Steve Whitmire thought he was giving good creative notes… but that’s none of his business anymore.
The longtime voice of Kermit the Frog opened up about being fired by Disney in an appearance on Today, responding to the claims that he had been “difficult” and “demanding” during his time on The Muppets.
The puppeteer, who provided the voice of Kermit for the past 27 years, was completely blindsided when he learned the company was terminating his contract over “unacceptable business conduct,” explaining:
“I was stunned. It seemed like it was five minutes of silence. I’m sure it wasn’t that long. I just immediately tried to get answers. I had no advance warning on that.”
The studio begs to differ. In a statement on Monday, The Muppets Studio claimed executives had “raised concerns” about Steve’s behavior “over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback.”
But the 58-year-old, who began working with The Muppets in the late ├óΓé¼╦£70s, still claims he was caught off guard, continuing:
“Nothing had ever been framed to me as a career breaking problem. In fact, we had been talking prior to that for two years about me becoming sort of a creative producer with them, working alongside the two executives who I spoke to where I would have been really a part of the day to day decision making on The Muppets.”
Those pulling the strings — aka The Henson Family — saw things differently. Jim Henson‘s son and daughter have both voiced their frustrations with Whitmire, saying he “blackballed” younger performers and would “send emails and letters attacking everyone.”
Whitmire did admit he has given executives a lot of feedback, but doesn’t think passion makes him the bad guy. He explained in his NBC interview:
“I offered notes. I don’t think that makes someone difficult. It was totally an idea of trying to do what was best for the Muppets in terms of receiving material and ideas and concepts that were well out of the bounds of the character.”
As for Lisa Henson‘s claims the puppeteer thinks he IS Kermit the frog, Whitmire responded:
“In my mind, my mentoring with Jim tells me that the minute the Muppets are reduced to being roles that are auditioned for and cast, it takes all of the individuality out of them. Their longevity is completely based on their consistency, and that is just super important, otherwise it’s not Kermit or any of the Muppets at all and that’s what I tried to push for and be outspoken about.”
Can’t say he didn’t give it his all! Watch Whitmire’s salty exit interview (below) to hear how Disney tried to silence him!
[Image via NBC.]