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Kermit Drama Escalates! Steve Whitmire and the Hensons Verbally Duke it Out

Muppets gone wild! Some Disney executives are going to need to drink something a little stronger than tea after all the drama surrounding the firing of “Kermit the Frog.”

A few days ago we reported on the termination of Steve Whitmire, successor to Jim Henson as the voice of Kermit the Frog. Whitmire was let go after what Disney spokespeople called “unacceptable business conduct.”

According to sources, that conduct included tough contract negotiations and making liner notes to the executive producers of The Muppets. From Whitmire’s perspective, he was trying to keep the integrity of Henson’s Kermit intact. From Disney’s perspective, he was likely being difficult and biting the hand that fed him.

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Since the announcement, there have been a bevy of insults hurled from both Whitmire and the Henson family, including calling Whitmire’s Kermit a “bitter, angry, depressed victim.”

OUCH!

This culminated with an appearance on NBC’s Today Show this morning (not Disney-owned Good Morning America, obviously) with Whitmire striking back, saying he had no prior knowledge of his imminent termination.

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Entertainment Earth

He continued that he didn’t feel he crossed any lines by offering input to the producers of The Muppets as someone who portrayed Kermit for nearly as long as Jim Henson himself did.

Whitmire was quietly fired last fall, and Disney wanted to sweep the ugly incident under the rug by offering him a Disney Legend award and framing the incident as his retirement. Something similar happened with the elderly human cast of Sesame Street a few years ago, and apparently this is how its done in Muppet town.

Had The Muppets not been a failure, Whitmire would probably still have his job. Unlike the Jim Henson Company of old, the Muppets are part of a corporate organization now and one that will make changes where it feels it needs to in order to keep the machine chugging along.

But Disney proper usually isn’t as cold as the Muppet people seem to be.

I don’t think Whitmire’s portrayal of Kermit was why he came off as being “sad” an “depressed.” Kermit has been written as the sad straight man for years following Jim Henson’s death. In the 2011 The Muppets movie, he was still dealing with losing the gang and had to be talked into giving life another chance. In The Muppets TV series, he was still reeling from his breakup with Miss Piggy. Even years before that, in specials like It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Kermit was in the middle of deep depression. That was the script, not Whitmire.

Really, post-Henson Kermit is a sad, mopey guy but that’s not Whitmire’s fault. Blame the showrunners that turned Kermit into that unlikable frog, and keep the man who’s just been (begrudgingly)  following marching orders.

There are clearly much larger issues with the Muppets’ identity, and Disney needs to address those if the brand is to survive into the 21st century.

[Source: People]


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