Flip the Frog is a classic Ub Iwerks cartoon from The Golden Age of Animation, 38 shorts originally produced 1930-1933 for MGM. Though no new material was produced later, the series received heavy TV play in the 1950s-1970s; today, modern DVD editions seem to have brought the series back into the public consciousness, if just for classic animation buffs.
Iwerks, who left Disney to launch his own studio, created an almost anti-Disney series in these tales of a down-and-out Funny Animal. Flip is typically seen either opening a new business or trying to find work, but ends up in trouble due either to interference from Depression-era threats or from his own clumsy nature. He constantly has problems with his Speech-Impaired Animal sidekick, Orace the mule; he is ridden by his boss, a stern but man-hungry spinster. Flip's own attempts to become lucky in love occasionally bear fruit in old-time melodrama style, but just as often a girl will end up dumping him, or even beating up Flip and his friends ("The Soup Song", "Room Runners"). And there is a lot of piano playing too.
Flip the Frog cartoons are almost the defining example of animation from the pre-censorship era. An angry Flip often reacts to trouble with a shout of "Damn!" Nude or scantily-clad women often appear, usually to place Flip in compromising positions. Innuendo is everywhere; in "The Office Boy," a sexy office clerk unwittingly walks around with a "private" sign hanging from her backside. Finally, typical cartoon violence has consequences: in "Puddle Pranks," a character is eaten by a monstrous bird and appears to die permanently (being chewed up and swallowed).
Flip the Frog shorts featured many tropes that may or may not have originated with Flip, but that generally were first seen in cartoons of about this period (and thus are Older Than Television). Many are Discredited Tropes or Forgotten Tropes. On a side note, Flip's first cartoon, "Fiddlesticks", was the first sound cartoon in color, predating even Disney's Silly Symphonies short Flowers and Trees.
Despite this, the series was a failure, unable to compete with Mickey Mouse or even Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid in terms of popularity, prompting Iwerks to abandon the character and begin work on the ill-fated Willie Whopper and Comi Color Cartoons series.
- Fiddlesticks (Aug 16): The original pilot, produced in two strip color. The short is very similar to Iwerks' work on Disney's Silly Symphonies shorts.
- Flying Fists (Sept 6): Last Flip short to be produced in color.
- The Village Barber (Sept 27)
- Little Orphan Willie (Oct 18)
- The Cuckoo Murder Case (Oct 18)
- Puddle Pranks (Dec. ?)
- The Village Smitty (Jan 31)
- The Soup Song (Jan 31)
- Laughing Gas (March 14)
- Ragtime Romeo (May 2)
- The New Car (July 25)
- Movie Mad (Aug 29)
- The Village Specialist (Sept 12)
- Jail Birds (September 26)
- Africa Squeaks (October 17)
- Spooks (Dec 21)
- The Milkman (Feb 20)
- Fire! Fire! (March 5)
- What a Life! (March 26)
- Puppy Love (April 30)
- School Days (May 14)
- The Bully (June 18)
- The Office Boy (July 16)
- Room Runners (Aug 13)
- Stormy Seas (Aug 22)
- Circus (August 27)
- The Goal Rush (Oct 3)
- The Pony Express (Oct 27)
- The Music Lesson (Oct 29)
- Nurse Maid (Nov 26)
- Funny Face (Dec 24)
- Coo Coo the Magician (Jan 21)
- Flip's Lunch Room (April 3)
- Techno-Cracked (May 8)
- Bulloney (May 30)
- A Chinaman's Chance (June 24)
- Pale-Face (Aug 12)
- Soda Squirt (Oct 12)
This series contains examples of:
- Anti-Hero: Flip is something of an anti-Mickey Mouse in character. He's a very scrappy guy and sometimes can act like a real jerk.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Lots of them. Some of them just come to life. Some of them move to music.
- Anthropomorphic Shift/Informed Species: Flip looked less and less like a frog as the series went on.
- Bag of Kidnapping: In "The Phoney Express" Flip's unnamed human girlfriend is kidnapped this way by the villain of the short Bronx Cheerio, stuffing her into the same sack with his stolen goods as he makes is getaway.
