I’m disappointed in myself because honestly I don’t want to write this article, I would much rather somebody else wrote it. For the last twenty-seven years I’ve been a true dedicated Muppet Fan but after everything that has happened, I’ve searched online and the things I’m thinking are not being discussed anywhere. Perhaps I’m not just in the minority here, maybe I’m even the only one but I feel very strongly that this is something that we should be discussing as a fan community. Most Muppet Fans have been dedicated to The Muppets for years, we’ve bought the toys, watched the movies, have been saddened by the deaths of past performers, we have a right to discuss this, dwell on it, go about it in circles and we have every right to do that. In my opinion, Muppet Fans aren’t very vocal because the fear of confrontation is what draws us towards The Muppets. Muppet Fandom is not as big as other franchises, that’s because only a small few of us appreciate the Muppets and in order to do so, you have to be a pretty down to earth, chilled, open minded person, that’s something we all share in common, that is why we are Muppet Fans. At the same time the disadvantage to this, is that being these type of people, we don’t like to stir the pot, we avoid confrontation but this time if we do not leave our comfort zone, in the next few years, we will lose the thing that brings us all together, The Muppets.
Imagine working backstage on The Muppet Show, everybody wants their time to shine, everybody wants a chance on stage, 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. Kermit has now been fired, the show is about to continue, most of the audience sit in their seats patiently, ignoring the backstage chaos and hoping something will soon appear on stage. The rest of The Muppets having no idea what to do, try and continue on, knowing their fans are waiting outside for the show to go on, The Muppets are thinking of us. Now add the Zucchini Brothers or even Bobby Benson and his Baby Band acting like children, happily voicing that Kermit has been fired, not just backstage but onstage too. The Zucchini Brothers and Bobby Benson and his Babies might add to the fun of The Muppet Show but without them the show can go on, without Kermit there is no show. Fans are confused, fans are sad, the magic of The Muppets has been ruined (at least for me) and to make it all worse, these background Muppets are happy about it?
I was three years old when Jim Henson died, as I grew older I discovered more and more of his performances as Kermit the Frog, through different movies, specials, episodes etc... but the performer who kept Kermit alive and relevant for people of my generation was Steve Whitmire. When I was six years old, I remember going to the cinema with my Mom, my sister and my cousin and at the start of the movie the words “In Loving Memory Of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt” appears on screen. I turned to my Mom and asked what that meant? Apparently Jim Henson (who I already knew performed Kermit) had died. At that age I had no idea who Richard Hunt was and as selfish as it might sound (remember I was only six years old at the time) my first Muppet thought of the moment was “how is Kermit going to appear in this movie?” I remember I had seen him on an advert on Cartoon Network where he was squished at the door by two little Piglets and I had just spent the last hour admiring his presence on the poster outside, I knew he was in this movie, I just didn’t know how. Soon enough accompanied by a bunch of Rats and working for an ill-tempered, money loving boss, there he was, it wasn’t an imposter, it’s wasn’t another Frog, it was the Kermit the Frog I had recently seen get run over by a Taxi and losing his memory in the process. I was thrilled, I soon learned the name Steve Whitmire, I knew Jim Henson had died but somehow because of a man named Steve Whitmire, Kermit the Frog was still alive. As I grew older, I realized there was actually a difference but without being Jim Henson, how is one supposed to perform Jim Henson’s Kermit? The fact that I still continued believing it was Kermit was proof enough, for me at least, that the right person had been picked to perform. It might have taken many years for fans to get used to the new Kermit and although it might not be Jim Henson’s Kermit, this version has become the one we’re familiar with, now with no real necessity fans are expected to adjust once again.
Even though Steve Whitmire not being allowed to perform Kermit is terrible, sadly that is not my greatest fear at this moment, if something is worse than Steve not performing Kermit then I’m concerned. The Walt Disney Company have now realised they can remove Kermit the Frog’s performer of Twenty-Seven years and fans will accept it. If we accept this, how will we act if Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Pepe, Scooter, Uncle Deadly or Walter get replaced? 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, all core Muppets are of equal value, remove anyone of them and The Muppets begin to fail. J.P Gross wants 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. I get the impression that the rumours of “A Muppet Family Mafia” are true and it’s very sad but who exactly is this mafia? Is this fair to Fans? Some go in search of this information online, I keep away from it but as of late, even without trying, I’m coming across all types of nonsense. As a Fan who could care less about the backstage drama, it has now affected my view of The Muppets, congratulations after twenty-seven years of being a Muppet Fan, I am so disappointed, so sad, that the passion is gone. Did I lose my passion for the Muppets throughout their continuous failed projects? No, it was the moment those behind the scenes, who I had never known their name until now, ruined the magic for me.
