|One Froggy Evening|
|Directed by||Charles M. Jones|
|Produced by||Edward Selzer|
|Story by||Michael Maltese|
|Music by||Milt Franklyn|
|Layouts by||Robert Gribbroek|
|Backgrounds by||Philip DeGuard|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|December 31, 1955 (New Year's Eve)|
October 21, 1994 (with Little Giants)
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.
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" finds a box inside a cornerstone. He opens it to find a commemorative document dated April 16, 1892. Inside is also a singing, dancing frog, complete with top hat and cane. After the frog suddenly performs a musical number there on the spot, the man tries exploiting the frog's talents for wealth. The frog, however, always stops performing when any individual other than its owner is around, devolving into deadpan croaking due to unfortunate timing. First, the man takes the frog to a talent agent. When that fails, he takes out his life savings to rent an old theater (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 reverted to being a plain frog.
As a result of these failed attempts to profit from the frog, the man is now destitute and living on a park bench, where the frog still performs only for him. A policeman overhears this and approaches the man for disturbing the peace, but when the man points out the frog as having done the singing, and the frog predictably presents himself as ordinary, the officer takes the man into custody. He is committed to a psychiatric hospital along with the frog, who continues serenading the now hapless patient. Following his release, the now homeless, haggard and broken man, carrying the frog inside the box, spies the construction site where he originally found the box, and dumps it into the cornerstone of the future "Tregoweth Brown Building" before sneaking away. The timeline then jumps to 2056 (100 years and some days after the cartoon's debut). The Brown Building is being demolished using futuristic ray guns, and the box with the frog is discovered yet again by a 21st-century demolition man, who, after envisioning riches as well, absconds with the frog to start the never-ending process once again.
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. 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 entitled 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, 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 closely follows 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 of 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.
The two men who find the Frog are the only persons who see him singing. However, the theatre audience probably heard him behind the closed curtain and the police officer definitely heard him singing in the park. (The Frog immediately stops singing just before he can be seen by the theatre audience and the police officer, leading them to believe the frog is a hoax and its owner is doing the singing.)