One Froggy Evening
One Froggy Evening is a 1955 American Technicolor animated musical short film written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones, with musical direction by Milt Franklyn. The short, partly inspired by a 1944 Cary Grant film entitled Once Upon a Time involving a dancing caterpillar in a small box, marks the debut of Michigan J. Frog. This popular short contained a wide variety of musical entertainment, with songs ranging from "Hello! Ma Baby" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry", two Tin Pan Alley classics, to "Largo al Factotum", Figaro's aria from the opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The short was released on December 31 (New Year's Eve), 1955 as part of Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies series of cartoons.
|One Froggy Evening|
|Directed by||Charles M. Jones|
|Produced by||Edward Selzer (uncredited)|
|Story by||Michael Maltese|
|Starring||William "Bill" Roberts|
(Michigan J. Frog - uncredited)
|Music by||Milt Franklyn|
|Edited by||Treg Brown (uncredited)|
|Layouts by||Robert Gribbroek|
|Backgrounds by||Philip DeGuard|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, in the PBS Chuck Jones biographical documentary Extremes & Inbetweens: A Life in Animation, called One Froggy Evening "the Citizen Kane of animated shorts". In 1994, it was voted No. 5 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. In 2003, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
The film is included in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2 DVD box set (Disc 4), along with an audio commentary, optional music-only audio track (only the instrumental, not the vocal), and a making-of documentary, It Hopped One Night: A Look at "One Froggy Evening". It was also attached to the theatrical release of Little Giants in 1994 and was subsequently featured on that film's VHS release.
A mid-1950s construction worker involved in the demolition of the "J. C. Wilber Building" pries off the top of the cornerstone and finds a metal box within. The unnamed man opens the box and finds, along with a commemorative document dated April 16, 1892, a live frog inside which can sing and dance, complete with top hat and cane. After the frog suddenly performs a musical number there on the spot, the man sees an opportunity to cash in on the frog's anthropomorphic talents and sneaks away from the demolition site with the frog and the box under his arm.
Every attempt the man makes to exploit the frog fails due to the audience revelation that the frog will perform only for its owner and nobody else. Worse, when any other individual becomes present, the frog immediately stops and devolves into an ordinary croaking frog. Remaining unaware of this reality, the man first takes the frog to a talent agent. When that fails, he uses all of his life savings to rent an abandoned theater to showcase the frog on his own (he is only able to get an audience with the promise of "Free Beer"). The frog performs atop a high wire behind the closed curtain, but as the curtain begins rising, he winds down the song and, by the time he is fully revealed to the crowd, he has again reverted to being an ordinary frog.
As a result of these failures, the man is now homeless and living on a park bench, where the frog still performs only for him. A policeman overhears the singing and approaches the man, who points to the frog as the singer. But when the frog again presents itself as ordinary, the policeman arrests the man for disturbing the peace; he is committed to a psychiatric hospital along with the frog who continues serenading the hapless patient. Following his release, the now haggard and destitute man is fed up with the frog's constant performance, still carrying the box with the frog inside, notices the construction site where he originally found the box and happily dumps it into the new cornerstone for the future "Tregoweth Brown Building" before running away, overjoyed to be finally getting rid of what has become his burden.
The cartoon's timeline then jumps to nearly a century later. The Brown Building is itself being demolished using futuristic tools, and the box with the frog is discovered again by a 21st-century demolition man who, after also envisioning a cash bonanza, absconds with the frog.
The cartoon has no spoken dialogue or vocals except by the frog. The frog had no name when the cartoon was made, but Chuck Jones later named him Michigan J. Frog after the song "The Michigan Rag", which was written for the cartoon. Jones and his animators studied real-life frogs to achieve the successful transition from an ordinary frog to a high-stepping entertainer. The character became the mascot of The WB television network in the 1990s. In a clip shown in the DVD specials for the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Jones states that he started calling the character "Michigan Frog" in the 1970s. During an interview with writer Jay Cocks, Jones decided to adopt "J" as the Frog's middle initial, after the interviewer's name.
In 1995, Chuck Jones reprised Michigan J. Frog in a cartoon titled Another Froggy Evening, with Jeff McCarthy providing the frog's voice. In Another Froggy Evening, Michigan is implied to be immortal, with men from the Stone Age (during the erection of Stonehenge), Roman Empire, and colonial-era America all determined to profit off the singing frog (still reliant upon the same early 20th-century tunes) but failing. Finally, just as Michigan is about to be eaten by the only man not interested in his singing (a starving man deserted on an island), he is abducted by Marvin the Martian, who understands the frog's language and ends up singing a duet with him as the cartoon ends.
