Directed by Charles M. Jones
Inducted to the National Film Registry in 2003
What It’s About:
A construction worker discovers a box buried within a building that he is demolishing. Inside the box is a note from 60 years earlier, and a live frog. When the man discovers that the frog can sing and dance, he takes it home with dreams of becoming rich. However, the frog will only perform for him and no one else, which leads to disastrous (and hilarious) results when the man tries to attract a paying audience to see the frog.
Context and Significance:
One Froggy Evening was inspired by the Cary Grant film “Once Upon a Time,” which was about a dancing caterpillar (yes, really; and no, you never actually see the caterpillar in the film). It was also supposedly inspired by “Ol’ Rip”—a lizard that was allegedly found alive after being buried in a time capsule in Texas for 31 years (while there really was a lizard named Ol’ Rip, many believe his time capsule origins to be a hoax).
Stephen Spielberg has said that One Froggy Evening is “the Citizen Kane of animated shorts,” and animation historian Charles Solomon called it “one of the most perfect cartoons ever made.” Despite initially only appearing in this one cartoon, the singing frog character has become one of the more recognizable Looney Tunes characters. The frog had no name at first, but was briefly given the name “Enrico” in the 1960s. In the 70s, one of his original creators named him “Michigan J. Frog,” the name which has been used ever since. He was also the mascot for “The WB” channel for most of its existence (he was “retired” as a mascot about a year before the channel shut down.)
One notable aspect of this cartoon is that there is no spoken dialogue. The humans don’t speak at all (unless you count a single unified “boo!” from an off-screen audience at one point), and the frog only sings.
There isn’t much that I can say that hasn’t already been said about this cartoon. It’s funny, and it works. I feel that you could show it to anyone from any culture and they’d probably find it funny as well (you don’t need to understand the English words that the frog is singing to appreciate the humor of the situation.) The animation looks great, and the songs are surprisingly catchy (I’ve had several of them stuck in my head for the last few days.) If you haven’t already seen this classic, you should seek it out.
One Froggy Night is available to stream on HBO Max: https://play.hbomax.com/episode/urn:hbo:episode:GXo0CbAOd1rDCYwEAABQn?camp=Search&play=true
I also found a low-resolution version on Vimeo, though the audio and video appear to be slightly out of sync with each other:
Information sources and additional resources:
- Wikipedia page for One Froggy Evening: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Froggy_Evening
- A website that explores the history of each of the songs used in One Froggy Evening: http://froggyeve.tripod.com/intro.html
- Wikipedia page for the character Michigan J. Frog: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_J._Frog
- The official National Film Registry essay discussing One Froggy Evening, along with two other Looney Tunes cartoons that have been added to the Registry (“Duck Amuck” and “What’s Opera, Doc?”) – https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/chuck_jones.pdf
- An article from Cartoon Brew about One Froggy Evening: https://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/happy-60th-birthday-one-froggy-evening-chuck-jones-128420.html
- Another blog post about One Froggy Evening: https://perryjgreenbaum.blogspot.com/2018/01/one-froggy-evening-1955.html
- It Hopped One Night: A Look at One Froggy Evening
- The History of Michigan J. Frog: