(Editor’s Note: The following was written by Keith Feltenstein)
In our next “Versus” round-up, we have two hopping, green, singing frogs! In one corner, we have Kermit the Frog! And across from him in the other corner, we have Michigan J. Frog! Two talented, yet funny little frogs! Which of these two little frogs tastes better when you eat their legs? No, but seriously, who makes the better entertainer? We will let you decide! Here is a little about each frog:
Kermit the Frog is Jim Henson’s most famous Muppet creation, first introduced in 1955. He is the protagonist of many Muppet projects, most notably on “Sesame Street”, and “The Muppet Show”, as well as in movies, specials, and public service announcements throughout the years. Henson originally performed Kermit until his death on May 16, 1990. Steve Whitmire has performed Kermit since that time. He was voiced by Frank Welker in “Muppet Babies” and occasionally in other animation projects.
Kermit performed the hit single “Rainbow Connection” in 1979 for The Muppet Movie, the first feature-length film featuring Henson’s Muppets. The song reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kermit’s iconic look and voice have been recognizable worldwide since, and in 2006, the character was credited as the author of Before You Leap: A Frog’s Eye View of Life’s Greatest Lessons, which is an “autobiography” told from the perspective of the character himself.
On an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, Kermit commented to Ty Pennington, “You know, as a tadpole in the swamp, I had 3,265 brothers and sisters.” According to the 2002 film, Kermit’s Swamp Years, at the age of 12, he was the first of his siblings to leave the swamp, and one of the first frogs to talk to humans. He is portrayed as encountering a 12-year-old Jim Henson (played by Christian Kriebel) for the first time.
According to The Muppet Movie, Kermit returned to the swamp, where a passing agent (Dom DeLuise) noted he had talent and, thus inspired, he headed to Hollywood, encountering the rest of the Muppets along the way. Together, they were given a standard “rich and famous” contract by Lew Lord (Orson Welles) of Wide World Studios and began their showbiz careers. In Before You Leap, Kermit again references encountering Jim Henson sometime after the events depicted in the course of The Muppet Movie and details their friendship and their partnership in the entertainment industry, and credits Henson as being the individual to whom he owes his fame. At some point after the events of The Muppet Movie, Kermit and the other Muppets begin “The Muppet Show”, and the characters remain together as a group, before starring in the other Muppet films and “Muppets Tonight”, with Kermit usually at the core of the stories as the lead protagonist. The Muppet Movie says that the events of the movie are “approximate to how it happened” (referring to how the Muppets got started) when asked about the film by his nephew Robin.
The character regards Fozzie Bear as his best friend—a fact reiterated by Kermit in Before You Leap—and the two were frequently seen together during sketches on “The Muppet Show” and in other Muppet-related media and merchandise.
During a 2011 interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Kermit revealed that he was from the swamps of Louisiana.
Michigan J. Frog
Michigan J. Frog is an animated cartoon character who debuted in the Merrie Melodies 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. In “One Froggy Evening”, he was voiced by Bill Roberts, a nightclub entertainer in Los Angeles in the 1950’s who had done voice work for the MGM cartoon “Little ‘Tinker” earlier. In “Another Froggy Evening”, his voice was provided by Jeff McCarthy. 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.
Michigan J. Frog, again voiced by Jeff McCarthy, was the official mascot of The WB Television Network from its inception in 1995 until 2005. 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.”
Various humorous obituaries for the mascot were published with details on Michigan’s life and death. His dates were given as December 31, 1955 – July 22, 2005. Despite the announcement by Ancier, Michigan still appeared in some WB affiliate logos and in TV spots, such as KWBF in Little Rock, Arkansas (whose early slogan was “The Frog”; the “F” in KWBF is supposedly for “frog”), during 2006, and WBRL-CA in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Also, WMJF, a small student-run television station at Towson University just outside Baltimore, Maryland, still uses the same call letters (WMJF Michigan J. Frog) from when the station was a WB affiliate. A neon likeness of Michigan J. Frog also adorns the facade of former WB affiliate WBNX-TV’s studio complex in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
When the WB Television Network ceased broadcasting and signed off the air for the final time on September 17, 2006, a white silhouette of the Michigan 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 thank the viewers for 11 years and bringing The WB to a close.
With that all said, who would you like to see win the master of talented frogs? Would it be Kermit the Frog, or would it be Michigan J. Frog? We want you, the fans to decide which of these two would win! Vote now! Make a difference!
Next Podcast Unlimited Poll: Better sidekick – Bucky Barnes vs Robin.