Steve Whitmire

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Steve Whitmire
Steve Whitmire 2014.jpg
Whitmire at a White House screening of Muppets Most Wanted in 2014.
Born Steven Lawrence Whitmire
(1959-09-24) September 24, 1959 (age 57)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.[1]
Occupation Puppeteer
Years active 1978–present
Spouse(s) Melissa Whitmire (m. 1978)[2]

Steven Lawrence "Steve" Whitmire (born September 24, 1959) is an American puppeteer who has worked on The Muppets and Sesame Street. Beginning his involvement with the Muppets in 1978,[3] Whitmire inherited the roles of Kermit the Frog and Ernie, after Jim Henson's death in 1990; he performed the characters until 2016 and 2014, respectively.[4] As part of the Muppet cast, he has appeared in multiple feature films and television series, performing a variety of characters on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock and during such occupations has worked for the Jim Henson Company, Sesame Workshop, and the Muppets Studio.

Career[edit]

Whitmire first appeared (unpaid), as a pre-show event at Six Flags Over Georgia. He performed with his then alter-ego puppet Otis for the children waiting to see a multimedia show.

From there Whitmire appeared on local Atlanta TV with his puppet Otis. WATL was owned at that time by former Atlanta children's television host "Officer Don" Kennedy. Otis made appearances on various WATL 36 shows with Ludlow Porch, performing with the Georgia Bulldogs' Larry Munson, Don Kennedy, and Entertainment Page host Artie Goodman. As Otis, Whitmire interviewed Olivia Newton-John during a tour promoting an album.

He worked with puppets after graduating high school, and eventually got a job working on The Muppet Show in 1978. Since then, Whitmire has performed in almost every major Henson company project, including non-Muppet fare such as The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Dinosaurs.[5]

Characters performed[edit]

Whitmire was formerly the second performer of two signature MuppetsKermit the Frog and Ernie—after the death of their creator and original performer Jim Henson in 1990.[6] Whitmire was personally asked by Brian Henson and Jane Henson to be Kermit's performer a few weeks after Jim Henson's death.[7] Henson sent Whitmire a Kermit puppet to his residence; however, Whitmire hid the puppet away for weeks before deciding on taking on the role.[8] Following the death of Richard Hunt and the retirement of Jerry Nelson, Whitmire took over the roles of Beaker and Statler.[9] In 2014, Whitmire left the role of Ernie so he could continue focusing on Kermit and other projects by the Muppets Studio. Billy Barkhurst took over the role of Ernie.[10] The character is now currently performed by Peter Linz as of 2017.

Muppet characters original to Whitmire include Rizzo the Rat,[11][12] Lips (the trumpet player from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem), Foo-Foo (Miss Piggy's dog), Fraggle Rock's Wembley Fraggle and Sprocket the Dog, and Bean Bunny, a character that originated in The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986).

Whitmire voiced Link Hogthrob in the Muppet RaceMania and Muppet Party Cruise video games. He also performed Link for the 2011 film, The Muppets. This was the first speaking appearance of the character since the death of Jim Henson, the original performer of the character. Link appears in several scenes in the background and gets a moment in the spotlight as part of a barbershop quartet, singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit". He also performed him in Muppets Most Wanted. In 2008, Whitmire has also been the new performer of another of Jim Henson's roles, The Muppet Newsman.

Dismissal as Kermit[edit]

In July 2017, Disney announced that Whitmire was no longer involved with the Muppets and that fellow Muppet performer Matt Vogel was cast as Kermit's performer.[13] Whitmire revealed that he was dismissed from the role in October 2016 after a 39-year career as a Muppet performer, because of undisclosed issues that he said had not been discussed before his dismissal. In their decision-making, Disney consulted with the Henson family, who supported the recasting of Kermit and Whitmire's dismissal.[14] The Henson family stated that issues with Whitmire began in the mid-1990s, with Brian Henson stating that Whitmire made "outrageous demands", and said that he should have dismissed Whitmire and recast Kermit before Disney acquired the character in 2004, because "I knew that it was going to be a real problem".[7]

