Just a few days ago, Steve Whitmire—the veteran actor who has voiced Kermit the Frog for longer than any of Paste’s interns have been alive—was unceremoniously dumped by Disney. While some outlets immediately began the search for his replacement, Whitmire told THR in an interview today that he was fired for being too outspoken.
On the other hand, Disney claims that Whitmire exhibited “unacceptable business conduct” when asserting his vision for the Muppets:
The role of Kermit the Frog is an iconic one that is beloved by fans and we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of that character very seriously. We raised concerns about Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support.
Whitmire explains that he was just trying to guide the Muppets in a way that creator Jim Henson would have wanted:
The first issue was that they felt I had been ‘disrespectful’ in being outspoken on character issues with the small group of top creative people during the ABC series. I have been outspoken about what’s best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney , but the fact is I have respect for everyone who was involved in the creation of that series for their own particular contributions. At the same time, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets.
In contrast, THR cites a studio source as claiming that Whitmire was “overly hostile and unproductive,” and could sometimes slow down production with his “outspokenness.” Of course now all we can think of is an angry, irate Kermit the frog berating Disney execs and throwing chairs when he doesn’t get his way. Now that would be a Muppet movie for millennials.