There was drama in the world of Muppets this week. Steve Whitmire, the puppeteer that Jim Henson himself personally trained and picked to succeed him in the role of Kermit the Frog, one of two original Muppet performers left, is no longer with the Muppets. Kermit has been recast to (as?) puppeteer Matt Vogel. Dramatic as it is but then a blog post reportedly by Steve Whitmire himself (as of now unconfirmed) puts out a statement that he did not leave willingly. The plot, as they say, thickens.
So the internet is ablaze with Muppet fans who want to know why Disney up and fired one of the original Muppeteers and recast Kermit seemingly out of the blue.
I have been tweeting my hot takes on this as the news broke but here’s what it all boils down to.
- I love Steve Whitmire. He is a really fantastic performer and I loved him in all his roles, particularly Kermit which was great in a way entirely different than Jim Henson’s was. (This would be a great time to share the picture I took with him when we met or the autograph I have that he signed to Hillary “de” Piano from Kermit “de” Frog but I just moved and I have no idea where those things are, sorry!)
- I love Matt Vogel. He’s talented, very open and giving with the fans and a big damn Muppet dork and I completely trust him with the legacy of Kermit and The Muppets in general. I have no doubt he will do an awesome job and I’m really happy that, if it had to be anyone but Steve, it’s him.
- I love The Muppets. I want them to flourish. I want to consume good media with them in it.
- Yes, we have no idea what really happened or if that blog post is really from Steve. But, knowing that Disney doesn’t have a great history with treating The Muppets right (both the property and the people), it’s not difficult to think ill of them here.
- At face value, it’s not cool that Jim Henson’s wishes are not being honored. He wanted Steve Whitmire to play Kermit and here the man is alive, able-bodied and willing and he’s been replaced. I do not love this.
- Kermit aside, I am sad that we will no longer get to enjoy all the other awesome characters Steve Whitmire plays. Like Rizzo! Everyone loves Rizzo!
- Doesn’t Matt Vogel now play 95% of the entire cast of Muppets? Not necessarily a bad thing as he is awesome but dude does only have two hands. Can we buy him a third one, maybe? Cyborg hand? Something?
- Why are they doing this now? Timing is super weird. There’s no new projects on the horizon, no new contracts they would have been signing. Why now?
However, on the plus side…
- Now Steve Whitmire is free to maybe go back to Sesame Street, be in that Dark Crystal thing Netflix is doing or be in Happytime Murders! That would be pretty sweet!
- Matt Vogel played the Kermit look-a-like Constantine in Muppets Most Wanted so I’m just going to have the headcanon from now on that Constantine successfully stole Kermit’s identity and took over his life.
If you would like more coherent thoughts on this, I turn you over to the fine people at ToughPigs who broke this story. I also point you to this great series of Open Letters to all involved which is a good emotional but realistic perspective.
Anyway, rather than rant and rail or get all weepy and contemplative about the end of an era, instead I would like to share with you a dumb and pointless anecdote tangentially related to this.
In college, I dated a guy named Steve. His middle name was Jim. Here was a man who carried the names of both of the men who had played Kermit. Surely, I thought, this is a sign that he is The One.
Reader, I married him. On the birthday of both Jim Henson and Steve Whitmire (accidentally, I swear!). And, when this news about the Kermit recast hit, after I had all the feels that normal Muppet fans were having, I realized that this moment was foretold. That Matt Vogel was always destined to take on the green mantle of the frog because, would you believe, what my husband’s confirmation name is?
*cue super spooky music*
Anyway, I just thought that was cool. Here’s my tweets on this subject as I was learning the news…