Back in 2006 Steve Whitmire apparently blackballed many performers or made them feel as such, depending on the control he had. Now that Steve is gone there 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 Vogel 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. The performers who feel blackballed, I’m sad for you but I don’t know who you are and I’m glad this was stopped. Had a new group arrived, I would have been just as glad to have seen that stopped too. Now do I not want to see these performers develop new Muppet Characters? I would welcome it but as a fan I do not welcome them hoping to perform any of the well-established Muppets, I hope they are blackballed from performing Kermit, Miss Piggy etc... but not from being part of The Muppets and perhaps even creating their own characters. What becomes an opportunity for them destroys everybody’s hard work in the past, present and probably the future. I’m sorry but blackballing performers who want to perform Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, Animal etc... is a win for me.
At the same time all those unprofessional enough to talk down to the man who gave life to Kermit the Frog, to his fans they have basically blackballed themselves. Is what is happening backstage important? Yes! Might Steve Whitmire actually be at fault? For arguments sake let’s say yes! Do Fans need to be exposed to this, if they do not go looking for it? My view of Kermit depends a lot on how I view Steve Whitmire, if you ruin Steve Whitmire for Fans, at least in my case, you’re also ruining how I view Kermit. Do I want to go see a Muppet production involving the names of those happy that fans have lost Kermit after twenty-seven years? No I do not. Many might also think badly of Steve Whitmire but they have not gone public, these people, even though I might not agree with their opinion, I still respect, therefor their involvement in future Muppet projects does not bother me. After going through this and showing their true character, I would actually be happy to see them working alongside The Muppets. My hatred as a Fan doesn’t come from your opinion on Steve Whitmire, it comes from how you’ve handled the situation.
A fake Kermit the Frog recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert performed by Rick Lyon and soon another video followed. This is a good example of why not everyone who can puppeteer deserves to be a Muppeteer. As a Fan this is how I’ve met Rick Lyon, I first saw his name mentioned through various forums as someone who has worked for The Muppets in the past and is siding with The Walt Disney Company and The Jim Henson Company. Fair enough, that’s his opinion, I had never associated him to The Muppets, it was easy for me to ignore his comment. Then I got really angry when I watched the Fake Kermit’s appearance on The Late Show and learned he had been performed by Rick Lyon, what he had been saying about Steve Whitmire now bothered me. This is where I finally decided to research Rick Lyon and found various clips online of him performing Kermit the Frog, such as this one, where he talks about having known Jim Henson.
I want this guy in handcuffs, not because I want him arrested or anything, I just don’t want him ever being able to puppeteer Kermit or any other Muppet in his entire life. How can one say he is a Muppet Fan if he is willing to demoralise Kermit for cash? I actually enjoy when people make funny videos using a fake Kermit but only when they’re not intentionally setting out to duplicate the real thing. The puppet they’ve used is too realistic for the casual viewer to realize it’s not Kermit. Then this isn’t a fake Kermit debuting in an underground underwear festival, this is Kermit the Frog appearing on TV, on a show he has been known to appear on before. The Walt Disney Company should be focused on this rather than how to best introduce Fans to the new Kermit because that has done so much damage and I’m not even sure how many people are aware. The sad part about all this, is the fact that Rick Lyon is trying his hardest at performing and imitating the real Kermit, luckily he fails at it, otherwise that clip on The Late Show would have done a lot more damage. Rick Lyon in my opinion as a Fan, comes across as somebody who wants to perform Kermit because he wants to become rich and famous rather than simply making millions of people happy.
I like to think of it like this, many people hope to one day become 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 Whitmire 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 you’re 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.
