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Flip the Frog

Flip the Frog is an animated cartoon character created by American cartoonist Ub Iwerks. He starred in a series of cartoons produced by Celebrity Pictures and distributed through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1930 to 1933. The series had many recurring characters besides Flip, including Flip's dog, the mule Orace, and a dizzy neighborhood spinster.

History

Flip's origins are said to have been rooted in the "Silly Symphonies" cartoon Night. The short was animated by Ub Iwerks while working for his colleague and friend Walt Disney in 1930. After a series of disputes between the two, Iwerks left Disney and went on to accept an offer from Pat Powers to open a cartoon studio of his own and receive a salary of $300 a week, an offer that Disney couldn't match at the time. Iwerks was to produce new cartoons under Powers' Celebrity Pictures and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The first series he was to produce was to feature a character called Tony the Frog, but Iwerks disliked the name and it was subsequently changed to Flip.

Flip's debut short was Fiddlesticks (released on August 16, 1930). Although the short looks to be very much like one of Iwerks' Silly Symphony endeavors, it attracted public attention by being the first full-length color sound cartoon ever produced. The short was produced in two-color Technicolor and is the only Flip cartoon known have been processed in color. However, some evidence points to the second Flip short, Flying Fists to have been produced in Technicolor as well and some have speculated that the later Techno-Cracked (1933) may have been photographed in Cinecolor. The Cinecolor process was a new two-strip color process came out in 1932 and was considered superior to the two-strip Technicolor process. Iwerks would go on to make extensive use of this process with his ComiColor Cartoon series.

Iwerks studio quickly began accumulating new talent such as animators Fred Kopietz, Irv Spence, Grim Natwick, and Chuck Jones (who worked at the Iwerks studio as a cel-washer before going on to inbetweening and then animating at the Leon Schlesinger studio). After the first two cartoons, the appearance of Flip the Frog gradually became less frog-like. This was done under the encouragement of MGM who thought that the series would sell better if the character were more humanized. Flip's major redesign is attributed to Grim Natwick, who made a name for himself at the Fleischer Studios with the creation of Betty Boop. Natwick also had a hand in changing Flip's girlfriend. In earlier films, she was consistently a cat; but Natwick made Flip's new girlfriend Fifi a human who shared distinct similarities with Betty (even down to her spit curls).

The frog's personality also began to develop. As the series progressed, Flip became more of a down-and-out, Chaplin-esque character who always found himself in everyday conflicts surrounding the poverty-stricken atmosphere of the Great Depression. Due to the influx of New York City animators to Iwerks' studio, such as Natwick, the shorts became increasingly risqué. In Room Runners (1932), Flip, out of cash and luck, attempts to sneak out of his hotel in order to avoid paying his past-due rent. Another gag has Flip watch a girl taking a shower through a keyhole. In The Office Boy, released the same year, Flip tries to secure a low-level office job and meets a shapely secretary. At one point in the short, a mischievous mouse which Flip tries to apprehend scoots up the secretary's skirt. In A Chinaman's Chance (1933), Flip and his dog track down the notorious Chinese criminal Chow Mein. While investigating in a Chinese laundry, Flip stumbles into an opium den, inhales the stuff via opium pipe, and begins hallucinating.

The character eventually wore out his welcome at MGM. His final short was Soda Squirt, released on October 12, 1933. Subsequently, Iwerks replaced the series with a new one starring an imaginative liar named Willie Whopper. Flip became largely forgotten by the public in the coming years. However, the character would make a small comeback when animation enthusiasts and historians began digging up the old Iwerks shorts. Most of the Flip cartoons are now available on DVD, in particular, on the Cartoons That Time Forgot series.

Flip The Frog annual

In 1932, a 'Flip The Frog' Annual was issued in England by Dean & Son Ltd. Published by exclusive arrangement with Ub Iwerks, The Originator of The Film Character, Flip The Frog, it was drawn by the Deans staff who also drew the 'Mickey Mouse' Annuals. The Annual only ran to one edition, based on Flip finishing in 1933 and the lack of success with it. The early more Frog-like character was used, rather than the later version. The book contains 11 full cartoon strip stories and other one-page items that are not derived from any of his cartoons. All the adventures take place outside unlike the cartoons, and feature additional characters including a Fox, a Policeman, a girlfriend Flap, a mentioned Uncle Flop and others not shown in the cartoon films.

Filmography

1930

Film Original release date
Fiddlesticks in Technicolor'' (2-striped) 1 August 16, 1930
Flying Fists September 6
The Village Barber September 27
Little Orphan Willie October 18
The Cuckoo Murder Case October 18
Puddle Pranks December

1 Filmed in two-color Technicolor

1931

Film Original release date
The Village Smitty January 31, 1931
The Soup Song January 31
Laughing Gas March 14
Ragtime Romeo May 2
The New Car July 25
Movie Mad August 29
The Village Specialist September 12
Jail Birds September 26
Africa Squeaks October 17
Spooks December 21

1932

Film Original release date
The Milkman February 20, 1932
Fire! Fire! March 5
What A Life! March 26
Puppy Love April 30
School Days May 14
The Bully June 18
The Office Boy July 16
Room Runners August 13
Stromy Seas August 22
Circus August 27
The Goal Rush October 3
The Pony Express October 27
The Music Lesson October 29
Nurse Maid November 26
Funny Face December 24

1933

Film Original release date
Coo Coo the Magician January 21, 1933
Flip's Lunch Room April 3
Techno-Cracked May 8
Bulloney May 30
A Chinaman's Chance June 24
Pale-Face August 12
Soda Squirt October 12

References

  • Iwerks, Leslie and Kenworthy, John. (2001): The Hand Behind the Mouse. Disney Editions.
  • Maltin, Leonard (1987): Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. Penguin Books.
  • Lenburg, Jeff (1993): The Great Cartoon Directors. Da Capo Press.
  • Flip The Frog Annual (1932). Dean & Son, London.

See also

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