Kermit the Frog is finding a new voice.
Steve Whitmire, the puppeteer behind Jim Henson’s most famous Muppet, is parting ways with the character after almost thirty years. Diehard Muppets fans were shocked by Whitmire’s unexpected departure; Whitmire has been a Muppets mainstay since 1978. He took over Kermit the Frog — Henson’s most personal creation — after his death in 1990. In addition to Kermit, Whitmire also voiced the cantankerous film critic Statler, carrot-topped lab assistant Beaker, and created the foul-mouthed Rizzo the Rat.
Muppets fan website Tough Pigs originally reported the news, which was confirmed by a representative of Muppets Studios at Disney. The studio shared that Matt Vogel will be the next voice of Kermit the Frog. Vogel has been with the Muppets since 1996, previously taking over other beloved characters such as Floyd, Lew Zealand, and The Count. Vogel’s Kermit will first appear in a “Muppets Thought of the Week” video next week.
The Muppets Studio spokesperson declined to comment on the reasons for Whitmire’s departure.