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, not that sewing is difficult but finding the dedication to do that for this reason is. 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 and 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, if Afgah Hound had continued appearing, I would have done my research, 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 or Polly Lobster anymore? Their performers don't work with The Muppets at the moment but i'm sure the puppets are there 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. Make it your duty to make sure the puppet gets from the workshop on stage, perform them in the background, try to bring them up front, 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, now people might feel they have to strictly perform to the script and whoever's fault that is, that is the true person to blame.
Muppet Fans are divided, this is the saddest part of it all, even I have fallen victim to this, we’re losing respect for each other. Fans are throwing Chickens amongst themselves, rumour has it one of the Chickens were filled with stones and some even posted pictures with the message “Meep Off” to other fans. My goodness, I’ve never seen this type of behaviour within the Muppet fan community ever in my life. Muppet Fans are bullying each other, Fans are angry with the new generation of performers, Fans are angry at The Jim Henson Company, Fans are angry at Steve Whitmire and some even blame the Penguins, all I’m waiting now is for the cheese to explode. A Muppet website should not have been the place for Steve Whitmire’s departure to be announced, especially not without the proper information. I’m surprised The Walt Disney Company did not release this information themselves? This was big news, why let a fan site release the information? As fans we deserved the right to know otherwise we’d be pissed but at the same time they hoped it wouldn’t get much attention.
The Jim Henson Company should not have commented, the way they spoke of Steve Whitmire was very sad, one could argue that they were defending their father because at that time Steve Whitmire was speaking for Jim Henson. Fair enough perhaps their emotions got the best of them, they were standing up for their father, I respect that but The Walt Disney Company had already stated that they had The Jim Henson Company’s blessing to remove Steve Whitmire, they had already shown their support beforehand. Brian Henson claimed he should have fired Steve Whitmire before he sold The Muppets to The Walt Disney Company, what would have been the point? Aren’t The Muppet performer’s contract players? (or whatever term is used for it). The Walt Disney Company could have just not used Steve Whitmire or any of the other Muppeteer but anyone willing to buy The Muppets will have done their research and would realize, that the box of puppets they are buying are not Muppets without their performers.
What most angers me is that it is claimed Kermit has been portrayed as a “bitter, angry, depressed victim” throughout the years. All the big Muppet productions since Jim Henson’s death have not really provided Kermit with the opportunity to be otherwise. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) Kermit is sad that his son is dying, is bullied at work and can’t afford to feed his family. Muppet Treasure Island (1996) is the only time I think Kermit has not been forced to play a bitter, angry or depressed victim. Muppets From Space (1999) Kermit was just there, he wasn’t sad, he wasn’t happy, he was just there painting the boarding house. It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002) Kermit needs to be sad and depressed because in the script he has to wish he had never been born. Muppets Wizard Of Oz (2005) Kermit is forced to play a character with no brains, Kermit should have been Toto, in my opinion had the Muppets not appeared in the real world this would have worked. Muppets Letters To Santa (2008) Miss Piggy is angry at Kermit for not going on vacation with him, Gonzo is sad he can’t deliver Claire’s letter to Santa Clause and Kermit finds himself in the middle of this. The Muppets (2011) doesn’t really allow Kermit to be happy until the last few minutes and then Muppets Most Wanted (2014) needs to break down Kermit again in order for the film to work. Ironically in the last movie my favourite scenes had to do with Kermit putting on a show in the Gulag, it was only Kermit, no other Muppets supporting him. Then back in the theatre we had the whole cast but the fact that they were forced to pretend they didn’t recognize Constantine was not Kermit actually board me because they weren’t in character other than Animal and Walter in my opinion.
