♬ Hello, mah baby, hello mah honey, Hello mah ragtime gal, Send me a kiss by wire, Baby, my heart's on fire! If you refuse me, honey, you'll lose me And you'll be left alone Oh baby, telephone and tell me I'm your owwwwwwwwwwn! ♬
Referred to by Steven Spielberg as "the Citizen Kane of animated film", this 1955Chuck JonesMerrie Melodies short featured none of the regular Warner Bros. stable, instead telling a standalone story about a construction worker who discovers a live frog inside the cornerstone of a building he's helping to demolish. To his amazement, the frog pulls out a little top hat and cane and starts to sing and dance. The construction worker naturally expects to strike it rich from his discovery. Unfortunately, the frog refuses to perform in front of anybody else. At the end, after becoming destitute and homeless, the man puts the frog into the cornerstone of a new building, and a flash forward reveals that a man of the future will soon suffer the same fate.Told entirely without dialogue (not including the singing). The frog would later be named Michigan J. Frog, after the only original song from the short, "The Michigan Rag", and become the mascot for the WB network.In 1995 Chuck Jones created a follow-up cartoon; Another Froggy Evening. It follows the frog throughout history meeting a strangely familiar man each time who attempts, and fails, to exploit it for money.
This cartoon provides examples of:
An Aesop: The short reminds people to enjoy the good things, and not try to profit on them.
Aside Glance: The man does one when the frog first starts singing and dancing. Later, a theatrical agent does an identical one when the man claims to have a singing, dancing frog.
Breakout Character: Michigan J. Frog appeared in this cartoon alone, and yet became iconic and popular enough to be the mascot for the The WB network, and even make appearances on Kids' WB.
Bowdlerization: When this cartoon aired on ABC's The Bugs Bunny and Tweety show and any installment show on the former WB network, the part where the man paints a "Free Beer" sign to get people to come in and see the frog was edited to make it look like the crowd came in because he hung a "Free Admission" sign. Unlike most Looney Tunes gags that have been affected by censorship when aired on TV, this doesn't really alter it for better or worse, as both responses (coming in because of free beer and coming in because there's a free show) are believable. On the other hand, there is a bit of an obvious audio skip, meaning that something was cut.
Cassandra Truth: The construction worker tries to get people to believe the frog can dance, but the frog returns to normal every time because he spends so much time trying to get their attention.
Earworm: "Hello mah baby hello mah honey, hello mah ragtime gaaaal..."
The fascinating thing about that song was that, while it sounded quaint and old-fashioned even in the year the cartoon was released, it was about a new, high tech society that allowed for real-time long-distance relationships. Calling his honey a "Ragtime" gal meant she was ultra-modern; "Send me a kiss by wire" was not that far removed from the chatroom flirtation of today; and "Telephone and tell me I'm your own!" was about using a new high-tech gadget to get your message across.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Another Froggy Evening gives one to the frog. He's found by Marvin the Martian, who has no intention of exploiting him and just wants to hear him sing. They even sing together, as the short ends.
The Fifties: The dedication plaque on the new building indicates the short is set in 1955, the year of its release.
Origins Episode: Subverted in Another Froggy Evening, where it appears to be the story of the man's ancestors using their own methods to exploit the frog, leading up to the original short. The subversion comes towards the end, where the frog ends up on a "Far Side" Island where the latest incarnation of the man intends to eat him (since there's obviously no one else to show the frog), only for the frog to be abducted by Marvin the Martian.
This gets more bizarre in Another Froggy Evening, in which he knows these songs in the Stone Age.
Produce Pelting: The crowd in the theater where the man tries to exhibit the frog.
Public Domain Soundtrack: The frog sings a number of popular songs of the Gilded Age, as well as "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Sevilgia.
Really 700 Years Old: The frog is capable of living for centuries inside of a block of lead with no food or water.
Retraux: "The Michigan Rag" is an original composition which imitates the 1890s style.
Sealed Evil in a Can/Sealed Good in a Can: The Frog, although it's debatable how "good" or "evil" it is, or whether it's solely the man bringing his own woe on himself for trying to take advantage of the frog.
Shout-Out: At the end, the frog is sealed inside the foundation of the "Tregoweth Brown Building", a reference to sound effects editor Treg Brown. Such crew shout outs were very common in all the Looney Tunes shorts.
Space Whale Aesop: Don't be greedy and try to take advantage of someone else for your own gain or your life will go downhill as a result—or in this case, don't take advantage of a singing frog to get rich or your life will be ruined, or at the least learn from your first few mistakes and cut your losses.
This was actually a very common theme in Chuck Jones' work. Like Wile E Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons the protagonist in this one ends up suffering horribly, yet it's Played for Laughs because he could, in theory, have given up at any time instead of compounding his failures with new ones.
Technology Marches On: A younger viewer might wonder why the man doesn't just rent a camera and film the frog. 1950s movie cameras were expensive, needed a lot of supplemental lighting, and only gave good results in the hands of a skilled operator. And sound had to be recorded separately. Even if this was made later when cameras were more common and less expensive, it's possible the frog would not perform in front of filming devices anyway, knowing the man's only out to make profit.
You Didn't Ask: The end of Another Froggy Ending suggests that every time the frog made a normal noise, he was actually asking if people wanted to hear him sing. Since no one gave him an answer, he just sat there. The one person to understand him and say "yes" is Marvin the Martian.