When Jim, Richard and Jerry passed away it was sad, and difficult but we fans accepted Steve’s and others standing in their place. When Frank and Fran decided to “retire” we have also accepted their recasts. Steve is clearly not dead, and did not retire on his own free will. He was fired, and it was not because of money, or that they just where not going to need him. He was let go because of the stand he took for the integrity of The Muppets. So we as fans should not easly accept this and not accept the recasting that now has to take place.

      1. My take on it, given what we got on Steve so far

        – Flying a luxury jet under the Eiffel Tower
        – While ordering Hollywood to blacklist Trumbo, jail if possible
        – Tripping penguins whenever on set
        – Blackmailing studio for gazillions the rest of the time

        – But where his malevolent nature really shines through the most is —
        “Rizzo the Terrible. A thing of evil gloom and vast destructive energy.”
        (or was it about Kermit? I forget)

        ALL IN ALL, that sounds rather like a case of Steve-Trying-to-Teach-the-Basics-to-the-Nephew-of-Somebody-Important, the first unspeakable offence in corporate world. Or Steve-Standing-in-a-Way-of-Big-Bucks, the second one.

        We must be back to notes or multicasting…

          1. He won the comment section?!!

            Eep. With all the ugliness and rudeness and trolls, i’d ask for the year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat instead!

          2. *busy munching rice-a-roni… occasional ‘Gee’ and ‘Thanks’ can be heard over chomps champs and slurps* 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. I have a very bad feeling about the reaction the Hollywood bowl concerts are going to be. If people are reading this, and truly understanding what the bigger issue is then fans will slip away.

  4. Dear Mr. Whitmire,

    Judging by a lot, if not most of the comments I’ve seen, many people have only known Kermit through you. I however have been a fan ( big understatement) of The Muppets since the pilot episode “Sex and Violence ” back in 1975 when I fell forever in love with a certain golden toothed Muppet. As such, Jim Henson became my first true hero and inspiration. And through him, Kermit was as well.

    The Muppets were always “real” to me. Still are. They’re always with me in everything I do. They’re like members of my family. This lasting effect couldn’t be achieved if not for the talent and passion inside the people involved.

    The way the performer can just melt into the background, so that the person they’re interacting with forgets they’re even there, and actually feels as though they are talking to a frog, or a pig, or a whatever, is a testament to the connection that person has with their Muppet (and visa-versa).

    When Jim passed away, to say I was devastated doesn’t even come close. At the time, I could not bring myself to watch any of the memorials or specials being aired on tv. The first instance I saw of you being Kermit’s handler was in “The Muppets: A Christmas Carol”. The only thing…the ONLY thing different I noticed was Kermit’s voice being a little higher.

    Since you were younger at the time than Jim was, this is totally understandable. Your voice has deepened over the years and I would be hard pressed to tell the difference now. But aside from the voice, it was Kermit. The Kermit I’d always known. It felt like Jim hadn’t really gone, because he still lived on in you. And because of this, Kermit lived on too.

    The same held true with the rest of the Muppet family. This isn’t something that can be taught. This is something that has to come from within. And this is what Disney can’t seem to comprehend-that it’s not about the hand that holds the Muppet, it’s about the heart and soul that brings that Muppet to life.

    That Muppet isn’t just a thing, he/she is their muppeteer’s best friend. Or even child. The analogy to me feels like that of parents who gets a divorce and only one is granted custody. That one parent now has total control and influence over the child’s life while the other, the one the child really wanted to be with, no longer has any say in how that child is raised and cared for.

    I would guess Kermit almost feels as if he’s lost Jim all over again. And maybe you do too. But never lose hope. I am behind you no matter what. And things can change. People can change them. I will continue to fight for Kermit and you and all my Muppet family. And many others will too.

    1. Thank You for finding a way to express it so beautifully. I guess everyone coming here is trying to cope with his own sense of shock and loss in some way. And hope, too!

  5. This is fascinating, but really none of the audiences’ business. Your fees and terms are personal and current or former employers should not be making vague references to unacceptable business conduct.

    The fact that they did so speaks to their own unacceptable business conduct and tells me more about them than it does about you.

    The only reasons for your former employers to make such statements is to either terrorize their remaining employees (so those enployees temper their own demands) or to viciously smear your reputation in retaliation or to eliminate you as viable competition.