I have always been very respectful of The Jim Henson Company and I will be but if they feel they can inform the public how they view Steve Whitmire’s portrayal of Kermit, therefor discrediting him, I find myself forced to stand up for him. Steve Whitmire took the high road and did not address these accusations yet this is one of the reasons many fans have been able to accept this situation. Steve I congratulate you for not responding to these accusation otherwise you would have fallen into the trap, even though they started, had you responded negatively to them you would have also lost my support in the process, as you would have with many others I can only assume. For the past twenty-seven years I have found The Jim Henson Company to be lacking the imagination and brilliance that came before. Dinosaurs falls in the same category as The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock in my opinion and Turkey Hollow belongs next to Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal but other than that, nothing else has interested me, even though I’ve tried. Dr Phil Van Neuter having his bad language bleeped out of Muppets Tonight is not what I consider Muppet humour. The Jim Henson Company in my mind was always family entertainment and these days although they create programming for the whole family, they are not shows you can actually watch as a family. From Dinosaur Train to Puppet Up, where is the middle ground? What can be viewed as The Jim Henson Company Family Entertainment? For years I’ve excitedly been waiting for the announced Fraggle Rock movie, if this does happen in the future will Steve Whitmire perform Wembley? You might not agree on how he portrays Kermit the Frog but nobody can say Steve Whitmire does not perform Wembley as he should, nobody can say that because Steve Whitmire created Wembley. The World-Wide-Wemblers who grew up watching Fraggle Rock won’t support a movie without him. The Jim Henson Company might not like Steve Whitmire’s portrayal of Kermit the Frog, you could argue he’s difficult to work with but the bottom line is One Muppet, One Voice. I expect this to be difficult for The Walt Disney Company to comprehend but not The Jim Henson Company, by not having Steve Whitmire perform his Fraggle Rock characters you are breaking this rule yourself.
The Jim Henson Company should have never got involved in this but they did and even if they truly felt that way about Steve, why voice it the way they did? What gain did they have to put down Steve Whitmire either than showing their support for The Walt Disney Company? Why show your support for their decision in the first place? We must remember that The Muppets will always be part of The Jim Henson Company even if owned by The Walt Disney Company, what I mean by this is that The Muppets will always be associated to Jim Henson not that their opinion on the Puppeteers who work for The Walt Disney Company matters to me. Because of this The Jim Henson Company is in a way a puppet to The Walt Disney Company. If they hope to continue promoting Jim Henson’s legacy using The Muppets they must keep the owners happy because The Walt Disney Company could very well make things difficult for them.
How many times have we bought Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas hoping Kermit wasn't edited out? In my case every time. All these years do you think The Jim Henson Company did not try to attempt to get permission to use Kermit? Seeing as he was absent from all releases I come to the conclusion that for whatever reason it was not allowed. This time around the recently announced Emmet Otter 40th Anniversary Edition will include Kermit the Frog, his appearance is even promoted on the cover. A character that The Walt Disney Company own will be linked and help promote a production that has nothing to do with them. If I’m losing you think about Spider-Man in the Marvel movies. I'm not angry at The Jim Henson Company, I’m sad for them but also disappointed, they could have sided with The Walt Disney Company but there was no need to speak like that of the man who kept Kermit alive for 27 years for Fans, regardless of what you thought of him. You can keep the boss happy without tearing others down. I hope The Jim Henson Company realize that my intention in this article is not to attack them but rather to get people to realize how important Steve Whitmire is and sadly you caused a lot of damage which needs to be addressed in order to hopefully move forward from this for the better and not the worse.
At the end of the day The Walt Disney Company is a business, they bought The Muppets to make money and along the way help keep the legacy alive but if you're not making money then as a company what's the point of helping the legacy? I see the position their coming from, they want to make money, the best solution is just get good scripts, meaning people would have watched the new show, it would have got renewed, the Muppets would have become popular again, all that didn't happen because the scripts were bad, not because of Steve Whitmire's attitude. Miss Piggy for years I have considered her a strong female role model, many girls these days have Princess to admire but a sexy strong-minded powerful pig doesn't come that often. Having Miss Piggy talk about getting breast implants might give you a cheap laugh for a moment but in the process you have destroyed her history and that joke would have not mattered either way money wise had it been removed but would have saved Miss Piggy's image. If finding the perfect script isn't an option then what are they to do? The Muppets recently appeared in a fashion shoot, Sam the Eagle, The Swedish Chef and especially Animal did not belong there yet its money to be made, so it's done. If I were The Walt Disney Company and I bought The Muppets (a bunch of worldwide known puppets) I would want to have multiple Kermit's as it's the logical business thing to do.
