It was announced last week that Steve Whitmire had been let go from voicing Kermit the Frog, a move that happened in October of 2016. Whitmire has been voicing Kermit the Frog since 1990 after the family of the late Jim Henson approached him to take over the iconic character and he had worked with The Muppets since 1978, voicing Rizzo the Rat and Beaker throughout the years and was an integral part of the Henson team. Whitmire revealed recently that he had been fired in October because he spoke out about changes that were made to the character and now Disney is telling their side of the story.
Whitmire told The Hollywood Reporter that he had been given two reasons for his firing: unwanted notes during the Muppets reboot that briefly aired on ABC and a union dispute. But Disney is now offering their side of the story, claiming that the actor "exhibited unacceptable business conduct" towards his creative team at Disney. Reportedly a source close to the situation also said Whitmire was "overly hostile and unproductive" as well. A spokesman for The Muppets Studio released a statement addressing the situation. You can read that statement below.
"The role of Kermit the Frog is an iconic one that is beloved by fans and we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of that character very seriously. We raised concerns about Steve's repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support."
Whitmire explained that he had been outspoken about the character because he knows what's best for the Muppets since he had been there for so long. Whitmire explains.
"I have been outspoken about what's best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney (2004], but the fact is I have respect for everyone who was involved in the creation of that series for their own particular contributions. At the same time, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets."
Whitmire went on to give an example of the way that Kermit lied to his nephew Robin about the reason why he and Miss Piggy had broken up. Whitmire claims that Kermit would have been more sensitive to the matter and more compassionate towards Robin.
Responding to the second reason that he thinks that he was fired, Whitmire explains that he was caught in the middle of a contract dispute. He specifically takes aim at the accusations that he was "refusing to work on a particular project." He says this.
"I happened to get caught in the middle of a dispute on a contract classification between SAG-AFTRA and Disney Labor Relations, which occurred while I was in-flight to work on the project and the associated commercial. I did in fact shoot the commercial, but was unable to shoot the material for the project in order to comply with my obligations to the guild. Ironically, in that situation, my rep had negotiated a special deal with the guild so that we could do the work within the budget parameters for the project."
The source close to the situation also told THR that there were numerous "issues that went on for years," not just two specific reasons like the ones that Whitmire is pointing out.
Whitmire claims to be baffled by the whole situation and is still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. The voice actor is still claiming that Disney never gave him any warnings or ultimatums. He also says that had anything been said to him that he would have corrected these actions. Unfortunately at this time it appears to be two sides of the story with the truth probably somewhere in the middle. Matt Vogel will take over the voice for Kermit the Frog from here on out.