    You are talented. You obviously have merit in your field, and a proven track record. You should ask for top dollar and bells and whistles, in my opinion. You are worth it!

    And you have the right to share anything personal with us that you’d like to regarding the split. But it’s really crappy for your former employers to give specifics.

    Disney should have stuck to generic, “It just didn’t work out” statements, and the Henson family should have stuck to generic, “We support Disney” statements, if they weighed in at all.

    You were with the Muppets a long time. If they felt it had to be, you deserved a better send-off and more respect than you’ve been shown.

    I don’t know what Jim would have wanted, but I am sure he wanted better than this…

    1. It would be redundant for me to add to this, Steve, because Le Anne has taken the words right out of my mouth.

      But I will reiterate this point:

      You should ask for top dollar and bells and whistles… You are worth it!

      So TOTALLY worth it.

    2. That`s what i think also ! Considering the 3 million dollars cachet Disney paid a young known actress in the new released movie (Beauty & the B.) plus a % of the results, i think Steve for sure was not even being paid for a small value of what he was worth.
      I believe most Steve`s cachets were “bucks”, compared to the millions Disney is paying to their teen and unexperient actors. That`s bad management. Disney should invest on quality, experience and know how. Or maybe they just need a change in the board of directors and CEO.

  6. I see nothing wrong with wanting things to remain consistent. I know would want things to stay consistent.

  7. I appreciate the idea of consistency in any agreement. It prevents confusion and helps to promote credibility. Thank you posting, Mr. Whitmire!

    Lucy

  8. It is about money in a way though, they perceive you as the reason they can’t exploit Kermit (for it is exploitation imo)
    There seems to be a financial axeman at work for Disney, atm.

  9. Steve,
    Having read all these amazing comments, after reading the complete post you referred to, in A Muppet Fan since 70s on August 1, 2017 at 9:16 PM. it all boils down to number ’14) ALL IN ALL, MOST VIEWERS WOULD VERY MUCH LOVE STEVE TO CONTINUE AS KERMIT, and have his say on Muppets integrity. ‘

    What Shelly Starr said also is important in relation to your first work with Kermit, and I quote: ‘Your voice has deepened over the years and I would be hard pressed to tell the difference now. But aside from the voice, it was Kermit. The Kermit I’d always known. It felt like Jim hadn’t really gone, because he still lived on in you. And because of this, Kermit lived on too. ‘

    For me, I keep feeling Jim hasn’t really gone either, because you are here for Kermit just as he was and always will be. Love Anne Terri

  10. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for continuing to share your experience and insights.

    This is a really interesting read. It’s pretty amazing that this kind of contract has been in place for so long. Honest question though…should it be?

    You mention the contract still being on the same Henson boilerplate, but you aren’t working for Henson anymore. You are working for Disney. While I can see where the continuation of those fees and structures would make things clear and easy in terms of what to expect for both parties, it’s not necessarily good for the business itself. Ultimately, if not unfortunately, Disney can change that precedent because they own the character for which the precedent applies.

    If a new executive comes in, they are free to overturn the apple cart, if they see that it’s good for that business. Business changes. Precedents become outdated or no longer make sense under the circumstances.

    Not only does business change, entertainment changes. As much as it pains me, Disney’s Muppets of 2017 aren’t Jim Henson’s Muppets of 1975-80. They aren’t a smash hit global phenomenon anymore. That’s not to say that they couldn’t be again, but they certainly aren’t right now. Viewership decreased from one movie to the next, from one episode to the next, even Youtube and viral content are seeing less views. Now, this is obviously in part because of the nature of content itself, and due to the reaction that people have to this incarnation of the Muppets that you have mentioned, but the fact remains. The Muppets just aren’t as hot as they used to be in this moment in time.

    Another unfortunate reality, while Kermit may still be a beloved and globally iconic character, his performer isn’t Jim Henson anymore. Jim Henson himself was a global figure, a creative visionary and a celebrity in and of himself. He is puppetry’s Walt Disney. A legend. As evidence, it was Jim who would work the talk show circuit, with Kermit as his special guest.

    When you say that you can’t separate characters from their performer, that is the Kermit that was a world wide success. That isn’t to downplay or diminish you or any other performer in anyway, but for better or worse, it’s just Kermit who is asked to the shows now, to talk about 50 years in showbiz that one half of his current whole never experienced.