This is where helping to keep Jim Henson's legacy alive vs making profit comes into play, be smart about it. Great Moments in American Muppet History is a great way to accomplish this, it truly feels like Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo and Sam the Eagle are actually there. There are puppeteers performing the characters using pre-recorded dialogue by the actual Muppet performers. Muppet Mobile Labs also resides somewhere through Disney World, these are animatronic version of Dr Bunsen and Beaker, very clever, again using dialog reordered by the actual performers. This is all very nice but I imagine what Disney World would prefer are actual Muppets interacting with guests and to do that you can't use pre- recorded dialog. As much as I hate to write this, perhaps they should find a way to have one Kermit available at various Disney parks but only the park. A compromise needs to be reached because The Muppets now belong to The Walt Disney Company and as much as I want to stand by the One Muppet, One Voice rule we can't anymore. Perhaps a select few can take on the responsibility of performing Kermit at Disney World but only at Disney World, remember this is just my opinion. They should use larger versions of the characters, like they did in the Disney World Parade a few years back. This way in a sense we still have one main Kermit and then a larger one or two at the Disney Parks. If a puppeteer spends ten years performing Kermit 2.0 at the Disney Theme Parks then when it was finally time for Steve to retire, few dedicated people would almost be ready.
Having multiple Kermits available on TV and through different locations ruins the magic, the exciting part is one day hoping to meet The Muppets (now you can make sure of it by simply visiting Disney World in the future). If they start appearing everywhere and are not consistent in performance it ruins the magic. I mean no disrespect to the performers of From The Balcony, they seem like talented puppeteers but as a fan, about ten years ago when I first watched it I immediately knew that wasn't Statler & Waldorf. I tried watching but couldn't, the puppets were on screen but I knew those weren't the Muppets, I eventually gave up when Dr Teeth appeared, I had to stop watching. I know The Walt Disney Company wants to make money but why at the expense of your lifelong dedicated Muppet Fans? I would have preferred if two new Muppets had been hosting, that I would have watched and enjoyed. Those who cared enough to stop watching would have cared enough to give new Muppets a chance, those who could care less would also care less whose hosting.
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. Background Muppets are always needed, so why not keep them consisted, allows you to slowly and carefully introduce new Muppets and everyone has their own specific character. 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 The Walt Disney Company 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.
Yolanda Rat comes to mind, she only really ever appeared properly in The Muppets Take Manhattan so until The Muppets (2015) even Fans hadn’t yet really met her. By the end of Season One I wouldn’t have minded Yolanda joined by Rizzo appearing on late night talk show, I actually think people would have welcomed it as opposed to another Kermit and Miss Piggy interview. My point being Yolanda Rat was basically a new character, who could have supported her own appearance, such as Walter. I remember when I was younger I never understood why it was Kermit usually alongside Gonzo and Rizzo accompanied by mostly new Muppets in new shows. The Jim Henson Hour introduced us to Clifford, Digit, Leon and lacked Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Scooter, Floyd etc... Then the same thing happened in Muppets Tonight, there was Kermit, Gonzo and Rizzo also usually accompanied by Dr Bunsen and Beaker attempting another show with a new group of Muppets. The same can probably be applied to Kermit on Sesame Street where he was joined by a different cast of characters including Big Bird, Oscar, Telly, Elmo etc... I never appreciated this as a child but now I respect it very much. Jim Henson respected his performers and if they were not there, their characters were not their either. Jim Henson used the characters already developed by those performers alongside him and hoped to help a new group of Muppeteers develop their own characters with the support of Kermit the Frog.
All in all the more time that passes, the more I realize Steve is not coming back, so much so that I gave away my tickets for the Hollywood Bowl. I'm not sure how important one fan is to The Walt Disney Company but without Steve's Kermit I can't continue being passionate about the Muppets. I might eventually watch something new they do, in the future, I’ll make sure to download it online if I do, but i'll never be passionate about them again and as much as I liked The Muppets it was my passion that kept me being a fan all these years, I miss that this is gone now. How is somebody that has been true to the spirit of Jim Henson, somebody who has taken his Muppet productions to heart, how am I supposed to stand by and let Kermit’s performer unwillingly be removed? I believe if at least a few fans don’t stand up for him (which they do) then the Muppets have truly failed. All these years of continuous effort is purely for our enjoyment and nostalgia of the characters because the true meaning of what The Muppets represent has been lost if we simply give up on Steve Whitmire. It's been over a month since we heard this news and I still feel the same, I wish the Muppets the best of luck, I truly hope they do well in the future but I won't be watching, not out of spite, sadly I just can't, maybe had I not been so passionate about them all these years it would be easier.