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter later that month, Whitmire elaborated he was dismissed for disagreements over Kermit's characterization and prolonged labor union negotiations that delayed his involvement in Muppet productions.[15] Whitmire alleged that Disney offered him "consolation prizes" if he voluntarily left, including honoring him as a Disney Legend, under the public pretense that he would be retiring from performing.[16] Following Whitmire's interview, The New York Times reported that Disney and the Muppets Studio had approached Whitmire multiple times regarding "unacceptable business conduct" and that Whitmire "consistently failed to address the feedback".[14] Whitmire has expressed an interest in continuing his role with the Muppets in the future if possible.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Whitmire has been married to his wife Melissa Whitmire since June 1978.[19] Together, they live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Film credits
Year Film Role Notes
1979 The Muppet Movie Assistant for "Rainbow Connection" sequence, additional characters Puppeteer
1981 The Great Muppet Caper Rizzo the Rat, Lips Puppeteer/voice
1982 The Dark Crystal skekTek the Scientist Puppeteer
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Rizzo the Rat, Gil the Frog, Dog, additional characters Puppeteer/voice
1985 Dreamchild The Caterpillar (puppetry only), Mock Turtle (puppetry only) Puppeteer
1986 Labyrinth The Four Guards (puppetry only), Firey 4 (puppetry only), Ambrosius (puppetry only) Puppeteer
1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, Lips, Sprocket, Beaker, Belinda Cratchit, additional characters Puppeteer/voice
1996 Muppet Treasure Island Rizzo the Rat, Kermit the Frog, Beaker, The Dodo, Walleye Pike, Jacques Roach, Inkspots, Rats Puppeteer/voice
1996 Elmo Saves Christmas Kermit the Frog Puppeteer/voice/actor
1998 Elmopalooza Ernie, Kermit the Frog Puppeteer/voice/actor
1999 Muppets from Space Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Bean Bunny, Cosmic Fish #1, Beach Hippie, Alien Gonzo Puppeteer/voice/actor
1999 The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland Ernie, Bad Humor Man, Football Stenchman, Sharon Groan, Stuckweed, Parrot Puppeteer/voice
1999 CinderElmo Ernie, Kermit the Frog, and Prince the Dog Puppeteer/voice
2002 Kermit's Swamp Years Kermit the Frog, Young Kermit, Chico, Jack Rabbit Puppeteer/voice
2002 It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler (puppetry only), Mr. Poodlepants, Bean Bunny Puppeteer/voice
2005 The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler Puppeteer/voice
2007 Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium Kermit the Frog Puppeteer/voice
2011 The Muppets Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler, Link Hogthrob, The Muppet Newsman, Lips Puppeteer/voice
2014 Muppets Most Wanted Kermit the Frog, Foo-Foo, Statler, Beaker, Lips, Rizzo the Rat, Link Hogthrob, The Muppet Newsman, Andy Pig Puppeteer/voice

Television[edit]

Television credits
Year(s) Film Role Notes
1978–1981 The Muppet Show Rizzo the Rat, Lips, Foo-Foo, Fletcher Bird (voice), additional characters Performer
1979 The Muppets Go Hollywood Additional characters, extra Performer/actor
1979 John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together Additional characters Performer
1982 The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show Rizzo the Rat, back-up singer, additional characters Performer/actor
1983–1987 Fraggle Rock Wembley Fraggle, Sprocket, Marlon Fraggle, Flange Doozer, Murray the Minstrel, Papa Tree Creature, Phil Fraggle (puppetry only), Crusty Doozer Performer
1983 Rocky Mountain Holiday Rizzo the Rat, Giant Man Eating Chicken Performer
1986 The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years Rizzo the Rat, additional characters Performer
1986 The Christmas Toy Mew Performer
1986 The Tale of the Bunny Picnic Bean Bunny Performer
1987 A Muppet Family Christmas Rizzo the Rat, Lips, Sprocket, Christmas Turkey, Wembley Fraggle, Performer
1987 Inner Tube Henry, Duke Performer, unaired pilot
1989 The Jim Henson Hour Bean Bunny, Flash, Jacques Roach, Waldo C. Graphic, Yellow Extreme, additional characters Performer
1990 The Muppets at Walt Disney World Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, Lips, Foo Foo, and Sprocket Performer
1993–2014 Sesame Street Ernie (1993–2014), Kermit the Frog (1996-2001; 2009) and Additional characters Performer/voice
1990 The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, Kermit the Frog Performer
1991–1994 Dinosaurs B.P. Richfield (puppetry), Robbie Sinclair (face), Chief Elder (face), Mr. Mason Dixon, Sonny Woody, Blarney, Judge H.T. Stone (puppetry) Performer/puppeteer
1992–? Muppet Meeting Films Flunky, Mr. Briteweight, Kermit the Frog Performer
1993 Sesame Street Stays Up Late! Ernie Performer
1994 Jim Henson's Animal Show Jake the Polar Bear, Wingo the Shoebill, Lawrence the Orangutan Performer
1994 Muppet Classic Theater Rizzo the Rat, Kermit the Frog Performer
1995 Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree Bear, Kermit the Frog, Owl Performer
1996–1998 Muppets Tonight Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Bean Bunny, Captain Pighead, Andy Pig, Mr. Poodlepants, additional characters Performer
2007–2008 Johnny and the Sprites Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Statler, Andy Pig, Jake the Polar Bear Performer
2008 Studio DC: Almost Live Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, Bean Bunny, Foo-Foo Performer
2008 A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler Performer
2011 WWE Raw Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Statler Puppeteer
2012 WWE Tribute to the Troops Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat Puppeteer
2013 Good Luck Charlie Kermit the Frog Puppeteer/Guest Star, Episode: "Duncan Dream House"
2013 Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler Performer
2015 Muppet Moments Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler, Sheep, Andy Pig, Foo-Foo, The Muppet Newsman Performer
2015–2016 The Muppets Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, Lips, The Muppet Newsman, Andy Pig Performer

