Feeling a bit jumpy lately? The Easter Bunny may be the best known animal that represents the dawn of spring, but don’t count out that other hopper—the frog! We bet most of you didn’t know that April is National Frog Month—a time that celebrates and encourages amphibious preservation and cultivation.
But frogs aren’t just for the halls of science…or something to munch on at a French restaurant…or an educational gadget your kid doodles on (think: LeapFrog). In fact, throughout history, frogs have long leapt into the arms of artists, writers, and animators who have breathed new life and spirit into them.
In celebration of National Frog Month, here are a handful of famous people who’ve reminded us that frogs aren’t just bumps on a log—they can also be used for gambling, singing, dancing, and teaching us a life lesson or two. Guess there’s only two things left to say: Ribbit. Ribbit.
Mark Twain – “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”
Going through multiple versions until he was satisfied, Mark Twain published “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in various newspapers and magazines to great success. The famous short story is about a compulsive gambler who trains his frog, which he names Daniel Webster, to jump huge distances, in order to compete in contests and win his owner some quick cash. The short story was so popular that Twain used it as a jumping off point for his first book, in which he used the same title.
Jim Henson – Kermit the Frog
Where would our childhoods be without hearing that milky measured voice captured in a green fuzzy suit? Little did he know, but puppeteer Jim Henson had an extraordinary thing going when he started creating his most famous Muppet using his mom’s spring coat and a pair of halved ping pong balls for eyes. Starting with Kermit’s first appearance in the mid 1950s, Jim Henson played the Green Guy up until his death in 1990. By then, Henson was able to see his creation make showbiz history in television, theatre, film, and animation.
Kermit was apparently so grateful for becoming an A-list Muppet, he recently wrote an autobiography called Before You Leap, which gives homage to Henson for having the vision that he could be the most famous frog in the world. And let’s not forget it was also Henson who taught the world about the beauty of interspecies’ relationships…[cue Miss Piggy]: “Oh, Kermieeee!”
The Brothers Grimm – The Frog Prince
Folklorists Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm used the “hunky” looks of the frog to teach a lesson in the virtues of seeking true love. Their fairy tale, The Frog Prince, tells the tale of a rotten princess who meets a frog that helps her retrieve a gold ball she accidentally drops into a pond. Unlike later versions of the story that say she kissed her slimy companion and thus, turned him into a prince, the original Grimm version says the princess transforms the amphibious creature by slamming him against a wall. (Umm, not as romantic.)
Thanks to the Brothers Grimm and all the various frog stories that spun from it, we get the popular phrase: “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome prince.”
Chuck Jones – Michigan J. Frog
Hello my baby! / Hello my honey! / Hello my ragtime gal!
Frog legs aren’t just for eating—they’re for kickstarting a vaudeville party into high gear—just ask Michigan J. Frog. Animator Chuck Jones created the top-hatted, cane-carrying musical frog and gave him his debut in a Looney Tunes cartoon starting in 1955. Michigan J. Frog’s schtick is that he ends up being a headache for a greedy stranger, who puts all his time and money into him, thinking the frog could make a him a profit by his ragtime performance. But unfortunately, for the owner, Sir MJF only performs for him and him alone.
And here’s a little trivia for you: Jones was inspired to give Michigan Frog his “J” after he was interviewed by a writer by the name of Jay Cocks. When the animator created Sir MJF in the 1940s, he was at the top of his game, creating other iconic characters like the Martian, the Road Runner, Pepe LePew, Claude Cat, and Wile E. Coyote.