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What is there to say about Chuck Jones's 'One Froggy Evening' that
hasn't been said already, not just one of the greatest cartoons ever
made but one of the best things to ever happen anywhere ever! The story
of a demolition worker who discovers a singing frog in the cornerstone
of a building and attempts to exploit the creatures talents for profit,
'One Froggy Evening' is often called "the 'Citizen Kane' of animated
shorts". That level of artistic worth is not an exaggeration.
Everything, absolutely everything, is perfect about 'One Froggy
Evening'. For one, the timing is astonishing. Jones tells the story
(from a uniquely brilliant script by Michael Maltese, the author of
many of the greatest cartoon scripts of all time) completely silent
apart from the singing of the frog, who bursts into song at precisely
the most hilarious moments possible.
Aside from being side-splittingly funny, 'One Froggy Evening' also works on a deeper level as a profound parable about greed. Presented with this wondrous of a singing frog, the demolition worker's immediate and only impulse is to use it to make money. To his ever-growing frustration, the frog will only sing in his presence. Despite his obsession with money, the demolition worker is extremely sympathetic and the audience shares in his pain even as they howl with laughter at his misfortune. The cartoon ends with another poor sap about to make the same mistakes, showing that no matter how much we progress as a society, greed is a constant in human beings. One element that is not often mentioned is the haunting quality of 'One Froggy Evening'. There's a sense of the supernatural in both a singing frog and a frog that can last for years sealed inside the cornerstone of a building, which always leads me to think of the frog in slightly more sinister terms, as a karmic lesson enforcer! The final image of 'One Froggy Evening' coupled with the distant echo of the frog's song always sends a shiver down my spine.
Aside from all this, there's the wonderful animation and the glorious soundtrack. From the moment the frog leaps out of the box, his back foot slipping a couple of times, he is one of the great animated creations. His ability to snap from spellbindingly charismatic showman to the most uninspiring and ordinary croaker you've ever seen is both hilarious and impeccably achieved. The demolition worker, meanwhile, goes through a wonderful range of Chuck Jones's trademark expressions. The music is great throughout, with a virtuoso performance from singer Bill Roberts who sings a range of classic Tin Pan Alley songs, a snatch of opera and, best of all, a cracking original composition by Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese themselves. Called 'The Michigan Rag', the song is not only the best and catchiest in the whole cartoon, it also provided a name for the frog character when, overwhelmed by the popularity of the film and inundated with requests for the character's name, Jones dubbed him Michigan J. Frog. Despite this popularity, Jones wisely refused to use Michigan in any other cartoons, ensuring 'One Froggy Evening' remains a true one-off and one of the greatest strokes of genius animation has ever seen.
In the interests of keeping it brief, I'll leave it there but I could gush about 'One Froggy Evening' for pages and pages. It really is a landmark piece of film history and more than justifies its appearance on every single list of greatest animated cartoons that's worth a damn.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The J.C. Wilbur building is being demolished by the Acme Building and
Wrecking company. When they are down to just the cornerstone, a foreman
discovers a proclamation, so to speak, about the building being erected
in 1892. Suddenly, a frog climbs out of the cornerstone, slowly
stretches and then dons top hat and cane and starts belting out a stage
tune! The foreman raises an eyebrow and pictures himself a rich man by
exhibiting a singing frog.
The rest is pure hell for the foreman. He goes to the Acme Theatrical Agency (everything was "Acme" back in these '50s LT; just ask Wile E. Coyote). Of course, the frog does nothing now, just gives a huge belching noise and lies limp. The foreman is booted out, and instantly the frog comes back to life again!
The gag continues, and could get tiresome and frustrating but the frog is so darned funny I didn't mind how many times I kept seeing the same schtick. In fact, the frigging frog wouldn't shut up....until other people showed up. I actually felt sorry for the poor foreman. The frog ruined his life.....and will keep doing it to others years from now, as we see at the end of the cartoon when the little monster is re-discovered in the middle of this century!
This is a very sadistic story. How nasty can you be? That foreman should have had frog legs for dinner early on and saved himself a lot of grief.
The last two times I saw One Froggy Evening it was in a censored version. In the original, the guy rents a theatre to show the singing frog and peppers the building with posters but no-one comes. He puts out a "free admission" sign but still no-one comes. He then puts out a "free beer" sign and is trampled by the crowd that rushes in. In the censored version, the "free beer" sign is cut. This is not only a stupid thing to do in itself; it also makes no sense since there is no reason why crowds would rush in so enthusiastically to see the singing frog if the only attraction was free admission. The whole point is that no-one believes in the singing frog. Who has committed this stupid act of vandalism and why -- and can we do anything about it?