- Belly Dancer:
- Flip dressed up as a harem belly-dancer in "Movie Mad" and "Coo Coo the Magician".
- "Circus" had a belly-dancer at the beginning.
- Bird-Poop Gag: Subverted. Flip sees a white blob fall on his car and looks up to see a bird, but the bird is only painting a utility pole white.
- Cardboard Prison: In "Jail Bird"
- Catchphrase: "Damn!"
- Cheating with the Milkman: On "What A Life!", Flip and his young companion are entertaining a woman when her husband, a cop, arrives and they have to hide in the closet. The cop sees Flip's hat outside the closet door and orders them to come out or he'll shoot. Out of the closet come a parade of others — a milkman, an iceman, a vacuum salesman, a butcher and a Fuller Brush salesman — with Flip and friend bringing up the rear.
- Cuckoo Clock Gag: The short The Cuckoo Murder Case revolves around detective Flip trying to find out who shot a bird that lived in a cuckoo clock.
- Depraved Dentist: Sort of in "Laughing Gas". If drilling right into throat and doing other things with other in a music beat counts as that.
- Distressed Damsel: May be Chained to a Railway now and then. The damsel, or a male victim of Flip's spinster boss, may also face Death by Sex (i. e. in "Paleface" or "Funny Face"), sometimes played for laughs.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first handful of cartoons, Flip was not only more frog-like in appearance, but in role, with a Woodland Creatures cast and setting. In later shorts, Flip is nearly always in a human suburbia and occupation.
- Evolving Credits: The final year of shorts had the opening sequence reanimated to use Flip's redesign.
- Eye Scream: "Room Runners" —the bathing lady doesn't take kindly to being spied on.
- Gecko Ending: In some of the episodes.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Flip wears a hat, shorts, a bow tie, gloves and shoes, but no shirt.
- Haunted House: In "Spooks."
- Intellectual Animal: Pretty much any animal that's not a Funny Animal.
- Literal Ass-Kicking: Sometimes happens. In "Soup Song" , even self-asskicking can be seen.
- Mickey Mousing, in moments when everything isn't in fully sync with music.
- Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Several cartoons had little to no dialogue, especially early on.
- Negative Continuity
- Oh, Crap!: The end of "The Music Lesson", when Flip is cornered in the swimming hole by the policeman and the spinster lady.
- Opposing Sports Team: In "The Goal Rush".
- Rule of Three
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: Sometimes appear during chase scenes.
- Self-Offense: Flip accidentally knocks out his trainer while practicing for a prize fight.
- The title of "Africa Squeaks" is a reference to the 1930 American documentary film Africa Speaks.
- The title of "Little Orphan Willie" is a play on the title of the then-famous comic strip Little Orphan Annie.
- The title of "The Goal Rush" is a play off the title of the Charlie Chaplin film The Gold Rush.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: Flip's speaking voice is that of that typical high pitched animation protagonist, but when he sings along with his piano as in the introduction, it deepens considerably.
- Sliding Scale of Continuity: The series belongs to Level 1 (Negative Continuity).
- Smelly Skunk: In "Laughing Gas".
- Standard Snippet: Used a lot.
- The Gay '90s: Some shorts would be set during this or in a rural area in which Nineties norms still prevailed (i.e. "The Village Smitty").
- The Twelve Principles of Animation: Chuck Jones remarked once that the animation of Flip playing the piano was one of the earliest examples of non-flat, spherical Solid Drawing, a testament to Iwerks' draftsmanship skills.
- Toon Physics: Pretty much every object can become flexible to add to the Rule of Funny. Especially if it happens to be a piano.
- Torso with a View: The Cuckoo in "The Cuckoo Murder Case".
- Universal-Adaptor Cast
- Vague Age: Allows Flip to be a schoolboy in one episode to a car driving adult in another.
- When It Rains, It Pours
- White Gloves: Every character except some of the Animate Objects.
- Working on the Chain Gang: In "Jail Birds"
- Wraparound Background: Sometimes used in the shorts.
- Yellow Peril: "Chinaman's Chance."