MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer - NEW YORK (AP) - There's a frog in a lot of throats across the country as news has circulated that Kermit the Frog is getting a new voice.
ABC News and The Hollywood Reporter report that Steve Whitmire has left his role giving life to the iconic Muppet. Whitmire has voiced the character and made the character move since Muppets creator Jim Henson's death in 1990.
A Muppets Studio spokeswoman tells the outlets that longtime Muppets performer Matt Vogel will be taking over the role. Vogel has voiced such characters as Big Bird, Robin the Frog and The Count.
Representatives for Disney, which owns Muppets Studio, didn't immediately return a request for comment Tuesday about the motivation behind the move.
In addition to Kermit, Whitmire had voiced grumpy critic Statler, Rizzo the Rat, the always-startled Beaker and other characters for the Muppets.
Children's TV shows have survived changes in key cast members before, most notably when Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash resigned from "Sesame Street" in 2012 amid allegations he sexually abused underage boys. Elmo is now performed by Ryan Dillon.
Kermit made his debut in a 1955 television comedy called "Sam and Friends," which aired locally in Washington, D.C., but he looked more lizardlike back then. Kermit was fashioned from an old coat belonging to Henson's mother and was named after one of Henson's childhood friends.
Henson and his 2-foot-tall puppet joined "Sesame Street" in 1969. "The Muppet Show" followed in 1976 and ended its run in 1982.
Whitmire and Kermit were inseparable for years, with the two making TV appearances on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," ''30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live" and in films like "Muppets Most Wanted" and "The Muppets" in 2011.
Vogel took over voicing the Count when "Sesame Street" regular Jerry Nelson died in 2012 and soon took over many of Nelson's characters. Vogel told the fan site The Muppet Mindset that he found it most difficult to replicate the Robin voice. "The voice is so much like Jerry's that it makes it nearly impossible to get there. Sometimes the more 'character voice' it is, the easier it is to do," he explained.