The Silencing of Kermit the Frog

I love the Muppets

No, seriously I grew up watching them. Ever since I was a toddler, watching Sesame Street.  Though I developed a small fear of Big Bird, because someone decided to educate me that they weren’t real, and told me that “Inside Big Bird, is a person”.

To my four-year-old self who couldn’t see the rods, (because I wasn’t looking for them) to me that meant, “Big Bird ate that person”. Look I was four, what else was I meant to think!

From there it was Fraggle Rock, the Muppet films, The Dark Crystal. Which everyone let their children watch, because a film with puppets can’t be terrifying, can it?

I can’t be the only one out there who isn’t still freaked out by the Skeksis and of course I love Labyrinth, even after meeting Brian Froud, I had to tell him. “Sod the baby, I would be the Goblin Queen in a heartbeat”. He laughed because he gets told that a lot, I can even quote Labyrinth, if anyone cares.

Now I’m in my thirties, I know they’re not real, but they are an integral part of my childhood, and I love that each generation gets their “Muppet Moment”.

Be it Sesame Street or The Furchester Hotel, but let’s be honest here, Ryan Dillon is no Kevin Clash, and Elmo will never be the same again. For shame for shafting Kevin Clash, three years ago. I have to get that off my chest.

I see puppeteering as an art form, the same way a voice artist gives the soul to an animation. The puppeteer brings an inanimate object to life, they are the heart of the character, and I’m fascinated by the process.

Most of the Muppeteers start young, and I’m envious of that, to know what you want to be at such an early age. Since it’s a job that isn’t easy, but you’re joining a remarkable legacy which stretches back to Jim Henson.

So it’s a bit disturbing that Kermit the Frog, the mascot and leader of The Muppet’s has had his soul ripped out.

In 1992. Steve Whitmire had the hardest job for a Muppeteer, yes he had worked for the Henson Company for years. But now been asked to take on the iconic role in The Muppets Christmas Carol.

The retelling of the classic novella by Charles Dickens, with a more mature tone and a chance to prove the Muppets were still relevant. And they nailed it.

Even Michael Caine respected the absolute truth that the film was never about him, and he may have been the human lead, but he wasn’t the star. The same way that Tim Curry knew this in The Muppets Treasure Island, and was also having the time of his life in that film.

Steve Whitmire nailed Kermit the Frog, proving he could carry on Jim Henson’s legacy. I loved how his Kermit was slightly more jaded, more trying to be the peacekeeper and often the only sane voice in the room.

One of my favourite scenes in Muppets Most Wanted is when he goes berserk in the Gulag and tells everyone to shut up. I always knew he was repressing his anger.

In the chaotic world of the Muppets, Kermit had always been the only sane voice and had led to some heartbreaking scenes, it’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is It’s a Wonderful Life, but brilliantly done.

Character wise his relationship with Miss Piggy has always been a little bit strange. She’s pretentious and a drama queen, and makes everything about her, but is actually hiding a jaded heart and longs for love and stability.

However, she’s in love with a guy who keeps her at a distance emotionally, and won’t commit to her. Their relationship gets violent, due to her quick temper, but they still get back together. Miss Piggy even gave up her career to be with him, though that was her choice to do so…and he still won’t commit.

Then again Piggy is an emotional abuser who stalks Kermit when he has any type of female friend, tries to trick him into marriage, and when he finally gets out of that relationship tries to be happy.

He then hooks up with his co-worker Denise, so they all have to try to work civilly together, so Kermit has to deal with his passive aggressive ex and forge a relationship with Denise.

Kermit really is life’s left handed bitch sometimes, isn’t he?

But whatever you feel about Kermit, Steve Whitmire nailed each performance. But now for reason’s unknown, he’s been shafted from the careers he’s been working in since 1978.

Almost forty years, doing his reason for being put on this planet, according to this article.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40605783

““He (Whitmire) said the Muppets were not “just a job, or a career, or even a passion” but “a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life”.

He told fans: “I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point. I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero.””

No Steve, you never failed us. They failed you.

None of us is disappointed in Whitmire. We’re disappointed that Kermit’s second soul has been ripped out to be replaced by Matt Vogel.

I have nothing against Matt Vogel, he’s been with Sesame Street since 1987, he’s a veteran Muppeteer. I love Uncle Deadly, in The Muppets, and you have to admit it’s a bit twisted since he also performed Constantine in Muppets Most Wanted.

I am not doubting his abilities, but as a Muppet fan, I am disappointed at the circumstances that gave him the role of Kermit. Circumstances we don’t know about, and most likely never will know.

Whatever the reason, Steve Whitmire, is gone from the Muppets and from Disney and has been for several months. The reasons…speculation runs rife. But it’s possible he will never perform a Muppet character ever again.

But all I can say is thank you, Mr Whitmire, for continuing the legacy of Jim Henson, he chose his successor well. And Matt, Good luck, because the responsibility is on your shoulders.

Just good luck

 

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