Kermit the Frog Canned: Disney, the Hensons, and More

America’s favorite green friend got fired!

Kermit the Frog’s puppeteer, Steve Whitmire, was let go last week for “unacceptable business conduct” according to The Muppets Studio. Kermit is Jim Henson’s most popular creation, dating back to 1911. As the host of The Muppets Show, a character on Sesame Street, and a frequent presence on commercials and memes, Kermit the Frog is an entertainment icon. Many adults today remember him as the star of their childhood, and many children today still view him as such.

So, what does “unacceptable business conduct” mean exactly? Well, according to Gina Carey at newser, an insider told THR the following: Whitmire was “overly hostile and unproductive.” Additionally, his negotiation tactics delayed production (newser).

Disney stated that the decision “was a difficult one” but one made with the “full support” of the Henson family. By the way, Disney purchased The Muppets from the Henson family back in 2004, so the Hensons didn’t have an official say in the matter. Nevertheless, it was a smart decision to get the Hensons’ support. It’s hard to tell whether they did so out of feelings of obligation- the Hensons hired Whitmire in the first place- or simply to save face in front of the media.

Cheryl Lee Henson is the daughter of Jim Henson.


A member of the board of directors for The Jim Henson Company, she holds a powerful say on all Muppets’ matters.

Unlike the other members of Disney, Cheryl was far from restrained when voicing her disapproval of Steve’s performances. She said that Whitmire made Kermit a “bitter, angry, depressed, victim. Worst of all, in the past few years he had not been funny or fun.”

geekdad.comJim Henson’s son, Brian Henson, says the problem was not with Whitmire’s acting.

According to Libby Hill, he described Whitmire’s Kermit as “sometimes excellent, and always pretty good” (Los Angeles Times). The real problem, according to Brian, was off- screen. Henson stated, “He’d send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director.”

What does Whitmire say about the firing?

For one, he’s peeved that Disney fired him over the phone. This is understandable. He voiced Kermit for 27 years. Disney ought to have the courtesy to meet with him in person for such life changing, emotional news. Whitmire agrees that he’s outspoken about matters concerning The Muppets, but he adds that he respects everyone in the franchise. Additionally, he states that he has “insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets.”

Whitmire is hopeful for the future of Kermit.

He says Matt Vogel, the new Kermit, is “very talented” (newser). Gina Carey quotes Whitmire: “The performers are my brothers, my family of choice. That includes Matt, and the hardest part of this is knowing we probably will never work together again” (newser).

Sometimes our greatest strengths are also our undoing.

Whitmire sounds like someone who is passionate about his work. That passion made him successful, but it sounds like it led him to make some poor decisions in both his actions and words. Disney’s decision seems to be an inevitable one. From my research, it sounds like the issues with Whitmire go back a long time, and they progressively built up. Executives at Disney say they warned him several times about his conduct, but he “consistently failed to address” it (newser). I only wonder what the final straw was.

Matt Vogel is a veteran puppeteer himself. He started working with The Muppets in 1990. Hopefully, with his experience and talent, he’ll help the legacy of the little green frog survive.

Check out Kermit on The Tonight Show:

Check out Kermit and Ed Sheeran here:

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