It was never easy being green. But after 27 years, it’s hard for Steve Whitmire to contemplate being any other color.
Whitmire, a longtime puppeteer who took over the as the voice of Kermit the Frog after the death of Jim Henson in 1990, posted on his personal blog Thursday night that he is “devastated to have failed” his mentor.
“For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion,” Whitmire wrote. “They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life.”
Whitmire, who first joined the Muppet Show back in 1978, says he was told back in October by Muppet Studios executives that they were going to replace him as the voice for of one of their most iconic creations. He says he attempted to offer “multiple remedies” to the issues raised by the Disney-owned company, but he was unsuccessful in changing their minds.
“I have remained silent the last nine months in hopes that the Disney company might reverse their course,” Whitmire wrote. “Given the opportunity I remain willing to do whatever is required to remedy their concerns because I feel my continued involvement with the characters is in the best interest of the Muppets.”
In addition to Kermit, Whitmire has performed as Ernie and dozens of other iconic characters, and says he’s experienced “every possible emotion” since finding out he would no longer be part of the Muppets.
“I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero,” Whitmire wrote. “I just want you all to know that I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point throughout our journey, and to let everyone know that I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero.”
Whitmire’s blog post was flooded with comments before crashing due to a high amount of traffic.
“Steve — I remember thinking Kermit should be retired after Jim’s death,” one longtime fan wrote. “I just wanted to say thank you for proving me wrong. Your Kermit was a stalwart comfort for me over the years.”
“Kermit is and has remained an icon from Jim’s hand to yours,” another fan wrote. “When you started performing Kermit there was a sense of relief, he lives on and with that green fabric we always had a reminder of Jim. This feels different, it feels yucky.”
It’s unclear what issues caused executives at Muppet Studios to force Whitmire out. In a statement, Muppet Studios said that it “thanks Steve for his tremendous contributions to Kermit the Frog and the Muppets franchise. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Matt Vogel, who has been voicing Muppets characters since 1996, will be taking over the role of Kermit starting next week in a Muppets Thought of the Week video.