Fired voice of Kermit the Frog says he's 'devastated' - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Fired voice of Kermit the Frog says he's 'devastated'

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Kermit the Frog, left, and puppeteer Steve Whitmire attend "The Muppets" panel on day 3 of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 11, 2015, in San Diego. (Photo by Tonya Wise/Invision/AP) Kermit the Frog, left, and puppeteer Steve Whitmire attend "The Muppets" panel on day 3 of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 11, 2015, in San Diego. (Photo by Tonya Wise/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — It isn't easy being green. But no longer being green is apparently even harder.

The puppeteer who was fired after 27 years as Kermit the Frog said Thursday he is "devastated to have failed" Muppets founder and his mentor Jim Henson.

Steve Whitmire, who took over as Kermit after Henson's death in 1990, wrote in an emotional blogpost that he's leaving against his will, and would "never consider abandoning Kermit."

He says he was told in October that Kermit was being recast, and he kept silent as he has tried to address the issues that led to his firing, though neither he nor Muppets Studios have gave reasons for his departure.

The Hollywood Reporter and ABC News reported Wednesday that longtime Muppets performer Matt Vogel will take over as Kermit.

Representatives for Disney, which owns Muppets Studio, didn't return a request for comment Tuesday about the motivation behind the move. The Muppets have been putting out short weekly YouTube videos called "Thought of the Week " and Hennes said the new Kermit will likely debut there next week.

In addition to Kermit, Whitmire had voiced grumpy critic Statler, Rizzo the Rat, the always-startled Beaker and other characters for the Muppets.

"For a lot of adults, Steve's Kermit is the Kermit they grew up with," Hennes said. "Although we see the voice being changed again or the baton is being passed once again, for a lot of people this is kind of the first time in their lives they're aware of this happening to the character."

Children's TV shows have survived changes in key cast members before, most notably when Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash resigned from "Sesame Street" in 2012 amid allegations that he sexually abused underage boys. Elmo is now performed by Ryan Dillon.

Kermit made his debut in a 1955 television comedy called "Sam and Friends," which aired locally in Washington, D.C., but he looked more lizardlike back then. Kermit was fashioned from an old coat belonging to Henson's mother and was named after one of Henson's childhood friends.

Henson and his 2-foot-tall puppet joined "Sesame Street" in 1969. "The Muppet Show" followed in 1976 and ended its run in 1982.

Whitmire and Kermit were inseparable for years, with the two making TV appearances on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," ''30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live" and in films like "Muppets Most Wanted" and "The Muppets" in 2011.

But Hennes points out that when Whitmire took over from Henson, many believed that the new Kermit simply sounded wrong. After 27 years, most fans have reconciled.

Vogel took over voicing the Count when "Sesame Street" regular Jerry Nelson died in 2012 and soon took over many of Nelson's characters. Hennes called Vogel "one of the best puppeteers in the world."

"We're going to be getting a new voice for Kermit but what will be much more important will be that performance," he said. "For a lot of the fans, it will be a little jarring to hear a different performer's voice. But just like we did with Steve, we'll get used to it because it will be such a professional performance."

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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