If the next time you hear Kermit the Frog he sounds a little different, you're not imaging things: long-time puppeteer Steve Whitmire, whose been working with The Muppets since the The Muppet Show in the late '70's, is reportedly no longer working with Muppets Studio. Muppet fan site Tough Pigs reached out to the company for a comment after readers brought it to the site's attention that Whitmire and his characters were being featured less and less both on television and online; and received the following response:
"Steve Whitmire is no longer working with the Muppets. Matt Vogel will be the new performer for Kermit the Frog. We will be seeing Matt's first footage as Kermit in a 'Muppets Thought of the Week' video next week."
No reason was given by either Whitmire, Muppets Studio or Disney regarding Whitmire's depature. Bleeding Cool reached-out to Kermit through his publicist for a statement, but the one-time host of The Muppet Show and ex-paramour of actress Miss Piggy issued a "no comment" response to our requests for additional information.
The news comes as a major surprise to fans considering how long and closely Whitmire was associated with The Muppets, even taking over as the voice of Kermit and Ernie on Sesame Street following Jim Henson's death in 1990. Whitmire also served as the voice of Rizzo the Rat, Statler, and Beaker; and was the voice you heard in beloved movies such as The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppets From Space and The Muppets.
The voice of Kermit and other characters will now be handled by Matt Vogel, who's worked with the Jim Henson Company and Muppets Studio since the '90's. A puppeteer, director and singer, Vogel actually worked directly with Whitmire during their time together on Sesame Street. In 2008 and after Jerry Nelson's personal recommendation, he took over Nelson's characters Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Robin the Frog, and Camilla the Chicken after Nelson suffered growing health issues. Vogel would also take over Sesame Street character Count von Count, but Nelson would still voice The Count until his passing in August 2012.
If you're looking for a little something to remind you of the simpler days of Jim Henson's creations, I present to you the greatest Muppet project ever: