Last week Kermit puppeteer Steve Whitmire, who voiced the famous character for 27 years, announced he was fired by Disney because of disputes over changes being made to the Muppets characters. In response, the Muppets Studio claimed on Monday that Whitmire was let go because of “unacceptable business conduct,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
A source close to the Muppets Studio shared that Whitmire had communicated in “overly hostile and unproductive” ways that delayed some production and led to Disney letting him go.
Whitmire took over as Kermit in 1990 when Muppets founder Jim Henson died. He had been with the Muppets since 1978. “I have been outspoken about what’s best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney , but the fact is I have respect for everyone who was involved in the creation of that series for their own particular contributions,” Whitmire told the Hollywood Reporter. “At the same time, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets.”
Whitmire claimed another reason he was let go was because of a union dispute. “I am still trying to make sense of how those two issues were egregious enough to justify ending a 39-year career without at least giving me an ultimatum,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.
Last week Whitmire wrote in a personal blog post that he was “devastated to have failed” Henson.
“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,” Whitmire wrote. “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.”
Whitmire is being replaced by Matt Vogel. He will make his debut as Kermit in a “Muppets Thought of the Week” video set to air this week.