The Evolution of Kermit

by Puppet Nerd

If you’re here for a froggy 101, prepare yourself. On one lilypad, Kermit has been a revolutionary cultural icon that’s sustained the art of puppeteering as a means of not only entertainment but also social cohesion over the past 6 decades. On the other lilypad, he’s a raucous, sharp-tongued froggy who knows how to hold it together under pressure!

And he’s been through a lot

As a frog in the limelight, Kermit has had to deal with the scrutiny of every aspect of his life, including his contentious relationship with Mrs. Piggy and how he manages to tame an entire street of uppity critters.

Over the years, his looks have changed

But still, from our childhoods, we maintain an image of Kermit playing his banjo in a swamp. There, he was arguably most at home. According to this fictional biography, the superstar hails from Leland, Mississippi, alongside approximately – get this – 2,353 siblings (maybe that’s why he can deal with the sesame street antics.) Born in 1955, he’s currently entering into his golden years as a 66-year-old veteran of the show-biz world.

And through it all, he has never lost his good heart, or his youthful looks for that matter, reassuring us that maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay as he trundles through multiple life changes and milestones.

So, we think he’s a little froggy that’s worth getting to know; let’s start with the …

The Tadpole Years

Kermit’s lived his first few years in identity limbo. And is it any wonder!? Jim Henson, his loving creator, gave him life using a turquoise-colored coat and two ping pong balls he borrowed from his mother (doubt she got those back.) Then, Henson was a college freshman attending the University of Maryland. He had just managed to piece together a vague lizard-like creature that would change the world of puppeteering as we know it.

And it all started with Henson landing his first tv gig and putting his froggy creation to good use. Washington DC’s local N.B.C. affiliate WRC-TV was impressed with Henson’s work and offered him a show of his own.

In this show and subsequent shows, our favorite frog was missing at the helm. He did, however, play secondary roles in both the “The Muppets Valentine’s Show” and “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.” Fortunately for the frog’s career, neither Wally of the Valentine’s Day special nor Nigel of ‘Sex and Violence’ worked out as hosts, so Kermit ended up with the gig.

But he was still somewhat abstract.

Abstraction to amphibian

It wasn’t until appearing on “Sam and Friends,” local Washington, D.C., television show, that Kermit really came into his own. Aired on May 9, 1955, it was Kermit’s big break. His own maker described him as “kind of easy-going, very likable…sometimes slightly a wise guy” or, as others put it: “Henson’s soft-spoken alter-ego.”

Still, while his personality was on show, he kept his species under wraps, not becoming a fully-fledged frog until at least 10 years later.

Kermit on the Ed Sullivan Show

It was during these B.S.T. (Before Sesame Street) years that Kermit’s image was finely honed. Starring on “The Ed Sullivan Show” from 1965 to 1968, Kermit appeared greener than before with a distinct red polo. In the meantime, Henson was busy laying the groundwork for what would become Sesame Street. In 1958, he established Muppets inc. (now called the Jim Henson Company.) And in 1969, after he was seen on the fledgling Sesame Street, Kermit was ready to steal the heart of a nation.

Growing into his own

Crucially, he acted as an engaging guide who eased viewers into the chaotic world of the Muppets. He was, for all intents and purposes – a mascot. During this era, his collar grew, and his eye focus was improved, perhaps in an attempt to endear him to viewers. Well, it worked!

Still, he subsequently made several television appearances before his status as a frog was established in the television special “Hey, Cinderella!” Later that same year. Some even claim that the legendary tv host Jimmy Carson was the first to our Kermit as a frog. But really, it was his triangular-pointed collar which was added at the time to give him a “more froggy appearance” that eventually gave the jig away for good.

As Jim said himself, “We frog-afied him over a couple of television specials we did years ago, before Sesame Street,” Jim later recalled. “So he just slowly became a frog. I don’t think there was a conscious move to do that.”

And so, with that, Kermit found his big break on the street. There, he would play politician, musician, interviewer, interviewee, and mediator. Kermit, a bit like Barbie, has been and done everything.

Fame – 70s

Asserting his powerful froghood, Kermit took over The Muppet Show as the level-headed but often exasperated host. Not satisfied with the small screen, he splashed onto the big screen heading the cast in several motion pictures, beginning with “The Muppet Movie” (1979). During this time, Kermit swapped cloth for fleece, evoking a sleeker, cleaner, and overall more professional look.

It was during this time he entered into his first entanglement with Miss Piggy that was to haunt (or enthrall) him for the rest of his days. Or as Wikipedia put it: (1976–2015; on-and-off since.)

One of his most notable works of this period was the song “Bein’ Green,” which most kids of the generation can still belt out a few lines of to this day. Some other Kermit tunes include “This Frog,” “On My Pond,” and “Caribbean Amphibian.”

“Hi-ho, Kermit the Frog here!” – the 80s to 90s.

Kermit never stayed the same.

As an ever-changing frog, it was clear to see in “A Muppet Family Christmas” (where he met the Fraggles) and from 1982-1990 that he’d undergone a sharpening nose before having his eyes repositioned heading into the early 00s.

And now?

In today’s modern world, it could be said that Kermit has “had a lot of work done.” The transformation into his diamond-like shape head coincided with Steven Whitmire being named as his new performer. Plus, his eyes became more angled as critics claim he lost some of his ‘spark’ during this era.

It appears production were keen to reclaim some of his out-there, rock n’s roll image when they decided to part ways with Whitmire, hiring Matt Vogel in his place on July 10, 2017, Telling of how times have changed, Vogel’s first official appearance as Kermit was in a “Muppet Thought of the Week” YouTube video. Now, instead of appearing on the small screen or big screen, Kermit and Co are enjoyed on all screen sizes!

Today, our fantastic frog has a rounder, fuller body with a delightfully large collar that speaks of confidence, satisfaction, and life well-lived! So, here’s to the iconic Kermit legacy and many years more!

And Check out the “DIStory” video by @DisneyDan on the Evolution of Kermit as well!

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