Released theatrically December 31, 1955.
Director: Chuck Jones.
Music: Milt Franklyn.
Story: Michael Maltese.
Voices: Mel Blanc (Audience members), Bill Roberts (Michigan J. Frog)
The story is a simple one: while working on a construction site, a man finds a box hidden in a cornerstone of the building. He opens the box, and therein lies a frog. The frog immediately kicks to life, singing the "Hello! Ma Baby" and dancing like there's no tomorrow. Suddenly, the man gets an idea.
He takes the frog to an agent and attempts to recreate the incredible act. Of course, the frog refuses to comply, the agent rolls his eyes and removes the man. Even the man starts to believe maybe he didn't see what he saw, when the frog again breaks into song and dance ("Michigan Rag," a song composed for the show by Milt Franklyn.)
So the man decides to open his own show. He rents a theater, diligently sets up for the debut performance, and advertises: "Singing Frog!" Backstage, the frog (named Michigan after his signature tune) practices with "I'm Just Wild About Harry."
The people come, of course, and again, Michigan fails to perform, inciting a miniature riot. Now destitute, the man lives on the streets. When Michigan begins singing late in the night, a policeman comes to investigate. The man tries to blame the frog, which gets him put in the local psychiatric ward.
Upon release, the man dumps Michigan in another building's cornerstone. Fast forward 100 years in the future, when a space-man uncovers the box, hears the singing, peers inside, and the doom cycle continues ...
Odds and Ends
The voice of Michigan J. Frog was not regular voiceover artist Mel Blanc. Instead, Chuck Jones asked that a professional singing baritone be called in. Bill Roberts, an unknown before and since, came in and did the part.
When our poor hero replants Michigan at the new construction site, we see the name of the building: the TREGOWETH BROWN building, a play on Merrie Melodies sound effects wizard Treg Brown's name.
Although Michigan J. Frog never made another Merry Melodies appearance, "One Froggy Evening" was voted the 2nd greatest Warner Brothers cartoon of all time (by Cartoon Network). Michigan went on to bigger and better things: today he is the mascot of the WB television network.
The cartoon made a clip appearance in Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales.
In 1995, Chuck Jones's production company made "Another Froggy Evening," actually the prequel to "OFE," about Michigan's life beginning in Roman times. He travels to medieval England, Renaissance Italy, Napoleonic France, Civil War-era America, all the while frustrating potential breadwinner after breadwinner.
Chuck Jones's sharp wit and economy finally led to a culminating masterpiece in "One Froggy Evening." Here he had a morality play, an impossibly high concept, one of the most beloved (if mildly forgotten) characters of all time, and a comedy that lasted for days after its showing.
Here we see man consumed by greed, only able to exploit. We see a - bear with me now - singing frog.
There are no words in the film (excepting Michigan's singing and the unintelligible hubbub of the crowd who comes to see him), which makes the 6 minute show rely almost entirely on the facial expressions of its characters. The instantaneous transformation of Michigan from singing dancing frog to plain old bullfrog in scene after scene proves excruciatingly funny; in short, Schadenfreude. And in life, sometimes we are that man, borne against a sea of troubles.
Chuck Jones was very interested in the human dynamic that governed his cartoons: he addressed existentialism in Duck Amuck, fame in Nelly's Folly, and even death, in What's Opera, Doc? (albeit as part of the opera itself.) Here was no different: man's greed, for all to see. And of course ... a singing frog.