The premise of One Froggy Evening has some similarity to that of the 1944 Columbia Pictures film Once Upon a Time starring Cary Grant in which a dancing caterpillar is kept in a shoebox. It was common for Warner Bros. to parody scenes from well-known live action films for its Merrie Melodies productions. Once Upon a Time, in turn, was based on "My Client Curley", a 1940 radio play adapted by Norman Corwin from a magazine story by Lucille Fletcher. Ol' Rip, a horned toad "discovered" in an 1897 time capsule inside the cornerstone of the Eastland County, Texas courthouse in 1928, is also said to have inspired the premise.
Some of the Frog's physical movements are evocative of ragtime-era greats such as Bert Williams, who was known for sporting a top hat and cane, and performing the type of flamboyant, high-kick cakewalk dance steps demonstrated by the Frog in Hello! Ma Baby. Williams was also a prominent figure in The Frogs club.
The cartoon also had a sequel in an episode of the Warner Bros. series Tiny Toon Adventures, with the Frog falling into Hamton J. Pig's possession. Another cameo of Michigan J. Frog was in an episode of Animaniacs when a scene from Macbeth is recreated. Michigan J. Frog, wearing his top hat, is placed into a boiling cauldron along with other cartoon characters.
About half of the songs performed by the frog were written after he was presumably sealed into the cornerstone, dated 1892.
- Words and Music by Ida Emerson and Joseph E. Howard (1899)
- "The Michigan Rag"
- "Come Back to Éireann"
- Words and Music by Claribel (pseudonym of Charlotte Alington Barnard) (1866)
- Words and Music by John W. Kelly (1890)
- "The Michigan Rag" reprise
- "Won't You Come Over To My House"
- "Hello! Ma Baby" reprise
- One Froggy Evening was referenced in Mel Brooks' 1987 film Spaceballs. In the scene John Hurt plays a man who collapses as a small alien bursts from his stomach, similar to the chestburster scene Hurt performed in the 1979 movie Alien. Hurt bemoans "Oh, no! Not again!" before dying. The alien hisses menacingly, but then dons a boater hat with cane and sings "Hello! Ma Baby" as it dances across a counter and out a window (using the soundtrack from the animated short). After seeing this, Lone Starr & Barf leave without eating.
- Michigan J. Frog was later reincarnated as the mascot of The WB Television Network from its outset in 1995 until its merger with UPN in 2006 to become The CW. The last image seen on the WB was a profile of Michigan J. Frog when the network signed off.
- He appears in at least one other episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, encouraging a young turtle to cross a busy highway like he can. In another episode, a character who looks extremely similar to the construction worker is shown living in a car with his wife and son.
- In the American Dad! episode "A Jones For a Smith", after Steve falls in love with a girl who's attracted to nerds, Steve makes the dissected frog in his science class dance like Michigan and sings "Hello My Baby" in order to impress her.
- In another reference to One Froggy Evening, the South Park episode "Cancelled" (2003) featured the likeness of Saddam Hussein briefly singing and dancing to "Hello! Ma Baby", sporting a top hat.
- In Son of the Mask, the cartoon served as a part of Alvey's plan to drive his father crazy.
- The frog appears on the cover of Leon Redbone's album On the Track.
- A baked good dances and dresses like Michigan J. Frog in the Disney Channel series Phineas and Ferb episode "Backyard Hodge Podge".
- A Murloc Pet in World of Warcraft also dons a top hat and cane and dances like Michigan J. Frog. Dancin' Deryl in the Hearthstone game of the same company is also an obvious reference to the hat and cane dancing frog.
- The frog and the construction worker make cameos in the movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
- In Family Guy the short is directly referenced in the Season 17 episode "Dead Dog Walking", in which Brian uses the act as a ploy to escape euthanasia at the pound.
- In The Office (US) the characters Kevin and Toby sing a part of "Hello! Ma Baby" along with a brief dance inspired by Michigan J. Frog.
- Beck, Jerry (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Turner Publishing. ISBN 978-1-878685-49-0.
- "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
- "Librarian of Congress Adds 25 Films to National Film Registry". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
- Maltin, Leonard (1980). Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. New York: New American Library. p. 265. ISBN 0-452-25993-2.
- Ebert, Roger (2006-01-15). "Chuck Jones: Three Cartoons (1953–1957)". rogerebert.com. Chicago Sun Times online. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- Crowther, Bosley (June 30, 1944). "Pleasant Fantasy". The New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Newton, Teresa S. (October 2008). "Old Rip". Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
- Schneider, Steve (1988). That's All, Folks! : The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. Henry Holt and Co. p. 119. ISBN 0-8050-0889-6.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: One Froggy Evening|
- One Froggy Evening essay  by Craig Kausen on the National Film Registry website
- One Froggy Evening at IMDb
- Details and credits for One Froggy Evening
- The Songs of One Froggy Evening
- One Froggy Evening essay by Daniel Eagan in America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry, A&C Black, 2010 ISBN 0826429777, pages 509-510