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Michigan J. Frog is an animated cartoon character who debuted in the Looney Tunes cartoon One Froggy Evening (December 31, 1955), written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones. In this cartoon, 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. He appeared in a later cartoon titled Another Froggy Evening which was released on October 6, 1995. He was also a former mascot of The WB Television Network from that year until 2005, and after The Night of Favorites and Farewells, he was shown as the final image of a ghost bowing down to viewers, bringing up The CW Television Network.
His 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 running gag in the two-part series is that Michigan's undeniable talent is discovered by some hapless (and greedy) person who has visions of making a fortune by putting this great entertainer in front of an audience and profiting from it. He invests all his time, money, and eventually his sanity in that cause. He 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 the man's dreams of wealth. The man in the original cartoon, who discovered the frog in the cornerstone of an 1892 building under demolition, tosses Michigan and the suitcase he came in into the time capsule for the Tregoweth Brown Building, a soon-to-be dedicated skyscraper. In 2056, when a construction company (consisting of men in spacesuits) razes the building with ray guns, another person (very similar to the first, but bald) discovers the suitcase, with Michigan still alive inside, and the process apparently repeats.
Michigan has made cameos in episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Detention (as a newt that still has much of his original features, like the top hat & cane and green outside with yellow inside), more recently, as a talent show emcee in Duck Dodgers, Will and Dewitt, (almost identical to his original appearance, but pink instead of green and has a kind of knit-style hat instead of a top hat), and as a statue in Baby Looney Tunes. The character can be seen in 1996's Space Jam in the crowd, and 2003's Looney Tunes: Back in Action during the cafeteria scenes. In Tiny Toons (voiced by Jeff Glen Bennett), Michigan was a frequent "guest" at Elmyra Duff's house. In addition, Michigan appears on the cover of Leon Redbone's 1975 album, On the Track. Michigan also made a cameo appearance in an episode of The Oblongs.
The identity of the singer who voiced Michigan Frog's original story was unclear and has been shrouded in some degree of mystery. He was definitely not done by Warner's primary voice artist, Mel Blanc. Some identified him as Terrence Monck. The 1998 Rhino compilation Warner Bros. 75 Years of Film Music identified him as Richard Beavers. However, the Looney Tunes Golden Collection unequivocally credits the vocals to Bill Roberts, a nightclub entertainer in Los Angeles in the 1950s who had done voice work for the MGM cartoon Little 'Tinker earlier.
In Another Froggy Evening, his voice was provided by Jeff McCarthy.
Years with The WB
From 1995 to 2005, Michigan J. Frog, again voiced by McCarthy, was the official mascot of The WB Television Network. The network's first night of programming on January 11, 1995 began with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck wondering over who (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 leapt from the drawing to formally launch the WB.
Michigan also would usually appear before the opening of shows, informing the viewer of the TV rating. For example, before Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel, the frog would sing a short monologue suggesting that kids should go to bed, meaning that the show coming on would be for mature audiences only.
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."
Despite this decision by Ancier, Michigan still appeared in some WB affiliate logos and in TV spots.
When the WB signed off the air one last time on September 17, 2006, a white silhouette of the mascot 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 the viewer.
It is currently unknown if the character's "death" is official by fans. However, he may still be alive.