Flip the Frog

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Fiddlesticks (1930)

Flip the Frog is an animated cartoon character created by American animator 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 of Flip[edit]

Flip was created by Ub Iwerks, animator for the Walt Disney Studios and a personal friend of Walt Disney in 1930, at the Iwerks Studios. 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's Celebrity Pictures auspices 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.

Ub Iwerks planned to release the series in both color and black and white versions through Celebrity Productions, Inc.[1] The series attracted public attention by being the first color sound cartoon series, in two-color Technicolor, ever produced. After four shorts had been produced, MGM picked up the series. They agreed to exhibit Fiddlesticks and Flying Fists but rejected the other two shorts which Iwerks had produced on his own. As a result these two shorts, Little Orphan Willie and Puddle Pranks, were never copyrighted and remain in the public domain. MGM decided to produce the series entirely in black and white. Some have speculated that Techno-Cracked (1933) may have been photographed in Cinecolor. The Cinecolor process was a new two-strip color process that 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 froglike. 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. Owing to the influx of New York City animators to Iwerks's 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 that 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. All of the Flip cartoons are now available in the 2004 Region 2 Flip the Frog DVD set released by Mk2/Lobster in France. Most are available in Region 1, in particular on the Cartoons That Time Forgot series.

Flip the Frog Annual[edit]

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 Wilfred Haughton, who also drew the early Mickey Mouse Annuals for Deans. The Annual only ran for one edition, based on Flip's ending in 1933 and the lack of success with it. The earlier, more froglike character was used rather than the later version. The book contains 11 full cartoon strip stories, 4 colour plates 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), an Uncle Flop (mentioned only), and others not shown in the cartoon films.

Flip the Frog filmography[edit]

1930[edit]

Film Original release date Availability
Fiddlesticks 1 August 16, 1930 3 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Flying Fists 1 September 6, 1930 3 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
Little Orphan Willie 1 Unknown, 1930 Return of the 30's Characters

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Puddle Pranks 1 Unknown, 1930 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The Village Barber 2 September 27, 1930 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The Cuckoo Murder Case October 18, 1930 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

1 Released in both color and black and white versions. Little Orphan Willie and Puddle Pranks were both rejected by MGM and never copyrighted. They were released by Celebrity Productions, Inc. who also released Fiddlesticks and Flying Fists before the series was picked up by MGM.
2 First cartoon produced under contract to MGM.
3 This is the re-release date by MGM. The short was originally released by Celebrity Productions, Inc. at some unknown date.

1931[edit]

Film Original release date Availability
The Village Smitty January 31, 1931 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The Soup Song January 31, 1931 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Laughing Gas March 14, 1931 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Ragtime Romeo May 2, 1931 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The New Car July 25, 1931 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Movie Mad August 29, 1931 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The Village Specialist September 12, 1931 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
Jail Birds September 26, 1931 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
Africa Squeaks October 17, 1931 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
Spooks December 21, 1931 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

1932[edit]

Film Original release date Availability
The Milkman February 20, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Fire! Fire! March 5, 1932 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
What A Life! March 26, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Puppy Love April 30, 1932 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
School Days May 14, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The Bully June 18, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The Office Boy July 16, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Room Runners August 13, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Stormy Seas August 22, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Circus August 27, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

The Goal Rush October 3, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Phoney Express October 27, 1932 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
The Music Lesson October 29, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Nurse Maid November 26, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Funny Face December 24, 1932 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

1933[edit]

Film Original release date Availability
Coo Coo the Magician January 21, 1933 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Flip's Lunch Room April 3, 1933 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
Techno-Cracked 1 May 8, 1933 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Bulloney May 30, 1933 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
A Chinaman's Chance June 24, 1933 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

Pale-Face August 12, 1933 Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)
Soda Squirt October 12, 1933 Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Flip the Frog, 2004 2DVD set, Mk2/Lobster Films (France)

1 Possibly filmed in color.

Availability[edit]

All of Flip's cartoons were compiled on the French Mk2/Lobster Films 2004 2 disc DVD set "Flip the Frog".

Twenty-seven of Flip's cartoons are included in the two DVD collections "Cartoons That Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1 and 2."

Another early Flip short, Little Orphan Willie, while not included on either of those DVDs, is included on the budget DVD collection "Return of the 30's Characters" from Thunderbean.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The following news item appeared on the front page of the February 21, 1930 issue of The Film Daily:"UB IWERKS TO PRODUCE CARTOONS IN COLOR, SOUND. A new series of 12 cartoons in sound and color are in preparation by UB Iwerks, cartoonists, under the auspices of Celebrity Productions. The series of sketches will be known as "Flip the Frog" and will be released at the rate of one a month beginning on or about Mar. 1. In addition to the color cartoons they also will be offered in black and white. UB Iwerks was formerly associated with Walt Disney on the "Mickey Mouse" and "Silly Symphony" series."
Further reading
  • 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.
  • Flip The Frog Monthly (1935). Nat & Co., London.

See also[edit]