This young puppeteer was named Steve Whitmire, and this is his Saturday.
Main Characters...Kermit the Frog (1990-still)
Rizzo the Rat
Waldo C. Graphic
The Muppet Newsman (Disney Xtreme Digital)
Link Hogthrob (Muppet Party Cruise)
All About Steve
Steve often talks fondly of the first time he met Jim Henson and auditioned for the Muppets. This story can be seen and heard here in an interview (1:57 in) portion of The Muppet Show Live! from MuppetFest in 2001. Steve Whitmire eventually (of course) joined the Muppet team in 1978, and it's been an uphill ride for him ever since. According to Muppet Wiki, Steve's first day of shooting was March 24, 1978. He started out like all Muppeteers do, performing background characters and right hands for live-hand characters (such as Rowlf), Steve slowly began to work his way up the Muppet ladder (which, surprisingly, is not a talking ladder). Steve was soon performing and speaking in the forefront of the show. He would perform such one-note characters as Winky Pinkerton and Liberace's security guard.
Soon enough, Steve gained his own characters on the show. Including Miss Piggy's precious pooch Foo Foo, the Electric Mayhem's freelancing sixth member, Lips the trumpet player, and, most notably, Rizzo the Rat.
Before long, Rizzo became Steve's main character. He had a small part as a bell-hop at the Happiness Hotel in The Great Muppet Caper and a larger part as a waiter at Pete's Luncheonette in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Rizzo was quick to garner popularity after that, becoming a main character for The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets From Space, and beyond. Here, Rizzo began to play off Gonzo the Great and Steve's chemistry with fellow Muppeteer, Dave Goelz, shone bright.
After The Muppet Show ended, Steve was recruited by Jim Henson for the new kid's show Fraggle Rock. Steve was chosen, for the first time, as not just one, but two main characters; the eccentric Wembley Fraggle and the lovable dog Sprocket. It was here that Steve really came into his own as a performer. He became a beautiful, talented singer with songs like "We Are the Children of Tomorrow," "Free and High," and "Scare Them Boo!" He also came into his own as an amazingly talented puppeteer. Watching any of those clips shows how amazingly life-like Steve's puppet control is. How very much ALIVE he makes each and every one of his characters seem. If you still disagree, simply watch this clip of Sprocket and I know you'll be swayed.
In more recent productions, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa and Studio DC: Almost Live!, Steve and Kermit have been true (and sometimes the only) highlights. In Studio DC, Steve performed an unprecedented feat of puppetry magic with Kermit as he performed "Bop to the Top" from High School Musical with Ashley Tisdale. Many fans consider this the one bright spot of an otherwise mediocre special. Watching Kermit's flying flippers dance across the stage is incredible. Steve should be proud of his work here--and so should Muppet fans.
Steve hasn't performed as Kermit since his talk show appearances in December of 2008. Fans are clamoring to see him again soon.Why Do the Muppets Need Steve Whitmire?
Steve Whitmire is truly one of the most talented puppeteers of all-time. Watching Kermit and Rizzo in Muppet Treasure Island with the sound muted is astounding. The small, intricate moves Kermit does with his hands and his face are astounding. They aren't at all necessary, but Steve's adding them in makes the frog seem so much more alive. Rizzo, albeit not nearly as hysterical without the sound, shines here as well. His body movements are distinct and incredible. Even the varying degrees with which he opens his mouth are sensational--when he's trying to crack a bad joke, his mouth opens WIDE, all the way down to his neck. When he's timid and cowardly, it barely opens at all.
Why the Muppets do not need to replace Steve Whitmire as Kermit
As of late, some fans have been saying that Steve should be recast. That Steve should no longer perform Kermit. That is the most ridiculous, uncalled for, unbelievable proposal I have ever heard. You honestly mean to tell me that you think that Steve Whitmire, a man who has worked with the Muppets for over thirty years, a man who was thrust Kermit after his idol, his mentor, his friend Jim Henson died, a man who ressurrected the frog from the ashes and has continued to perform him to his highest degree for NINTEEN YEARS should be made to give up HIS CHARACTER?
Steve Whitmire is Kermit the Frog. You may not agree with every single stingle word that comes out of his mouth as Kermit, but like it or not, he is Kermit. He HAS BEEN Kermit for NINETEEN YEARS. He will continue to be Kermit until he CAN'T anymore. JIM HENSON knew Steve Whitmire. Jim saw Steve's talent and Jim (I think) had a hand in choosing Steve as Kermit. Frank Oz has said that, "Steve loved Jim and Jim loved Steve, taking on Kermit was not easy for Steve." Steve Whitmire has worked his tail off to be Kermit the Frog for the past NINETEEN YEARS and asking him to change that is unthinkable. The thought of bringing in an entirely new performer for Kermit the Frog after Steve Whitmire has performed him for NINETEEN YEARS is laughable, is inconcievable, is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.
After NINETEEN YEARS of Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog, there is no question that Steve Whitmire IS THIS CHARACTER. From the voice, to the mannerisms, to the head/hand shape--EVERYTHING ABOUT KERMIT IS STEVE WHITMIRE.
Steve Whitmire is Kermit the Frog. All others are just impersonators. Anyone who is not Steve Whitmire that slips on the puppet of Kermit the Frog is an impersonator.
Steve Whitmire is Kermit the Frog, and Muppet fans should fight for whatever they must to keep it that way.
Even More Steve
- Muppet Central Interview with Steve Whitmire
- Tough Pigs Interview with Steve Whitmire
- 2momluvme.com Inteview with Steve Whitmire
- Steve Whitmire Cameos
- SWAEHB Fan Club on Muppet Central Forum
- View Steve's work on the DVD's of...
- The Muppet Show: Season 3
- Fraggle Rock: Complete Series
- The Muppet Christmas Carol
- Muppet Treasure Island
- Muppets From Space
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
- Kermit's Swamp Years
- The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
- A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa