FLIP THE FROGMedium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Ub Iwerks Studio
First appeared: 1930
Creator: Ub Iwerks
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Silly Symphony, practically single-handed. He was believed by many to be the real talent behind Walt Disney himself. So how come, when he struck out on his own, his solo creations made no more of a splash than Flip the Frog?
The consensus is, it's because his genius lay in the development and application of the technical expertise necessary for the production of fine cartoons, and not in the stories, gags and other creative aspects that get people interested in them. The cartoons starring Flip and his Iwerks-created successor, Willie Whopper (a boy who tells a lot of lies), are remembered as excellently-made in every way, lavished with care and talent, succeeding easily at things no other studio would dare to attempt — but with few exceptions, not very much fun to watch.
Flip's first glimmering of public exposure came on March 1, 1930, when a Hollywood trade paper announced an agreement between Iwerks and distributor/money man Pat Powers to produce cartoons starring one Flip the Frog. His first appearance on the screen came a few months later, when Fiddlesticks was released by MGM — the first foray into animation by the movie factory that later fielded Tom & Jerry and Droopy — on August 16, 1930. (Some sources say April 24, 1931, but that's actually the date it was copyrighted, not released.)
Flip's frogginess was very pronounced in the first two cartoons, but was quickly toned down on the theory that a more anthropomorphic character would have better audience appeal. Nonetheless, tho there was an initial burst of interest, the public didn't really take to him. A couple of designs were tried, in an attempt to get them to accept the character, and it wasn't long before he looked even less like a frog than Mickey looked like a mouse. It wasn't the design, tho, that made his reception flat.
Tho he was superbly crafted, not just by Iwerks himself but also by such animators as Grim Natwick (Betty Boop) and Shamus Culhane (Woody Woodpecker), people didn't get as excited about Flip as the talent involved might lead one to expect. His series ran no less than 37 cartoons, but they didn't span a very great length of time. He was last seen in Soda Squirt, released October 12, 1933. (There is a report in several sources that he made a cameo in Willie Whopper's initial outing, but this is an oft-repeated error.)
There was some merchandising at first, including puzzles, toys and an attempt at a newspaper comic (but no records can be found of the strip having been actually syndicated). But that fell off sharply, along with Flip's popularity. Today, he's remembered mostly as a product of his creator's brief absence from Disney.