Steve Whitmire has been the voice, and the heart, of Kermit the Frog since the untimely passing of Jim Henson in 1990. As a guest of the puppetry track at this year’s DragonCon, he appeared on panels and answered questions about Kermit and the new upcoming series “The Muppets,” premiering tomorrow on ABC.
The number one question on everyone’s minds was about the recent (and heavily publicized) breakup between Kermit and Miss Piggy. “It’s amazing to me how it’s exploded on the internet . . . I don’t think we expected that at all. We’d been talking about the idea of Kermit and Piggy having a breakup of some kind for probably 25 years . . . the conceit of the [new] show is that they’ve broken up but they have to work together.”
In “The Muppets,” a documentary crew follows the characters around as they film Miss Piggy’s late night show. The atmosphere is tense, however, since Miss Piggy’s ex Kermit is the executive producer. Especially because he’s “now seeing Denise, a younger pig. He has a thing for pigs.”
“He hasn’t switched species . . . he’s just switched pigs.”
Statler and Waldorf will also appear, but they are no longer in their box in the balcony; they’ll be in the audience watching Miss Piggy’s show. Fozzie is the warm-up comedian, and fans can expect the usual heckling and jokes from them.
With viral videos and constant social media updates, the ABC marketing machine is showing its support of the upcoming series. “Muppets Tonight!” an attempt in the late 1990’s to revive the Muppets, suffered due to decision making on where it should be placed in the schedule, and people lost track of it.
On whether or not there will be more Muppet movies, Whitmire replied that it’s always possible, but current plans are focused on the television show and more internet videos. The videos have kept the Muppets alive for fans in between movies
And his thoughts on J.J. Abrams taking the next “Star Wars” film back to puppetry and practical effects? “I have nothing against CGI . . . but to me the limitations, at least in the Muppets’ case of what they can’t do just challenges us to try to get more out of them. When it comes to a character like Yoda, I would rather . . . see him back in the puppet version, even though he’s limited and more crude and can’t do the flipping around karate scene. There’s something about the spontaneity for a live actor to play off of something that’s right there than to be playing off a green sock that will be put in later.”
And a variety of live actors will be appearing with the Muppets in episodes of the new series: Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Kerry Washington, Nathan Fillion . . . with more to be announced. So it’s time to play the music and light the lights because the Muppets are returning to television!