The Incredible 62 Year History of Michigan J. Frog
There's a frog named Michigan who holds an enduring place in the history of pop culture. Dive into the 60+ year career of Warner Brothers Michigan J. Frog.
The character of a vaudeville loving frog first debuted in 1955's One Froggy Evening. The 6 minute animated short stars a frog who loves ragtime and one of the numbers he performs is called "The Michigan Rag," a piece that was written specifically for the short.
One Froggy Evening
Michigan's debut short One Froggy Evening has become a cartoon classic having been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress and in a vote of animators selected in the Top 5 best cartoons ever made.
Very briefly, the plot involves a singing frog who only performs for his owner, who is trying to make a profit on the frog's talents.
Essayist Mark Dillof explored the Deeper Meanings of Michigan J. Frog and the One Froggy Evening short and surmises
There is beauty, culture, ideas and truths of past ages intended for one’s own ears only. We might very much wish to share these things with other people — whether our interests be love or money — but are only able to so, to varying degrees. Indeed, sometimes our appreciation for various ideas or aesthetic experiences is simply incommunicable to a larger audience.
Michigan's "Hello Ma Baby" scene was parodied (along with Alien) in Spaceballs.
Michigan J. Frog and the WB
When Warner Brothers launched their WB Television Network, Michigan J. Frog was selected as the network's mascot. Early promos for the WB included Michigan promoting the young TV net with riffs on his signature "Hello Ma Baby."
As the WB evolved away from the Michigan J. Frog mascot, Wikipedia reports his symbolic passing
On July 22, 2005, Michigan's "death" was announced by WB Network 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 Network, 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.
The Enduring Legacy of Michigan J. Frog
Despite no longer being the spokes-frog for the WB Television Network, the beloved frog lives on in the form of figurines available on Amazon like this one from Funko, a Hallmark holiday ornament as well as a plush toy.
He has made scant appearances in recent WB efforts such as a cameo in 2003's Looney Tunes: Back in Action.