    I guess my point is that, from a measure of success, the Muppets are kind of a B-level property…I hope they are that high anyway. They need to build back up. If they need to utilize viral videos or appearances and the like to try and boost their profile while they figure out how to rebuild, budgets are going to be smaller. From the business side, precedents are probably going to need to be shifted a bit. Contracts are maybe going to regress, because the brand itself has regressed.

    Take a look at the Muppet Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…the fountain is gone. The Kermit balloon is gone. Even the outside of the structure itself has downplayed the Muppetness. The old green frog just ain’t what he used to be.

    Anyway, I do see where being a performer under that precedent for so long is going to be difficult as times change. I can see where it’s difficult for the employer as well. What do you do if a contract or terms for an admittedly important franchise character is limiting projects, performers, or what the brand can do? Generally, you change the contract, for better or worse, because that might be what is good for the brand, the Muppets, even though it may not be good for the performer.

    1. Replying to my own message…

      Thanks again for letting us converse with you. Keep on truckin’ Steve.

    2. “As much as it pains me, Disney’s Muppets of 2017 aren’t Jim Henson’s Muppets of 1975-80. They aren’t a smash hit global phenomenon anymore.”

      Totally agree with that. And making more steps in the same direction, as we see right now.

      “Generally, you change the contract, for better or worse, because that might be what is good”

      Totally agree with that too. That’s the whole point of business negotiation, right?

  11. I should also clarify, in my last paragraph, I’m not referring to limiting performers from a blackball standpoint, merely budgetary one. Unnecessary impediments come in all shapes and sizes, and not just from the executive side.

  12. Imagine The Muppet Show, everybody wants their time to shine, everybody wants a chance, everybody wants to perform their own act, Kermit knew what worked and what didn’t. Imagine if the Zucchini Brothers or Bobby Benson and his Baby Band got mad at Kermit for not allowing them onstage. J.P Gross then decides to fire Kermit and now anyone can perform their act… in other words the premise to Muppets Most Wanted. Any Muppet now has the chance to perform onstage but without Kermit helping to keep it all together, The Muppet Show will fail.

    The way I see it, removing Steve and replacing him is not the big problem here, it’s the fact that The Walt Disney Company have now realised they can remove Kermit’s 27 Year Performer and fans will accept it. If we accept this, how will we act if Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Pepe, Scooter, Uncle Deadly or Walter get fired? Will we accept it? What happens when Kermit 2, Kermit 3 and Kermit 4 begin appearing? Will we accept it? I think the removal of Steve Whitmire should scare us, not as much because Kermit has been replaced but rather because without Steve acting as Kermit working hard backstage it all falls to pieces on stage. J.P Gross want to exploit The Muppet Show for as much as he can, I imagine he would get rid of Kermit either way to make life easier for himself, especially if Kermit is standing in his way.

    1. Exactly. This is the Walt Disney Company testing the waters. If they can remove Steve with very few waves, then basically they will feel that the viewers simply don’t care and will be emboldened to more unthinkable acts. That’s why it’s so enormously important that we, the fans and more casual viewers, create a tsunami of outcry.

      All of these people who just want to stick their heads in the sand and get back to watching new things from The Muppets are making a huge mistake.

      Though, despite the number of those who wish to do nothing, those who are making waves are having at least a measure of success. The new “Muppet Thought of The Week” hasn’t been released yet featuring Kermit as performed by Matt Vogel, and I hope in my heart this is an effect of those strongly protesting Steve’s dismissal. They see that there ARE those who will NOT accept this, and perhaps they are rethinking their actions… Could this lead to them reopening communication channels with Steve and trying to work things out? I certainly hope so.

    1. Missed a thread I was replying to. This was about “reopening communication channels with Steve and trying to work things out” in Pamela’s post…. Do hope that can happen!

      1. *Sigh* This is where I’m most conflicted about this whole thing…

        Hey Steve,

        Nothing would make me more happy than to see you return to the Muppets in some capacity, whether you got all of your Muppets back, or just the characters you originated. If your dismissal had been announced closer to last October, my opinion would have been open-and-shut.

