Starting next week, ardent Muppet fans may notice something a little different about Kermit the Frog. As Ryan Parker reports for The Hollywood Reporter, Steve Whitmire, who has voiced Kermie for the past 27 years, will not longer perform the role of the iconic amphibian.
On Thursday, Whitmire explained the move in a personal blog post, noting that he did not leave by choice. "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," he writes. "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 was informed of the decision October 2016, according to the blog post. "I have remained silent the last nine months in hopes that the Disney company might reverse their course," he writes. "I remain willing to do whatever is required to remedy their concerns because I feel my continued involvement with the characters is in the best interest of the Muppets."
But this isn’t the end for Kermie. According Joe Hennes of the Muppet fan site Tough Pigs, which was first to report the news of Whitmire’s split, veteran voice actor Matt Vogel will assume the role of the mild-mannered frog. Vogel has voiced a number of characters, among them Sergeant Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand and Count von Count. Hennes points out that Vogel “previously performed Kermit imitator Constantine in [the 2014 movie] Muppets Most Wanted”—a character that has spawned many a meme.
Vogel is scheduled to make his debut as Kermit next week, on the YouTube series “Muppet Thought of the Week.” While the Muppet has been left in good hands, fans are sad to see Whitmire go.
“[W]e’re still shocked by this news,” Hennes writes on Tough Pigs. “We are more than aware of the gravity attached to the end of Steve’s tenure.”
Whitmire first joined the Muppets family in 1978, and according to Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press, he has voiced a number of beloved characters: Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, the cantankerous heckler Statler. According to Jon Irwin of Kill Screen, Henson’s son, Brian, asked Whitmire to take on the role of Kermit in the wake of Henson’s death.
Henson had given life to Kermit in 1955, and performed the character until his death in 1990. When Whitmire took over for Henson, he sought to “make sure the character stayed the same and consistent, but didn’t become stale and just a copy,” the puppeteer explained in a 2010 interview.
Now the torch of Kermie has been passed again. Writing on Tough Pigs, Hennes said that the fan group is “intrigued to see how [Vogel] will continue Kermit’s legacy.” Miss Piggy, the toughest pig of all, has yet to comment on the change in her (former) amphibian amour.