Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Michigan Rag

~ I was skipping through the publication, The 50 Greatest Cartoons (Turner Publishing, cc 1994) the other day. I was curious to see where the over one thousand cartoonists and animators had ranked some of my favorites.
~ I was pleased to see "Corny Concerto," by Bob Clampett was listed. Walter Lantz' "The Barber of Seville," starring Woody Woodpecker has stood the test of time. "The Cat Concerto," featuring Hanna-Barbera's Tom & Jerry, has the duo battling for the piano keys to "The Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Tex Avery's classic, "Northwest Hounded Police," features Droopy chasing the escaped criminal the wolf across Canada.
~ My vote, had I had one, would be hands down in favor of the Chuck Jones masterpiece, One Froggy Evening." This Warner Bros. cartoon introduced us the then un-named Michigan J. Frog. The frog, which appeared in only this feature, can be seen as the spokes-mascot for the WB Television Network.
~ The cartoon is unique in that there is no dialogue. Only the frog is heard when it sings. The story opens at the ornerstone of a building recently demolished. A certificate of dedication dated April 16, 1892, and a frog are all that the construction worker finds. Then the frog suddenly produces a top hat and a cane and bursts into a stirring rendition of "Hello My Ragtime Gal."
~ The worker, thinking he has found a gold mine takes the frog home. Ultimately, the man will find himself frustrated, homeless, and penniless. It so happens that the frog will sing only for him, and emits only a "ribbit" in the presence of others. This becomes evident to him when he is thrown out the door at the offices of theatrical agent.
~ The man next drains his life savings so that he rent a theater for his "frog show." Only by offering free beer is he able to fill the house. Naturally, all the frog ofers to the audience is a resounding "ribbit."
~ Homeless and penniless, he finds himself out in a cold winter night on a park bench, entertained by the frog's magnificent tenor. A passing policeman praises the man for his wonderful voice. When he tries to explain to the officer that it was the frog singing, our hero finds himself in a psychiatric ward, serenaded by the frog.
~ When he is released sometime later, he passes a building about to be dedicated. He places the frog into the cornerstone and walks forlornly away. It is A.D. 2056, when this building is being demolished by the Acme Building Disintegration Company. When a construction worker opens the ccornerstone he finds a frog, a singing frog...........
~ A fine tribute to this cartoon, is that it is imitated in the Mel Brooks' film "Spaceballs." As a parody to both "Alien" and this cartoon, an alien pops out of a stomach onto a diner counter and sings "Ragtime Gal."
~ The frog sings a total of eight songs in the short. In addition to the aforemenetioned, he belts out "I'm Wild About Harry" and the "Michigan Rag," to name just two.
~ Perhaps, at another time, I will look at another favorite classic cartoon. Perhaps, I won't. for other cartoonish looks at the world
No. 19

Johnny Carson
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Johnny Carson

1 comment:

Pam said...

It took me a while to get here but I am quite impressed and quite amused by your thoughts! Being from the same generation - I can relate!