The Story Of The Dancing Frog (1989)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/21/08
Director: Michael Sporn
Cast: Amanda Plummer

Based on a British children's book, this tells the tale of a woman named Gertrude who attempts to commit suicide when she learns that her husband was lost at sea. Just as she's about to drown herself, she sees a frog dancing on a lily pad. She catches the frog and brings him back to her house where they happily live together. She names the frog George and teaches him how to dance to music, and eventually George takes to the stage. He becomes a moderate success and soon the two of them travel the world with their show. Along the way, she has an opportunity to re-marry and has to make the difficult choice between staying with George, or living with the well-to-do Lord Belvedere.

Remember when children's books were based on tragedy and explored all kinds of dark and heavy topics? Even though this animated film is only twenty years old, it was shocking to compare it to what passes as "children's entertainment" these days. While overall it's an uplifting tale of love and courage, the whole thing looks and feels very sad. Since the original book was so short, the film had to be stretched to fill thirty minutes and includes some awkwardly misplaced singing numbers. The pacing is slow and deliberate, but is appropriate for the material. As with Michael Sporn's other films, this one is hand painted and stays faithful to the original drawings in the book. The watercolors and markers give the animation a rough, handcrafted look and feel, as well as texture and personality. It's delightful to watch George dance and he seems eternally happy, whereas all of the other characters are sad and miserable, weighed down by the burden of human existence. The film is also a cute homage to the dancing frogs of Ub Iwerks and Chuck Jones. Charming, but bittersweet, the film ends with the moral of "you can do all sorts of things when you have to."