        The thing is…and this is painful for me to write…if you were to return to the Muppets, especially to Kermit, I would be over the moon with joy, but would feel almost equally bad for Matt having to hand Kermit back. I have no idea what Matt’s thoughts have been as he prepares for the role, however, I can imagine it would be painful to have to hand Kermit back after so much hype and preparation.

        To me, you’ll always be the rightful Kermit and your dismissal will always sting, but if this is the way Disney insists on moving the Muppets forward, I and the other fans will have to trust in Matt’s skill and ability to adapt. In the meantime, please keep speaking out about the Muppets integrity and I will do what I can to help. As far as I’m concerned we’re in this together and you can guarantee I’ll have your back every step of the way.

        Hoping that didn’t sound too corny,

        Marni

        1. Marni, try to think of it as if it applies to original performers.

          Would Jerry Nelson have a problem handing Kermit back to Jim Henson?

          1. Well….no I suppose not. And Steve did say that there was nothing he would love more than for Jim to still be doing Kermit, which is a pretty reasonable wish. Like I said, I don’t pretend to know what’s going on in Matt’s head, so I can’t make a proper judgement on how he would react if placed in that particular situation.

        2. Surely Matt realises, though, that this isn’t truly his time. I can see how he might be disappointed, were he to hand Kermit back to Steve; performing Kermit The Frog is a grand honour, to say the least. However, he has to understand that except in case of illness or death, “One Performer, One Voice.”

          If Steve returns to performing Kermit and the rest of his original characters, perhaps Steve will take Matt under his wing and prepare him for that inevitable day when he must take over Kermit. Until then, Matt has a myriad of other characters to steward and be kept busy with.

  13. Dear Steve,

    I just found your blog yesterday and spent almost all day reading everything.
    When I heard the news I was so shocked I could hardly believe it. Although I am not in love with a big blue frog, I am certainly in love with a small green one. I know I am not the only one who adores Kermit, and this is a good thing. I am not very young, but I only knew you being Kermit, and I had to watch the older things, with Jim, on dvd, which I did, just recently, even the first Muppet show episodes. I must say I also liked the newer films and also the ABC series, even though I often read that not many people were fond of that one. Interestingly enough, the plot in that series, where Pizza comes and tries to change everything for better profits, regardless of the Muppet’s creativity and tradition and own original ideas, has now repeated itself in real world – isn’t that ironic?
    However, I liked this series because I could see Kermit on a regularly basis and I also liked the behind the scenes bit, even though I said to people that I found some things a bit odd, one of them being the already mentioned scene where Kermit lied to Robin (and I also thought that with all the media coverage, Robin must have long found out about the split, AND I kept wondering how old Robin is now and if he never grows up…)
    I have been through tough times and Kermit kind of helped me through it, because whenever I looked at his face, listened to his words or songs, I was cheered up. I also liked all the tv shows with Kermit in it, which I had to search for on youtube because I don’t live in the US. And I often said that Kermit has SUCH a variety of facial expressions, other – human – actors could be jealous!
    I can totally imagine how hard and terrible this whole situation must be for you, Steve. You have not only lost your job, which would be bad enough, but you have lost a whole world, and, quite literally, your “other half”. Even before all this happened, I often thought that I couldn’t imagine Kermit with a different puppeteer, because I always thought the two belong together. This is certainly not an interchangeable thing. And the Disney people have not even half understood the Muppets and got their magic, if they, for financial reasons, think there can be several Kermits and they can be in many places at the same time, can be interchanged. I also have plush Kermits at home and I love them, but I know they are just a plush version of the real thing and the real Kermit is the one I see on tv. Also, I thought about travelling to Disneyworld and then thought it won’t be the real Kermit I’ll see there, just a doppelganger. (Like my mum, who always goes to “Elvis tribute concerts”, and while the singers might be ok, she realises they are not the one she wanted to see!).
    Disney is a big company, and making money is their primary interest, NOT making people happy. This is terrible, when you see how others built up something from their very hearts and then people come and it does not mean much to them, and they simply destroy it, regardless of WHAT they actually destroy. You can fight and fight for your ideals, but ideals is not what they want to save (the same happened to Build a Bear when Sharon Price John destroyed every ideal that Maxine Clark has ever stood for, including Bearville, just to make more profit).
    However, this would be bad enough, but the worst bit, I think, is the nasty remarks and posts by the Henson family. This is just bottom drawer. Why can’t they just keep out of it, or at least stick to neutral sentences and not make everything personal (in which way has Kermit’s characterization been flat? I could not believe it), AND try to deny the past (Jim chose – family asked). I must say my first instinct, if I were you, would have been to fire back as well, but you are a better person than them for NOT doing that in order not to destroy Jim’s legacy and all that has ever bonded you together. I can imagine Jim is looking down on everyone and just shaking his head about all this. It would make him so sad.
    Concerning you being all about the money, well if you were that greedy, you would’ve taken their offer and accepted the compensation, pretending you leaving would be a mutual agreement. But you didn’t, and I think this is good. You would’ve choked on your own frustration if you hadn’t spoken out, and I am glad that this blog exists and we can read what has been going on behind the scenes, rather than having to rely on mere rumours.
    I have painted two Kermit portraits in acrylics on wood, and since I can’t send them to you via e-mail, I will try to upload them on the internet and then post a link here, so you can see them, I hope they will cheer you up a bit. I wish I could do more.
    I am sending you hugs and lots of strength.

