Earlier this year, the usually drama-free Muppets found themselves in the middle of a controversy when Steve Whitmore, the man who had voiced Kermit the Frog for the last 27 years, was unexpectedly fired. It was an ignominious end to a rather illustrious career of a puppeteer who, apparently, was not a joy to deal with in a business perspective. Matt Vogel, a longtime puppeteer veteran who has done voices for the Muppets and “Sesame Street”, was announced as Whitmore’s replacement as the voice of Kermit. The new frog’s been mum for a few weeks, but he recently spoke for the first time in a new “Muppet Thought of the Week” YouTube video.
Kermit’s voice is one of the most recognizable in the world. Whitmore started voicing Mr. T. Frog after Jim Henson’s tragic death in 1990 and was the only person to ever voice the character.So it goes without saying Vogel is under a lot of pressure to continue to flex his vocal cords. So how did he do?
Vogel’s Kermit seems more nasal-y, with less vocal cracks, while Whitmore’s had a high-pitched voice but also a smooth, reassuring tone. To put it simply, Whitmore’s Kermit sounds the most like a real person. This may seem like a win for Whitmore, but Kermit isn’t a real person. He’s a frog made of felt. And while Vogel’s voice might sound more cartoonish, it’s also closer to Henson’s original take while still having its own unique sound.
Henson gave Kermit a deeper, shakier voice than most kids today will recognize. Vogel’s take has the same original DNA has Henson’s but with its own wacky flair. Kermit has been delegated as the eternal straight man to the other Muppet’s wacky antics, but Vogel’s voice might mean Kermit returning to some of his stranger roots.
Whether or not firing Whitmore as the voice Kermit was a good idea is a matter of personal preference. But based on the 30-second video debut, Muppet fans can rest easy knowing that Vogel will do justice to the legacies of Henson, Whitmore, and Kermit. Now let’s get started on that new Muppet movie.