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Bad IdeasIdeas/Commentary

Executive Notes for ‘One Froggy Evening’

Toronto screenwriter Denis McGrath imagines what kind of notes today’s industry executives might give to Chuck Jones’ classic Warner Bros. cartoon One Froggy Evening. They are all too real.

From McGrath’s blog:

I was just looking at the Froggy Even cartoon again, and while I appreciate your enthusiasm that it is some sort of “classic,” in the making, I’m afraid there are a few notes that I really think we should deal with before moving forward.

-First, in the scene with the “Free Beer,” the men rush into the theatre having been promised free beer. And when the curtain comes up they see the frog and get angry. Does this track? Are they getting angry about the frog not being able to sing, or the lack of free beer? In fact, the whole concept of the “free beer” and the loss of it seems to get lost.

-Where do they get the rotten fruit to throw at the guy? They came in looking for free beer. Why would they suddenly have fruit? Could you rework so this makes sense, please?

-I’m not feeling I know enough about the backstory of the construction worker. Who is he and where does he come from? Presumably, since we see his apartment and it seems to be modest, he is single, and you drop a hint that he is very mistrustful of traditional authority (ie: he hides money under the bed) Am very excited by this. Could we make more of this?

-re: the frog. Have you done research on Frog’s lifespans? Does it track that this frog could survive from 1892 to 2056? Is his long lifespan tied into his ability to sing?

-Do they allow mental patients to keep pet frogs? Is it a companion animal thing? Will have to explain this, I think. The audience will want to know.

-Please reconsider the choice to have the frog be the only one who speaks. I think this keeps the audience at a distance. Could you perhaps take a look at Family Guy, where they have animals who talk and other people can hear them? Just a thought.

-Is the frog singing the right songs? Could we have him sing something that speaks to our demo better?

-I’m just throwing this out there — wouldn’t it be more satisfying if, in the end, maybe by accident, the guy actually gets the frog to sing for someone else? Might make for a more uplifting ending — give the guy more of a ‘win.’

We’re very excited by this Froggy Project and we’re sure that with these few minor changes it’s going to be something really special.

(Thanks, Warren Leonhardt)

  • Anonymous

    He forgot,

    “can we make the frog more aspirational?”

  • Some Guy

    it’s only funny until you actually get notes like that. yikes.

    Worse is when the crew actually starts second guessing themselves BEFORE the execs put in their two cents.

  • Steve

    “Our focus test went well but we’d like to take the writing in another direction.”

  • I work in a creative field as well, you do get notes like that.

  • Ron

    “Can we give the frog a pet?”

  • Kevin Martinez

    It’s not as if executive interference is something that only came about after Chuck Jones stopped directing shorts… gems like “bullfights aren’t funny” aren’t all that far removed from the hypothetical notes you guys are throwing out.

  • Mike Russo

    “Needs more cutaways.”

  • Anonymous

    Do we really need the frog ?

  • “Make the frog into a dog. Dogs are more popular to the general viewing public.”

    Though what scares me is that, if I were an animation exec, I might make some of these stupid notes. Ha ha.

  • This one from the orginal comments is hilarious!

    “Love the frog, hate the cartoon; let’s just use him for interstitials between teen dramas. He’ll give ’em some class.”

  • I just cried a little. And I’m in a public place.

  • Mike Russo

    I think the frog should pick up the phone and scream “I hate baloney!”

  • Michelle

    “Give the frog a baseball cap put on backwards. He needs to be edgier and more ‘in your face’. Oh! And make sure he’s singing rap songs because that’s what the kids are “down with” today…”

  • Keith Paynter

    7 minutes is way to short for today’s audiences…maybe we could stretch it out to about 88 minutes, pad the story with a b-story and some songs – is Carrie Underwood available? – oh, yes, and we need children, at least two, who can talk to the frog.

    You know, a crack team of writers, maybe seven or eight, could do something really amazing with this.

    We need about five or six other secondary characters for marketing the kids’ meal, so we’ll need about six months to contract out the factory in China in time for the holiday release date.