    Rachel

  14. Thank you Mary Arlene, for your kind words. I posted the links to the portraits earlier today, but they did not show up – is the blog being moderated, so that links don’t go through automatically?
    If not, then it might have been an error and I will try again.
    Rachel

    1. You’re welcome, Rachel. 🙂

      I don’t believe the blog is moderated, although it might be that posts with two or more links are being held for moderation. I don’t know; just a guess on my part. I do know that there have been a lot of glitches with regards to comments. From my experience, I can say that sometimes the comments don’t show up right away, sometimes they are posted more than once, etc. If I were you, I would give it a day or so, and if the links don’t show up by tomorrow, I would try posting them again.

  15. I have tried posting them again after my last post, but they didn’t show up. So I might try just one link now and let’s see if that shows up. I do get a “warning” with error notification every time I post though, but posts without any links show up pretty quickly afterwards. So obviously there is a glitch regarding the comments.

    I hope Steve is having a great weekend and manages to relax today in order to get something nice into his head 🙂

    http://www.rachels-galerie.de/public/Kermit_1.jpg

    1. Wow, these are incredible, Rachel! Well done! The second one is my favourite, I think. ^-^

  16. Thank you very much. I hope Steve likes them, too.
    I must say it took me a long time painting them, I used “50,000 shades of green” and I wanted to do his pretty face justice (and to catch his facial expression), so it can be counted among my most demanding work 🙂

  17. Some Point-Blank Questions-

    Reading these piecemeal posts kind of feels like a death of one thousand cuts for all parties involved. You are being remarkably candid, so I have some simple questions based on the information, claims and ugly innuendo that have been making the rounds that should clear things up very quickly. I hope you’re not offended by the boldness, but I’m a no-nonsense sort of guy and these things are just hanging out there. I usually save the nonsense part of my brain for enjoying the Muppets. I hope you’ll be able to address all of these. If not all, some. This is more or less an unsolicited interview, but most print and TV interviews are pretty weak tea. This hits the nail on the head in so many areas that longtime fans want to know. You’ll likely disregard this in the great sea of replies. This is an opportunity so I can’t not try. These questions come from the current controversy as well as lifelong things I’ve always wanted to know about you and the Muppets. Still, thanks for your time and consideration, Mr. Whitmire, and thanks for your work with the Muppets. You Muppeteers have brought more joy to my life than just about anything in the world. It’s the one thing I can depend on giving a smile on the toughest day.

    It’s been stated that there were other determining causes to the recast aside from money, but money is a part of the negotiation criticism. Is it true that you asked for a lot more money? If so, was it much more than anyone else was getting?

    Is it true that your Henson Company contract negotiations often came up to the wire with brinksmanship more so than your peers? If not, why do some have that impression? If so, what sticking points were there?

    Is it true that you delayed production under Henson management; what were those circumstances and why?

    You’ve stated delaying/missing a Disney Muppet production due to SAG’s recommendation not to sign a particular contract. Is this the same contract every other performer signed? If so, what kept you from signing them? Were there ever any other performers who allegedly created their own delays?

    You were never in charge of casting, but did you request producers keep certain performers from the set while you were working? Is it possible for some people to have perceived that, even by error?

