|Michigan J. Frog|
|Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies character|
|First appearance||One Froggy Evening (1955)|
|Created by||Chuck Jones|
Michigan J. Frog is an animated cartoon character from the Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies film series. Originally a one-shot character, his only appearance during the original run of the Merrie Melodies series was as the star of One Froggy Evening (December 31, 1955), written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones. In this cartoon, partly inspired by a 1944 Cary Grant film entitled Once Upon a Time, Michigan is a male frog who wears a top hat, carries a cane, sings pop music, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley hits, and other songs from the late 19th and early 20th century while dancing and performing acrobatics in the style of early 20th century vaudeville. Michigan's talent is discovered by a hapless man who has visions of profiting from it, but catches on too late that the frog will perform for him and him alone; in front of anyone else, Michigan is just a normal frog and thwarts his dreams of wealth.
He appeared in a later cartoon titled Another Froggy Evening, which was released on October 6, 1995, and was the former mascot of The WB from that year until July 22, 2005, On September 17, 2006 after The Night of Favorites and Farewells, he was shown as the final image of a white silhouette bowing down to viewers, bringing up The CW.
The character may be loosely based on Ol' Rip the Horned Toad.
The frog's earliest name was "Enrico", as given in The Bugs Bunny Show (1960). The character's later, enduring name comes from the song "The Michigan Rag" (an original song written by Jones, Maltese, and musical director Milt Franklyn), which he sings in the cartoon. In a clip from a DVD special, Jones stated that he had come up with the name "Michigan Frog" during the 1970s and was inspired to add the "J." as a middle initial while being interviewed by a writer named Jay Cocks.
The Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD credits Frog's original singing vocals to Bill Roberts, a nightclub entertainer in Los Angeles in the 1950s who had also done voice work for the 1948 MGM cartoon Little 'Tinker. (Roberts went uncredited at the time, as were most voice actors at the Warner Bros. studio who were not Mel Blanc, since only Blanc had a clause in his contract ensuring he would get on-screen credit.) In Another Froggy Evening, his voice was provided by Jeff McCarthy.
Michigan J. Frog made a cameo appearance in the New Looney Tunes episode "Misjudgment Day", voiced by Jeff Bergman. He appears at the end of the episode as the one who sent one of his futuristic robots to destroy Bugs Bunny, and he later appeared in the show's second season intro.
A frog resembling Michigan appeared in the beginning of the 1988 Disney/Amblin film Who Framed Roger Rabbit at Maroon Cartoon Studios. The character also appears on the cover illustration (drawn by Chuck Jones) of singer-songwriter Leon Redbone's 1975 album On the Track.
Michigan J. Frog, again voiced by McCarthy, was the official mascot of The WB from its inception in 1995 until 2005. The network's first night of programming on January 11, 1995, began with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck wondering which one of them would pull the switch to launch The WB. The camera then panned over to Chuck Jones drawing Michigan on an easel; when Jones finished, Michigan leaped from the drawing to formally launch The WB and lands on Chuck's shoulder who then says "What's Up Frog".
Michigan also would usually appear before the opening of shows, informing the viewer of the TV rating. Before the beginning of Savannah, for example, the frog would sing a short monologue suggesting that "there's more comedy for the family Wednesday nights" and that kids should go to bed, meaning that the show coming on would be for mature audiences only. In later shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, the announcer would present a TV-PG disclaimer, though the frog still appeared as a neon sign.
On July 22, 2005, Michigan's "death" was announced by WB Chairman Garth Ancier at a fall season preview with the terse statement "The frog is dead and buried." The head of programming for The WB, David Janollari, stated that "[Michigan] was a symbol that perpetuated the young teen feel of the network. That's not the image we [now] want to put out to our audience."
Various humorous obituaries for the mascot were published with details on Michigan's life and death. His dates were given as December 31, 1955 – July 22, 2005. Despite the announcement by Ancier, Michigan still appeared in several Kids' WB! promos and bumpers (for example, a cart version of himself), The WB's metonym ("The Frog") until 2006, and in some WB affiliate logos and in TV spots, such as KWBF in Little Rock, Arkansas (whose early slogan was "The Frog"; the "F" in KWBF is supposedly for "frog"), during 2006, and WBRL-CA in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Also, WMJF, a small student-run television station at Towson University just outside Baltimore, Maryland, still uses the same call letters (WMJF – Michigan J. Frog) from when the station was a WB affiliate. A neon likeness of Michigan J. Frog also adorns the facade of former WB affiliate WBNX-TV's studio complex in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
When The WB ceased broadcasting and signed off the air for the final time on September 17, 2006, a white silhouette of Michigan appeared at the end of a montage of stars that appeared on the network during its 11-year history. When the montage ended with "Thank You", Michigan's silhouette is shown removing his top hat and bowing to thank the audience for 11 years, bringing The WB to a close, and later bringing The CW the following day, September 18, 2006.
Michigan made his revived comeback in the end of the New Looney Tunes episode "Misjudgment Day" as a one time villain set thousands of years in the future, voiced by Jeff Bergman. A futuristic version of the first three lines of "Hello! Ma Baby" can also be heard in the background as Michigan croaks.