Features and Columns

‘One Froggy Evening’ is the “Citizen Kane of Animated Film”

One Froggy Evening
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on April 17th, 2013

From our regular showcase of short films available to watch on the web, this entry turns the spotlight on the 1955 Chuck Jones-helmed Merrie Melodies cartoon One Froggy Evening.

Why Watch? Well, because Steven Spielberg calls it the “Citizen Kane of animated film.”

That’s not enough for you? Here goes. One Froggy Evening is among the best of Chuck Jones’s cartoons, recognized by the National Film Registry along with Duck Amuck and What’s Opera, Doc? It’s the first appearance of Michigan J. Frog, American cinema’s most influential singing and dancing amphibian. The top-hat wearing vaudevillian toad starts out in a box, hidden in the cornerstone of a just-demolished building. The innocent construction worker who finds him can the piles of cash waiting to be collected before his eyes (literally, because this is a Chuck Jones cartoon), and rushes him off to an entertainment agency. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

We all know the story: the frog never performs when he needs to, and everyone thinks that the poor sap selling him is a lunatic. It’s almost like Raoul Servais’s Harpya, though nowhere near as viscerally disturbing. In the end, Michigan’s cakewalk through the tunes of the Ragtime era and Tin Pan Alley become grating reminders of the man’s failure, and he tosses him back where he came from.

Yet as an audience, we can’t forget him. The songs themselves, especially “Hello! Ma Baby” are indelibly linked to this short and its dancing frog. It’s been spoofed a number of times, including by Mel Brooks in Spaceballs. Whether it’s actually the “Citizen Kane of animated film,” I’m not sure. I think I’d rather give that title to Duck Amuck. Yet no matter how you rank it, One Froggy Evening is one of the essential classics, and it’s worth taking a fresh look.

What Will It Cost? About 7 minutes.

Where: HBO Max

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