As for Steve Whitmire I wish him the best of luck with his future, without you there is no Muppets for me, I’d be doing the same thing for any of the performers who perform the characters I am so attached too. Many claim Steve Whitmire is hard and aggressive to work with, blackballed other performers, has a God like complex when it comes to Kermit, it is even claimed that he wanted more money, he gave to many notes and portrayed Kermit poorly. Frankly I’m glad Steve is dedicated to Kermit, I’m glad he offered notes and didn’t do anything that was asked of him for Kermit, he could have done it, got paid and be done with it but he was difficult because he cares about Kermit. If he asked for more money, then well done to him because I’m sure what he gets now is nowhere near what Kermit the Frog’s performer deserves. His God like complex to Kermit comes from protecting the character, blackballing others from being Kermit is to save the One Muppet, One Voice rule, Kermit belongs to him now, after twenty seven years nobody alive knows Kermit better than Steve Whitmire. Kermit portrayed as a bitter, angry, depressed victim is what those notes hoped to fix. In his blog Steve Whitmire at times has proven some of these accusation, one cannot challenge The Walt Disney Company and expect to receive a phone call accepting the challenge to employ him. I am not blinded by Steve Whitmire’s character but I understand where he’s coming from, a place of frustration out of loyalty.
Lastly I use to work at a place that crushed my spirits for seven years, near the end I was so stressed, so depressed, that I became uncomfortable to work with. How many reading this completely change moods when they get home after a stressful day at work? Steve was going to work stressed, if he were aggressive I imagine not being listened to regarding the character you’ve performed for twenty-seven years might make you a bit aggressive. Steve Whitmire is Kermit the Frog and unless he goes all out Charlie Sheen then he still deserves that responsibility. Many might not be vocal on his blogs but there are also few trolls, The Muppets haven’t lost yet because although we are not being vocal many are disappointed and many are following Steve Whitmire’s blog. On occasions I’ll find other blogs discussing everything being discussed on his blog or I’ll read somewhere somebody quoting on what is happening on his blog. This means that although not vocal, people still support Steve Whitmire and at the same time continue supporting The Muppets, I can’t. As silly as it might sound, I’ve been excited since last November to add Diamond Select Muppets Series 3 to my collection, it’s finally available and I can’t find that passion that justifies me spending that much amount on money on these figures. I’m not using this as an example of “a fan isn’t buying a set of action figures because Steve Whitmire got fired” I’m simply using this as the example that has made me realise my passion is gone. The fact that my birthday is on September 8th and I’ve given away my tickets also proves this to me. I’m embarrassed at how broken I am over this, I truly hope I’m not the only one who can’t accept it. Steve Whitmire is a man who devoted 39 years of his life to The Muppets only to find himself forced to walk away from all his characters, has no home at The Jim Henson Company and little support from the fans who he first inspired as children. As much as I enjoy The Muppets, I will not hate myself for it, I like to stick to my principles, if I continue watching The Muppets I feel as though I’m selling myself short and I don’t plan on doing that. The Walt Disney Company can ruin my childhood but I will not ruin myself along the way.
Jim Henson through Cantus told us that we all have a song and we should listen. Are you smiling now? Thinking I’m a little crazy or perhaps naive for connecting Jim Henson to his character? If so then you have no business working alongside The Muppets and if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to be there, I recommend you watch Fraggle Rock. The song we hear is in my opinion another way of saying listen to your feelings, what do you feel you should be doing to help this situation? I have the benefit that through MuppetsHenson I am able to reach out to a certain amount of people I otherwise would not be able too. I feel, I hear, that I should try everything possible to help solve this situation and at this moment this is the only way I know how. My true aim with this article if I’m being honest is to gain more support for Steve Whitmire from his Fans. We’re the only ones who can voice our opinions without repercussions although I’m probably not allowed at Disney World anymore, the Gorgs probably want to stump me and some Muppet Fans and Performers might not respect me anymore but so be it. I’ll just sing It’s A Small World in my living room, playing with my Fraggle Rock toys, whilst talking online to people who think Dr Bunsen and Beaker are lab equipment.
Steve Whitmire write your own ending, your Fans will keep believing and even pretending for you.
- Nicholas Napoli
|Thanks Matt L for this tribute picture to Steve Whitmire|