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Remembering Flip The Frog

John McElwee waxes nostalgic about collecting 8mm home movies and Flip The Frog on his Greenbriar Picture Shows blog. As usual on his site, McElwee’s illustrated the piece with rare trade advertisements from the 1930s.

Also, this Flip doll has to be one of the ugliest pieces of cartoon merchandising I’ve ever seen. That said, I want one.

  • on the flip the frog toy site the description reads:

    “A fabled early comic character who was exiled to England from America due to Disney’s fear that he would get in the way of the popularity of Mickey-and being so cute one can see why!”

    what the hell are they talking about?

  • Neil S. Bulk

    I love Flip the Frog. My father owned many of the Blackhawk 8mm films and I grew up watching those. Thanks for pointing out this article!

  • uncle wayne

    Thank you, Jerry! As one who COLELCTS dolls (mostly plush) of animated cartoon characters, i’ll have to, indeed, by-pass on THIS one. ha-ha! “Omg!!”, indeed!!

  • Julian Carter

    I must ask …

    Were Iwerks’ Flip the Frog cartoons really the first colour cartoons (in 2-strip Technicolor)? If so, then Disney wrongly claim that “Flowers and Trees” is the first colour cartoon (they never say that it’s the first 3-strip Technicolor cartoon), don’t they?

    Also, this makes me feel a bit stupid, but I don’t really know how 2-strip or 3-strip Technicolor processes work and hence don’t know the real difference between them (in technical terms).

  • Ben

    I read “Remembering Flip the Frog” and thought, OMG, Flip is dead? I didn’t even know he was sick.

  • YES!

  • uncle wayne

    That’s the true joy of our pen-&-ink pals….never an obit!

  • John A

    The Flip doll resembles George Pal’s martians from “The War of the Worlds”.

  • David

    >Julian Carter –

    Disney does say that Flowers & Trees is the first 3-strip Technicolor cartoon (which it was). The Iwerk’s films were made in 2-strip CineColor process, not Technicolor.

    I believe Walter Lantz preceded Iwerks in making a 2-Strip color cartoon , in the animated sequence of “The King of Jazz” (1930) . There may have been earlier experiments with 2-Strip color processes.

    Around the same time that Iwerks was turning out 2-strip color cartoons so was Ted Eshbaugh in New York.

  • Julian Carter: “Were Iwerks’ Flip the Frog cartoons really the first colour cartoons?”

    As far as I know the first animation recorded on color film was The Tail of Thomas Kat from 1917 filmed in Brewstercolor. Before that Little Nemo was shown in color via hand painting directly on the film. Brewstercolor and Cinecolor and the early version of Technicolor were two strip processes, where one color (red) is printed on one side of the film and another (blue/green) is printed on the other.

    In film clips I have seen, when Disney speaks about his pioneering effort he is specific and says it’s the first in full color or the first using three strip Technicolor. That process uses three strips of B&W film and the colors are transferred to the final print, a bit like printing the Sunday comics.

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    The Flip doll reminds me of the line from Othello where he speaks of “men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders.”

  • doug holverson

    Is The Tail of Thomas Kat posted any where on the web?

    That was one hilariously ugly doll. As if the morning after Hoppity Hooper lost an argument with Jack Daniels….

  • Steve/Doug: You’ve conflated two cartoons here. THE TAIL OF THOMAS KAT (1917) is a Pat Sullivan/Otto Messmer cartoon in black and white. THE DEBUT OF THOS. KATT (1920) is a Bray cartoon, and this was the one in Brewster Color.

    The two Thomas Kat(t)s were unrelated. Sullivan’s is often posited as being the prototype for his studio’s later Felix, though the surviving synopsis suggests otherwise. And Bray’s Thos. Katt (note spelling) is a kitten who tries to catch mice.
    Unfortunately, both seem to be lost films today—though you never know when one will turn up.

  • We watched a couple of Flip cartoons in our History of Animation class today. Ragtime Romeo is a pretty dull entry in the series, but Spooks was fairly amusing. I really liked his earlier, more frog-like design better. The more human-ish one was just bizarre, in a bad way, and didn’t resemble a frog in any way. The frog design made more sense, and at the very least, it was fairly unique.

    My favourites, off the top of my head, are “Room Runners”, “Office Boy” and in particular, “Funny Face.”

  • The “pre-code” Flip the Frog cartoons are among the things that persuade me the code was ultimately a beneficial thing. It forced the film makers to be a bit more clever, a bit more creative and a bit less obvious.

  • fishmorgjp

    That ain’t a Flip doll… it’s the monster Gossamer from Looney Tunes!

  • David Gerstein, Thanks so much for clearing that up.

  • rab smith

    It’s a real shame that FLIP the FROG has largely been consigned to the ‘trashcan ‘of animated history, and is only really known to animation buffs—-the series was never screened on UK TV in my lifetime, and seems largely bypassed in [general] animation history.

    The few ‘FLIP’ shorts that I have seen were full of 30s charm, and I intend seeking out more of these gems. I know that some of them may lack some of the creativity from other of the contemporary studios…..but I still wanna see more of this stuff!

  • V.E.G.

    As of 2010, not one single minute of The Debut of Thomas Kat is known to exist.