For the last 27 years, Steve Whitmire has performed as one of the most iconic characters in all of entertainment — even if the nature of the role means that he’s not the most recognizable entertainer around. Whitmire was responsible for the voice and movements of Kermit the Frog, but it’s now emerged that he’s no longer working with the Muppets.
The role of Kermit will go to Matt Vogel, himself a twenty-year veteran of the Jim Henson Company. Vogel will make his first official appearance as the frog in the next installment of the Muppets Thought of the Week web series, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Whitmire began his tenure with the Muppets in 1978, when he was brought in to work on The Muppet Show, and he would go on to contribute to a variety of the Jim Henson Company’s film and television projects. Henson himself originally portrayed Kermit, and when he passed away in 1990, his son Brian hand-picked Whitmire to be his successor.
Kermit was played by Whitmire in the well-loved The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, as well as more recently in 2011’s The Muppets and its sequel, Muppets Most Wanted. It’s perhaps worth noting that Vogel played the latter’s antagonist, Constantine — Kermit’s evil doppelganger.
There was some speculation that changes were being made ahead of today’s official announcement, according to a report from Muppets fan site Tough Pigs. His characters were noticeable by their absence in recent installments of Muppets Thought of the Week, and some fans could tell that he wasn’t the one to voice Statler in a recent advertisement.
After the Muppets’ recent return to the big screen was such a success, it seemed that the franchise might be set for a resurgence. However, the fact that the subsequent TV sitcom failed to make its mark dissipated much of that momentum.
However, the Muppets seem to be very well suited to the format of viral video, with their web series and pop-culture parodies frequently taking the web by storm. As Vogel’s tenure as Kermit gets underway, it seems likely that this kind of content will take up much of his time.