Other appearances[edit]

Other credits
Year(s) Film Role Notes
1991-2017 Muppet*Vision 3D Waldo C. Graphic, Bean Bunny, Rizzo the Rat Performer, theme park film
2005–2006 Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony Statler (Ep. 1-8) Performer
2008–2009 Muppet YouTube Shorts Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, Rabbits, Pumpkins, Penguins, Turkey Performer
2010 The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Andy Pig, Foo-Foo, The Muppet Newsman Performer
2013–2014 Muppisodes[20] Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat, Statler Performer
2014 Disney Drive-On with The Muppets[21] Kermit the Frog Performer
2016–2017 The Muppets Present...Great Moments in American History Kermit the Frog Voice

References[edit]

  1. ^ Plume, Kenneth (July 19, 1999). "Muppet Central Articles - Interviews: Steve Whitmire". www.muppetcentral.com. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved July 22, 2017. 
  2. ^ Hennes, Joe (October 15, 2008). "My Week with Steve: Day 4". ToughPigs.com. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ Elber, Lynn (September 17, 2015). "'The Muppets' puts Kermit, Miss Piggy and pals under the mockumentary spotlight in TV return". U.S. News and World Report. Associated Press. Retrieved July 22, 2017. 
  4. ^ Lloyd, Robert (May 16, 2015). "If Harry Shearer leaves 'The Simpsons,' what will happen? Just ask Bugs Bunny". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  5. ^ Alter, Ethan (March 24, 2016). "What It Was Like to Star in ABC's Family Sitcom 'Dinosaurs". YahooTV. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2017. 
  6. ^ Cosores, Philip (September 10, 2015). "Read This: What’s it like to take Jim Henson’s place?". AV Club. Archived from the original on October 30, 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Parker, Ryan (July 18, 2017). "Jim Henson's Son Explains Why Kermit Actor Was Replaced". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 18, 2017. Retrieved July 18, 2017. 
  8. ^ Irwin, Jon (September 2015). "On the Other Hand". Longreads. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved September 22, 2015. 
  9. ^ Garlen, Jennifer (September 10, 2015). Kermit Culture: Critical Perspectives on Jim Henson's Muppets. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 220-221. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Season 46 Billy - Season 46". www.sesameworkshop.org. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Voice Of Rizzo the Rat". Behind The Voice Actors. Archived from the original on February 28, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  12. ^ Conradt, Stacy (January 1, 2009). "The Stories Behind 20 Muppet Favorites". Mental Floss. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  13. ^ Parker, Ryan (July 10, 2017). "Longtime Kermit the Frog Voice Actor Replaced After 27 Years". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved July 10, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b Dab, Sopan; Haigney, Sophie (July 17, 2017). "Kermit the Frog Performer and Disney Spar Over an Ugly ‘Muppet’ Firing". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 17, 2017. Retrieved July 17, 2017. 
  15. ^ Parker, Ryan (July 17, 2017). "Disney Says It Fired Kermit the Frog Actor Over "Unacceptable Business Conduct"". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 17, 2017. Retrieved July 17, 2017. 
  16. ^ Bacle, Ariana (July 20, 2017). "Kermit the Frog actor blames firing on 'being outspoken'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 20, 2017. 
  17. ^ Parker, Ryan (July 13, 2017). "Kermit the Frog Muppeteer Says Disney Fired Him". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 13, 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2017. 
  18. ^ Whitmire, Steve (July 13, 2017). "It’s Time To Get Things Started…". Muppet Pundit. Steve Whitmire. Archived from the original on July 13, 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2017. 
  19. ^ Hennes, Joe (October 15, 2008). "My Week with Steve: Day 4". ToughPigs.com. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  20. ^ Graser, Marc (December 6, 2013). "Watch: The Muppets Star in New Series of 'Muppisodes'". Variety. Archived from the original on December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2013. 
  21. ^ Graser, Marc (August 1, 2014). "Disney Launches The Muppets Digital Series". Variety. Archived from the original on August 3, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2014. 

External links[edit]


Preceded by
None
Performer of Lips
1980 - 2016
Succeeded by
Peter Linz
Preceded by
Jim Henson
Performer of Kermit the Frog
1990 – 2016
Succeeded by
Matt Vogel
Preceded by
Richard Hunt
Performer of Beaker
1992 – 2016
Succeeded by
David Rudman
Preceded by
Jim Henson
Performer of Ernie
1993 – 2014
Succeeded by
Billy Barkhurst
Preceded by
Jim Henson
Performer of Link Hogthrob
2000 – 2016
Succeeded by
Peter Linz
Preceded by
Jerry Nelson
Performer of Statler
2002 – 2016
Succeeded by
Peter Linz
Preceded by
Brian Henson
Performer of The Muppet Newsman
2008 – 2016
Succeeded by
Eric Jacobson
Preceded by
None
Performer of Rizzo the Rat
1980-2016
Succeeded by
Peter Linz

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