    You’ve stated supporting the Henson Muppets legacy. Are there any other performers doing that? What advice do you have for the current performers, particularly Mr. Vogel?

    As one of the Muppets’ original core performers, how close are you to other cast members, past and present, and are you featured in Frank Oz’s new documentary? How close are you to other cast members, past and present? That meme is more relevant now than ever.

    Of all the performers, you’re one that fans know the least about. If there’s one thing you want your fans to know about you, what would it be? I know you do some charity work with Tippi Hedren. That’s rather fascinating. How did that come about?

    Matt Vogel has done excellent work with many authorized recasts. Even though this was absolutely not the ideal route to go, do you see a future for his Kermit and the Muppets or are they just over now?

    How do you feel about your original characters being recast? Rizzo and Bean seem to be such a part of you that I can’t imagine anyone coming close to your performance. They are now all legal IP of Disney, but emotionally do you consider any to be off-limits?

    Which of the recent Disney Muppets projects do you think were hits and which ones do you think were misses? They fired the other writer-producer, but I’ve heard Prady was the real trouble with the unMuppeting of ABC’s Muppets. So many great strides were made with the direction toward the end that fans were hoping that it would signal the beginning of a Muppet renaissance. What were your thoughts about the mood on the set and the production?

    If you could change anything about the Muppets, what would it be? If you could change anything about your previous performances, what would those be?

    What 5 adjectives would you use to describe Kermit?

    What 5 would you use to describe Rizzo?

    In closing, I’d like to tell you how much I’ve been watching the Be More Tea commercial. That meme is more relevant now than ever. Strangely enough, I see it as you at the top of your game. Every shot with Kermit showcases your amazing talent and years of care and craftsmanship of the character. Animal could have easily stolen the focus, but mine is always on Kermit. What ideas have you considered after the Muppets or do you think that you’ll go back there someday?

      1. Good call. Thanks. All of those came off the top of my head. I guess many of us have been thinking a lot about this. I hope we get some answers. Many of them are tough, but they’re what’s on people’s minds.

  18. Some Point-Blank Questions-

    Reading these piecemeal posts kind of feels like a death of one thousand cuts for all parties involved. You are being candid, so I have some simple questions based on the information, claims and ugly innuendo that have been making the rounds that should clear things up very quickly. I hope you’re not offended by the boldness, but I’m a no-nonsense sort of guy. I usually save the nonsense part of my brain for enjoying the Muppets. Don’t worry; I’m saving my heartfelt compliment until the end. I hope you’ll be able to address all of these. If not all, some. This is more or less an unsolicited interview, but most print and TV interviews are pretty weak tea. This hits the nail on the head in so many areas that longtime fans want to know. You’ll likely disregard this in the great sea of replies. These questions come from the current controversy as well as lifelong things I’ve always wanted to know about you and the Muppets. Still, thanks for your time and consideration, Mr. Whitmire, and thanks for your work with the Muppets. You Muppeteers have brought more joy to my life than just about anything in the world. It’s the one thing I can depend on giving a smile on the toughest day.

    It’s been stated that there were other determining causes to the recast aside from money, but money is a part of the negotiation criticism. Is it true that you asked for a lot more money? If so, was it much more than anyone else was getting?

    Is it true that your Henson Company contract negotiations often came up to the wire with brinksmanship more so than your peers? If not, why do some have that impression? If so, what sticking points were there?

    Is it true that you delayed production under Henson management; what were those circumstances and why?

    You’ve stated delaying/missing a Disney Muppet production due to SAG’s recommendation not to sign a particular contract. Is this the same contract every other performer signed? If so, what kept you from signing them? Were there ever any other performers who allegedly created their own delays?

    You were never in charge of casting, but did you request producers keep certain performers from the set while you were working? Is it possible for some people to have perceived that, even by error?

    You’ve stated supporting the Henson Muppets legacy. Are there any other performers doing that? What advice do you have for the current performers, particularly Mr. Vogel?

    As one of the Muppets’ original core performers, how close are you to other cast members, past and present, and are you featured in Frank Oz’s new documentary? How close are you to other cast members, past and present? That meme is more relevant now than ever.

    Of all the performers, you’re one that fans know the least about. If there’s one thing you want your fans to know about you, what would it be? I know you do some charity work with Tippi Hedren. That’s rather fascinating. How did that come about?

