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 shorts", this 1955 Chuck Jones Merrie 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 titled "Another Froggy Evening". It follows the frog throughout history meeting strangely familiar men who attempt (and fail) to exploit it for money.
This cartoon provides examples of:
- The 50 Greatest Cartoons: #5
- An Aesop: The short reminds people to enjoy the good things, and not try to profit on them otherwise.
- 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.
- Been There, Shaped History: According to "Another Froggy Evening", a lone caveman built Stonehenge 300,000 years ago in order to exhibit Michigan J. Frog to other cavemen.
- Book-Ends: The first and last scene show a construction worker discovering the frog and plotting to get rich off of its unique talents.
- Bowdlerise: 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.
- 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.
- The Cameo: In Another Froggy Evening, Chuck Jones himself appears among the Romans booing the act. Also present, Siskel and Ebert.
- Cassandra Truth: The construction worker tries to get people to believe the frog can sing and dance, but he takes too long trying to get their attention that the frog stops performing every time.
- Character Signature Song: Michigan J. Frog's "Hello My Baby".
- Deserted Island: One of the places Michigan J. Frog ends up in "Another Froggy Evening". The fishing man who catches him has a box that says "R. Crusoe, Esq".
- Disco Dan: Michigan J. Frog brings the music of The Gay '90s to whatever time period he's found in.
- Distant Finale: Another poor sap happens on the frog in virtually the same way as the first scene.
- Downer Ending: The man's life is ruined by trying to use the frog, and ends with him sealing the frog away... only for another greedy man to find him a century later, possibly to repeat the cycle anew.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: "Another Froggy Evening" gives one to the frog. He finally meets someone who not only understands his language but has no intention of exploiting him and just wants to hear him sing. They even sing together, as the short ends. The person in question? Marvin the Martian.
- The 50s: The dedication plaque on the new building indicates the short is set in 1955, the year of its release.
- The Gay '90s: Michigan J. Frog is from this era.
- Generation Xerox: In "Another Froggy Evening", various characters resembling the man from the original short have similar encounters with the frog.
- Here We Go Again!: The ending.
- Just Here for the Free Snacks: The man manages to lure people into the theater after several failed attempts by offering free beer.
- Karmic Trickster: Michigan J. Frog's lack of dialogue make his motives hard to decipher, but it's a strong possibility he's deliberately stringing the construction worker along so he'll be foiled by his own greed.
- Laser-Guided Karma: When you get down to it, that man is bringing his fate entirely on himself for trying to manipulate the frog for money. It goes pretty far, though.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Read the lyrics to "Won't You Come Over To My House." Cheerful little tune, isn't it?
- The song itself is an interesting example of dissonance. The song as originally written as sung by the man, tells the story of a woman. As it's a sad lullaby about her finding a little girl that reminds her of her own dead child. The part Michigan sings is the chorus that is preceded in the song by making it clear it is the female's words.
- Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: One of the few in the 50s.
- No-Dialogue Episode: While Michigan J. Frog does sing, the characters never communicate through dialogue the audience can hearonly signs, gestures, and cartoon violence. "Another Froggy Evening" has a small conversation at the end, that works as something of The Reveal.
- No Name Given: None of the characters in the original short have names. Michigan J. Frog only got his name many years later.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The frog definitely exists, but people are convinced that he can't dance or sing.
- Oireland: Michigan mocks the popularity of mawkish Irish songs at the turn of the century by singing "Come Back to Erin."
- Origins Episode: Subverted in "Another Froggy Evening", which appears to be the story of the man's ancestors using their own methods to exploit the frog, leading up to the original short. However, the frog never ends up sealed in the cornerstone of a building. He appears on a deserted island where Robinson Crusoe intends to eat him, but then a UFO grabs the box, frog and all.
- Popular History:
- Several of the songs performed by Michigan J. Frog (including "Hello, My Baby") date later than 1892 (the year on the cornerstone where his box is buried).
- This gets even 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.
- Punny Name: In "Another Froggy Evening", Saladus Caesar is the man in charge when the frog arrives in Ancient Rome.
- 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.
- The Runt at the End: In "Another Froggy Evening", when the frog's latest victim is thrown to the lions and tigers, the last feline in the pack is a tuxedo-colored house cat.
- 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.
- The Singing Mute: The Frog is mostly silent, but occasionally breaks out in a song.
- Skewed Priorities: The protagonist is not remotely dumbfounded by the premise of a singing dancing frog, and only starts to find the concept remarkable when he realises the profit he can make for it. When all attempts at this fail, he literally throws it away like a piece of worthless trash.
- 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.
- This is a common theme in Chuck Jones' work. Like Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, the protagonist ends up suffering horribly, yet it's Played for Laughs because he could have given up at any time instead of compounding his failures with new ones, going to ever more grandiose lengths and spending what's implied to be his life savings despite any observer being able to tell within the first few minutes that the frog absolutely will not play along.
- Time Capsule: The frog's box.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Sort of; the story was based on that of Ol' Rip The Horned Toad, but he might have been a hoax.
- You Didn't Ask: The end of "Another Froggy Ending" suggests that every time the frog croaked, he was actually asking if people wanted to hear him sing. Since no one gave him an answer (presumably because they don't speak frog and assumed he was just being nonchalant), he just sat there. Fortunately, one person is able to understand him and say "yes": Marvin the Martian.
- You Have to Believe Me!: In pantomime, to the theatrical producer and the cop.
- Zeerust: The year 2056 in the final scene.