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In the fall of 2005, the Muppets Holding Company held open auditions for puppeteers, casting alternate performers to puppeteer and voice the main Muppet characters. Earlier in 2005 Miss Piggy appeared at New York Fashion Week; however as Eric Jacobson was unable to attend the event, Kevin Clash puppeteered Miss Piggy but did not speak for her in order to preserve the character's consistency.
In October, regular Muppeteers Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire were replaced on the Movies.com webseries "Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony," with alternate puppeteers taking over the roles of Statler and Waldorf. Victor Yerrid and Drew Massey performed Statler and Waldorf; along with picking up the characters of Dr. Teeth, Animal, Sam the Eagle, and Sweetums.
Muppets Ahoy!, a live shipboard stage show, debuted on the Disney Cruise Line in 2006 and featured alternate puppeteers performers for the main Muppet characters, including John Kennedy, Victor Yerrid, Drew Massey, and Brett O'Quinn as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Statler and Waldorf, Robin the Frog, and Sweetums.
In September 2009, Kermit the Frog was performed by Artie Esposito for appearances on America's Got Talent, the MTV Video Music Awards and the second day of the D23 Expo singing "The Rainbow Connection." Steve Whitmire commented on the alternate recasting in an interview on The MuppetCast, stating "from a mass-production standpoint, that's exactly what you'd do. From a character standpoint, if you want to integrate that and have both working, you’ve got to be real careful."
Fearing that the core Muppeteers would be replaced by a team of alternates, a group of Muppet fans started a fan campaign, Save the Muppets. The campaign was organized by Kynan Barker and launched August 2005. The Save the Muppets campaign used the slogan "one Muppet, one voice" in its opposition to the idea of multiple performers for the characters. Aside from bring awareness to the issue, the campaign organized letter-writing efforts and gathered signatures on an online petition in hopes of reversing Disney's plans to cast alternate performers. Over 3,600 signatures were collected on the petition.
The campaign ran from 2005 to 2007. In 2008 the campaign website closed.
"One performer, one Muppet," Carol-Lynn Parente, who has been with the show since the 1960s [sic], says proudly. "Performers bring the characters to life, and they must be respected." ”
In a 2006 interview at the TV Land Awards, Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson spoke in detail about the importance of an individual to the performance of a Muppet character.
- Steve Whitmire: I'm Steve Whitmire, I'm the performer who does Kermit the Frog.
- Eric Jacobson: Yeah, and I'm Eric Jacobson, and I perform Miss Piggy.
- Steve Whitmire: Each character is performed by a particular person. Jim Henson performed Kermit for thirty-five years before he passed away in 1990. I've been consistently the only Kermit since that time, and Eric --
- Eric Jacobson: Yeah, and with Frank Oz's characters, I've been performing them since he's gone off to directing movies and such.
- Steve Whitmire: If you play my voice next to Jim's voice, they're not the same. They're very close, and the attitude is very close. And because I had the experience of working with Jim very closely, and knowing him, I think I gained some insight into where this character came from, from within Jim. So the number one goal in trying to continue a character like Kermit was making sure the character was the same and consistent, but didn't become stale and just a copy. We wanted him to continue to be able to grow a bit, but also have this foundation of where Jim started...We've always been dubbed the 'Muppet performers,' and it involves acting and it involves the puppetry, and all those skills combined.
- Eric Jacobson: It's not like animation where the voice is something separate from the animators who animate the character... I grew up watching the Muppets and was a rabid fan myself, and to carry on this legacy is really important to us.
Whitmire spoke about the importance of individual performers for the characters in an interview with The MuppetCast, stating that "it's not just the voice – you could probably find a voice artist who could do a believable Gonzo, or Piggy, or Kermit, or whatever – it's the character." In his indepth discussion on the importance of character identity and having a linear line of performers, Whitmire went on to say:
In a 2008 interview with the fan site ToughPigs.com, Steve Whitmire explained that the situation resolved itself, stating:
Whitmire also reiterated that Disney's desire of using multiple performers for the Muppet characters was a thing of the past in a 2010 interview with fan site The MuppetCast. When asked about the recasting of Kermit on America's Got Talent, Whitmire stated:
In 2011, Dave Goelz explained the importance of one performer per Muppet when questioned about why only one person performs each individual character;
A 2014 article in Variety leading up to the release of Muppets Most Wanted connects to the current position of Muppets making appearances with their performer to the method in which it was established:
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 The MuppetCast with Steve Swanson. Show 147.
- ↑ ToughPigs.com My Week with Steve: Day 1
- ↑ Disney twenty-three, Winter 2011 issue, page 51
- ↑ "How Kermit the Frog and the Muppets Got Their Mojo Back" Variety by Ramin Setoodeh, March 11, 2014
- Save the Muppets (via archive.org)
- The Petition Site - online petition
- The Courier-Mail - "Me no eat cookies"
- "Just One Kermit" ToughPigs.com editorial on the issue