    Matt Vogel has done excellent work with many authorized recasts. Even though this was absolutely not the ideal route to go, do you see a future for his Kermit and the Muppets or are they just over now?

    How do you feel about your original characters being recast? Rizzo and Bean seem to be such a part of you that I can’t imagine anyone coming close to your performance. They are now all legal IP of Disney, but emotionally do you consider any to be off-limits?

    Which of the recent Disney Muppets projects do you think were hits and which ones do you think were misses? They fired the other writer-producer, but I’ve heard Prady was the real trouble with the unMuppeting of ABC’s Muppets. So many great strides were made with the direction toward the end that fans were hoping that it would signal the beginning of a Muppet renaissance. What were your thoughts about the mood on the set and the production?

    If you could change anything about the Muppets, what would it be? If you could change anything about your previous performances, what would those be?

    What 5 adjectives would you use to describe Kermit?

    What 5 would you use to describe Rizzo?

    In closing, I’d like to tell you how much I’ve been watching the Be More Tea commercial. That meme is more relevant now than ever. Strangely enough, I see it as you at the top of your game. Every shot with Kermit showcases your amazing talent and years of care and craftsmanship of the character. Animal could have easily stolen the focus, but mine is always on Kermit. What ideas have you considered after the Muppets or do you think that you’ll go back there someday?

    1. Good post. You do ask some very pointed no-nonsense questions but at the same time they’re respectful and come from a place of genuine curiosity and seeking truth/answers as opposed to trolling/baiting.

      If i can piggyback on that a little and add a one (actually a two-parter) of my own:

      In a future blog, could you provide your overall analysis of the most recent series and what were it’s strengths and flaws (if you could even do an episode-by-episode breakdown or even just list what you felt were the best ones and the worst?) Did the change in showrunners help? General fan/critical consensus tends to be that it did yet the episode that gets specifically cited as one you had problems with “Little Green Lie” was the third to last one.

      If things were different and you actually were given that position as co-head of Muppets Studios at the time the series was being done, what are the major changes/feedback you would have liked to see implemented?

    2. Hi ! Finding your comment pertinent, i think maybe you could request your unsolicited interview adressing it the most usual way, directly to Steve Whitmire or his representatives, while identifying yourself to them. As a fan i think you, and all other fans who commented your post, placed a huge ammount of questions to be answered on Steve’s blog for fans. I also belive, like someone already stated previously, that Steve could be limited for legal reasons, and could not answer to many of this questions publicly or at all. But i wish you that everything works out for the best possible. 🐸

      1. If this is truly a place where Steve is taking on the issues, this is the appropriate format. Why go through hurdles? Isn’t that cagey behavior what people are accusing Disney of doing? Steve has proven to be more open than that and I appreciate it very much. If he has legal problems with some of these, that’s perfectly understandable. He’s graciously mentioned that in several interviews.

        1. Longtime Fan, i hope you are right. I just think it’s too many questions to be answered in a blog Steve is running mostly for fans. The subjects are controvertial and if Steve decided to answer all of the questions publicly like this, the other parts involved should reply, like it’s usual with the media following the rules. But as i told you before, i wish you everything works out for the best. 🐸

      1. Thanks. I have no idea how Steve could be interviewed so many times, but not one of those questions was adequately addressed. The art of the interview is long dead. Tempers get stoked and sides chosen, but no real information comes to light.

          1. Well, that’s the thing. They technically come from the Henson Company so those shouldn’t be off-limits, but I understand if they are. The same question was also posed for Disney. The money question wasn’t fully answered either. I hadn’t seen that Newsmax interview. I just have to say, ew for it being an ultra-right-wing network and show. They were one of the sources that spread the infamous birtherism about Obama. Steve probably didn’t know.

      2. In addition to my last post —

        WELL, I WOULD SUPPOSE SOME of these questions were probably NOT asked before as being too personal (money being money, you get what you negotiate when taking the job) or too risky (friction at work being what it is, there are two sides to every story — and potential lawsuits for dragging out the details, if any). Nothing can be gained arguing about these.

        WHAT MATTERS HERE IS, RATHER, the the readiness to settle the disputes and negotiate past difficulties. Or taking a stand for something you believe in. Keeping communication channels open and seeing things through.