"Greed" is one of the great American classics, but so often we limit ourselves to thinking of a film as a multi-hour feature film with live actors. In "One Froggy Evening" Chuck Jones tells the story of a construction worker demolishing a building and discovers a frog in the cornerstone. A SINGING FROG. Naturally, the first impulse is to make money on the frog. The only problem, the frog will only sing for this one guy. Not paying crowds, not talent agents, ONLY HIM. Slowly he is driven mad, not so much by the frog but by his own failed plans with the frog. Failing to recognize the special gift he has, he sees the building going up and sticks the frog back into the cornerstone. Years pass, and when the laser demolition-man is vaporizing the building with his 21st century technology, what does he find? A SINGING FROG. "You know," he thinks, "I could make some money." And so the cycle continues. People of any time are the same, they never learn. There's your moral. Chuck Jones does in 7 minutes what Von Stroheim took 7 hours to do. A genuine masterpiece of animation.
You know, I would virtually tell everyone to watch EVERY short that
Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese collaborated on. They are icons in
creating some of the best storytelling animation in our time. EVERYONE
looking to get into screen writing or story board writing should study
their storytelling. But the two most important ones, the first ones
that everyone should watch when beginning their curiosity should be
Feed the Kitty, which inspired Joe Dante and Chris Columbus, and this
short, One Froggy Evening, which influenced Steven Spielberg.
A laborer at a demolition site discovers a frog that can sing and dance. Seeing a world of opportunity, he leaves, and gets more than he ever bargained for.
There are too many elements in this short to count. But it's great. The frog doesn't even need to sing for you to appreciate the hilarity of it all. But if you do listen to the frog, I guarantee you at one point in your life you will sing that song in your head. When people at my work ask me to try to tune out some song in their head, I pop out, "Hello My Baby," or, "Michigan Rag." They end up having one of those songs permanently stuck in their head. Try it! You'll go through work faster and have a good memory stuck in your head. And if you haven't watched this cartoon, I suggest you find it. Now.
Although some consider What's Opera, Doc? the perfect Chuck Jones cartoon, I would argue that this is the best choice to represent Chuck Jones boiled down to one short. Jones did a great variety of work, but he was at his best with little or no dialog, a visual cartoon that wasn't just slapstick visuals. Put a character into a situation where they either see something they want and grab it (or try to), throw in the law of unintended consequences, stir in a little bad luck and stand back to catch the fireworks! A one-shot cartoon that made its lead character a star. Think about the impact a short like that as to have had over nearly 50 years to accomplish a feat like that! To top it off, it's a morality play in 7 minutes. The more things change, the more they stay the same! Great short, an essential work in the sub-genre of the animated short. Most highly recommended!!!!
Anyone who's ever had a frog in his voice should enjoy this endearing
cartoon from Chuck Jones. Not only is the frog beautifully animated
when he goes into his song and dance routines, but the songs range from
"Hello, Ma Baby" to an operatic aria from "The Barber of Seville." The
simple story has an unusual premise. A man discovers a frog living
inside the cornerstone of a building just demolished. The frog emerges
in fine singing form, demonstrating that he's very much alive and can
sing and dance. Immediately the man has dollar signs in his eyes and
decides to make the rounds of agents willing to feature his singing
frog as the main attraction.
Has to be one of the most original of all the Chuck Jones cartoons, fresh and funny as ever despite the crazy concept of a singing and dancing frog. (Or because of).
An absolute delight.
Oh what a wonderful surprise this cartoon was. It is just so irresistible and endearing, not to mention funny and charming, and is just a froggin' masterpiece. The song "Hello ma baby, hello ma honey" is not only catchy but also memorable, I am still humming now writing this review. The other songs go without fault and the dancing routines are slickly done with lots of pizazz. The animation is spot on, with beautiful backgrounds, sharp character features and lovely colours. Michigan is a great character. Sung marvellously by Bill Roberts, he is charming, likable and sweet for a frog. The story is simple and well told, and its simplicity added to the charm that this gem has. All in all, wonderful and a must see! 10/10 Bethany Cox
Chuck Jones and company created another masterpiece with "One Froggy
Evening", about a man finding a singing frog who only sings for him,
leading to many unpleasant situations. These cartoons were so simple,
yet so clever. I think that there's absolutely no doubt that this and
many other cartoons from that era will stay firmly ingrained as part of
our national heritage forever.
One thing I notice is that Mel Blanc didn't do Michigan J. Frog's voice. But that's no problem. This cartoon is still great. How they came up with these things is beyond me; it just shows that they were geniuses. A great cartoon. These are the sorts of cartoons that we need to show our children.
Everyone knows what happens in the excellent animated masterpiece. A
guy finds a dancing, singing frog whom will only dance or sing for him
and it drives him crazy. This is the best Chuck Jones short ever (no
easy feat), and will be with else to entertain countless generations of
the young and young at heart. Many attempts to duplicate this has but
done throughout the intervening years, but accept no substitutes. This
is fantastic stuff. This animated short can be seen on Disc 4 of the
Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2. It features a commentary by
Micheal Barrier, as well as an optional music only track.
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