When “Muppets”creator Jim Henson died in 1990, Steve Whitmire (Ernie, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker) took over as the voice of the beloved Kermit the Frog. Now, 27 years later, Kermie is getting a new voice. And Whitmire is heartbroken.
The job now belongs to Matt Vogel, a veteran puppeteer who’s been voicing characters since 1996, including Sergeant Floyd Pepper and, on occasion, Big Bird and Count von Count on “Sesame Street.”
In a heartfelt blog post, Whitmire says he was told last October that Kermit would be recast, but hasn’t released the reasons why, although he did say he offered “multiple remedies” to the reasons Muppet Studio execs gave for his firing.
“I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero,” Whitmire wrote, adding:
For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life.
This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.
Whitmire says he wishes the execs would have come to him sooner to discuss what was on their minds before they took “such a drastic action.”
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The Muppets Studio tells Time Magazine that they thank Steve “for his tremendous contributions to Kermit the Frog and The Muppets franchise. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
If you’ve got seven minutes to spare, Muppet Voices And More put together a compilation detailing how Kermit’s voice has changed over the years. You can see (and hear) that his personality didn’t really develop until the mid 70s.