    Can we do it in 3D instead?

  • Keith Paynter

    We’re gonna need a montage. Even ‘Rocky’ had a montage…

  • Jorge Garrido

    Forgive me, but why the fuck is some guy using my “Some Guy” pseudonym?

    Anyway, as for Denis’ piece, it’s hilarious. But Jaime Weinman’s notes in the comments are even better. Actually these two blog posts have produced some hilarious original content.

    “No, no, no, 7 minutes is too long, okay babe? We’ll need to tell the story in under 45 seconds do it can go viral, OK babe?. Diggers will love it, OK babe?”

  • Senor Money

    some thoughts:

    1- Can we get Miley, Ashley, or one of those Jonas brothers to do the voice of the frog?

    2- Can there be a whole TEAM of frogs?

    3- Not enough skateboards.

  • Can the frog yell “hey Nurse!”

  • christian

    Good Lord!!! Thats bang on! I’m a Director and let me tell you this type of notes are not even far fetch. Usaly for a five minute short we would get 3 or 5 pages of this type of notes.

  • Christopher Cook

    To paraphrase Mystery Science Theater 3000, “It’s just a cartoon. I should really just relax.”

  • it’s creepy that this sort of scenario actually crossed my mind recently…

  • That is the reason I liked better the classic cartoons than the new ones. They are so raw and funny, instead of by the numbers an “demo” driven.

  • Kevin

    What scares me about the hypothetical comments is that someone at WB must have thought about this beforehand…I clearly remember an edited version of this cartoon in which the “free beer” scene is edited out, the frog’s owner puts out a “free admission” sign and the crowd charges in after seeing this sign instead of responding to the “free beer” one…the PC police strike again!

  • Anonymous

    real cartoons died a long time ago

  • Chris Sobieniak

    It’s stuff like this that make you realize how sad your world REALLY is. :-(

  • What struck me most about the notes is how similar they were to those made by storyboard artists while working on two different series I was on. The artists were often more worried about scenes that, as they put it, “don’t match up”. They would have been the ones insisting that we see the workers bring in vegetables, show why everyone gets mad, the real life of a frog and such.

    The networks I dealt with (CBS, ABC, FOX, CN, Nick, etc) would have been more concerned about the suggested use of alcohol (free beer), the stereotype character designs (for example having the guy look so poor when he’s homeless is an offensive stereotype – an actual network note I received), and quite the reverse of the “too short”, most nets would complain the short is too long and want scenes trimmed and new gags added to bring it back to 7. (7 minutes is one of the new ‘standards’ for TV animation.) Finally, few networks would allow the frog to sing opera. They would want something a bit more energetic ie contemporary – meaning something from the 70s or 80s.

  • “Can you give the frog a name, something better to ‘brand’ it with? Perhaps ‘Dakota P. Frog’, ‘Delaware M. Frog’ or ‘Ohio D. Frog’?”

    Oh, wait…Chuck Jones already did that.

    P.S. When I was a kid back in the 1950s, my elementary school owned prints of three cartoons: “What’s Opera, Doc?”, “Three Little Bops” and “One Froggy Evening”, all great shorts. Unfortunately, they screened them at every possible opportunity, to such excess, in fact, that I feel physically ill whenever I view ’em. It’s like CLOCKWORK ORANGE in reverse!

  • Oh, those storyboard artists are such troublemakers. If only they made better use of their lives by learning how to write memos and carry a clip board.

  • The only thing more tiresome than executive-driven TV animation production is animation fans’ defeatist martyr fantasies about TV executive-driven animation production.

  • Jorge Garrido

    “The only thing more tiresome than executive-driven TV animation production is animation fans’ defeatist martyr fantasies about TV executive-driven animation production.”


  • Peter H

    Storymen made ideas hang together on paper; Directors made storyboards work as films; Producers ensured the sausage-factory kept running at a profit… everyone had a task and their job depended on their ability to do it. Only executives are in the unhappy position of having to invent a reason for their existance!