        THE OTHER QUESTIONS we’d LOVE to hear the answers to — whatever CAN be answered!

  19. I had seen this before, but I must stress I really love this and watched it again. The key question here is creativity, and this is a lot related to what we have been debating here.

    I also wanted to point out (concerning the question about “did he want more money”, which I think he already answered well enough, it was not and is not about the money!) that most creative people don’t work for the money, they work because they feel the urge to do it. They WANT to be creative, there is something in them that needs to get out, be expressed. So many artists don’t earn enough or will never make a living with what they do, so they need to take “day jobs” which pay for their bills, while their real “job”, even if not or not well enough paid, is their art (and many other people don’t understand this position and they think if your art is not paid or not well enough paid, then it is not a real job, it is just a hobby).
    But it is not a hobby, it is more like a calling.
    This is true for painters as well as musicians, actors and I guess also for puppeteers. They don’t do it because they want to become famous or because they want to earn a lot of money (and many of the singers or bands who ARE famous are not only famous because they are talented – some of them aren’t at all – but because they had the right connections, successful advertising…), but because they have the urgent feeling they have to do what they do, what they’re best at. A painter will still paint if he does not sell, and a singer will still sing if he does not become famous. On the contrary, fame even damages the creativity in some cases (because the artist can’t concentrate on their creativity any longer – there are deadlines to meet, projects they “have to” do beacuse the contract says so…)

    Artists are not always good businesspeople, in fact, art and business contradict one another, and if you are at art school, or study music or acting or whatever, you normally don’t learn how to negotiate an how to advertise yourself, how to make a business plan. This is necessary when you want to be successful, but most artists consider it nothing but a drag, and this is why they are often not good at it and are thankful to have a manager who does those deals for them.

    So in the Muppet’s case, there was a difference of position. Disney, the big company, sees the Muppets as a way to make money and their bosses’ decisions are likely to be based on this very interest. Steve, on the other hand, was and is interested in the Muppet’s spirit, in creativity, in his ideals. I think if Jim was still alive and owned the Muppets, and the business was not successful, Steve would’ve said “ok, don’t pay me for a while, but I will help you to make the Muppets great again”, and many other creative people would do the same.
    So I think questions about money and if Steve was getting more than the others, or wanting more than the others,and if yes, how much more… are not the right questions here. If there were debates about renumeration, they would’ve settled a lot more easily, and there wouldn’t be such bitter feelings on all sides. AND if Steve was all (or mostly) about the money, he would not feel so desperate and disappointed now. He even made clear that he would even rejoin the Muppets if they wanted him back – who would do that, apart from someone who REALLY loved the Muppets and cared about a greater ideal.

    By the way, I hope Steve is fine. He has not posted for several days. I hope he is just trying to get some distance and doing something nice, rather than being dragged down by all the ugliness on the internet, int he press or even in this (his own) blog.

    1. By the way, I hope Steve is fine. He has not posted for several days.

      Yeah, I’ve been concerned about that too. Hope you’re okay, Steve. Please get back to us as soon as you can and let us know what’s up. Much love to you, always.

    2. I checked it out on Google — basically, Mr Whitmire was never remarkably chatty about details of his personal life. Like everyone else, I hope to find his next post here soon, but I guess it might take a while. Hope he has his chance to get away from it all and simply relax, after all the fuss around.

      So far in his posts on this blog he comes clear on all the points raised publicly, for anyone ready to listen, purely by listing the facts, without feeding any accusations or conspiracy theories.
      For the sake of everyone concerned that’s what was really needed. (Thank You!)

      He also clearly outlines his standing on Muppets character integrity, legacy and traditions of original Jim Henson Muppet team. Personally, mostly for our own sake as viewers, I still have hope there is a responsible executive out there able to see that what Steve is talking about is necessary for keeping the brand standards high.

      If not… well, there is usually a higher sense in the way things turn out.
      This might be the beginning of the whole new era in Muppets history, where Muppet performers have no say in how or by whom the characters are portrayed. “__ is a Muppet and __ is a professional Muppeteer. I’m sure he could have done it” pretty much sums it up.
      It might well turn out that Steve is being spared a losing battle for the Muppets integrity as we knew it, so he could keep his own.

Comments are closed.