Motion Painting No. 1 (1947) – Film #0214

Directed by Oskar Fischinger 
Inducted to the National Film Registry in 1997 
I first watched it on Aug. 8th, 2020 

[edits, including the removal of references to a low-quality version of the film that was uploaded to a popular video streaming site, have been made to this post at the request of the copyright holder]

What It’s About:

Motion Painting No. 1 is a short experimental film that was created by Oskar Fischinger. Created over a period of several months, Fischinger used oil paint on glass, and photographed his work after each individual brushstroke. The film is comprised of each photograph in order, creating the appearance of the painting happening before your eyes. It is accompanied by Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, BWV 1048. 

My experience with the film:

You know those times when you were bored in class, and you would start doodling random spirals, lines, and other patterns? Did you ever think to yourself, “I should make this into a movie, and throw in some classical music for good measure?” If so, you might be named Oskar Fischinger. 

I am underselling his work with that facetious comment, since if you read about his creative process at the links below, you’ll know that what he did is significantly more impressive than that. I’ve got to respect his hard work and his dedication to his craft. … But, in the end, this film really does feel like: “Notebook Doodles: In Living Color.” 

I first watched this back in August. Knowing that it was one of the more difficult-to-find NFR films, I was pleased to find that my university library had it on VHS … or so they thought. It turns out, they lost their copy, so I was able to put in a request for the DVD pictured above through their interlibrary loan system. I had originally hoped to obtain and watch this on my trip to campus earlier in the summer (mentioned here, here, and here), but it did not arrive in time for me to do so, requiring me to make one additional visit. (Since it was short, only 11 minutes, I watched it on campus and returned it immediately.) 

I meant to write this entry shortly after watching the film, but in the early days of my enthusiasm for this new project, I watched several NFR films more quickly than I had time to write about them, so I am just now getting around to this one (along with a few other films that I watched in that time, which I intend to write about soon.)

Availability:

You can buy it on DVD here: https://centerforvisualmusic.squarespace.com/cvmshop/dvd-oskar-fischinger-ten-films 

Or, as I mentioned, I was able to obtain the DVD through my university library’s interlibrary loan system, so that may be an option worth trying as well. (Regular public libraries often participate in interlibrary loan also.) 

To learn more about the history and significance of this film, I recommend the following resources:

For the complete list of films in the National Film Registry, including information on how you can view each film, and links to every entry that I have written, please see my NFR Directory

One Froggy Evening (1955) – Film #0365

Directed by Charles M. Jones
Inducted to the National Film Registry in 2003

What It’s About:

A construction worker discovers a box buried within a building that he is demolishing. Inside the box is a note from 60 years earlier, and a live frog. When the man discovers that the frog can sing and dance, he takes it home with dreams of becoming rich. However, the frog will only perform for him and no one else, which leads to disastrous (and hilarious) results when the man tries to attract a paying audience to see the frog. 

Context and Significance:

One Froggy Evening was inspired by the Cary Grant film “Once Upon a Time,” which was about a dancing caterpillar (yes, really; and no, you never actually see the caterpillar in the film). It was also supposedly inspired by “Ol’ Rip”—a lizard that was allegedly found alive after being buried in a time capsule in Texas for 31 years (while there really was a lizard named Ol’ Rip, many believe his time capsule origins to be a hoax). 

Stephen Spielberg has said that One Froggy Evening is “the Citizen Kane of animated shorts,” and animation historian Charles Solomon called it “one of the most perfect cartoons ever made.” Despite initially only appearing in this one cartoon, the singing frog character has become one of the more recognizable Looney Tunes characters. The frog had no name at first, but was briefly given the name “Enrico” in the 1960s. In the 70s, one of his original creators named him “Michigan J. Frog,” the name which has been used ever since. He was also the mascot for “The WB” channel for most of its existence (he was “retired” as a mascot about a year before the channel shut down.)

One notable aspect of this cartoon is that there is no spoken dialogue. The humans don’t speak at all (unless you count a single unified “boo!” from an off-screen audience at one point), and the frog only sings. 

My Thoughts:

There isn’t much that I can say that hasn’t already been said about this cartoon. It’s funny, and it works. I feel that you could show it to anyone from any culture and they’d probably find it funny as well (you don’t need to understand the English words that the frog is singing to appreciate the humor of the situation.) The animation looks great, and the songs are surprisingly catchy (I’ve had several of them stuck in my head for the last few days.) If you haven’t already seen this classic, you should seek it out. 

To see one-minute videos about each film on the National Film Registry, and to get previews of upcoming posts, be sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Availability:

One Froggy Night is available to stream on HBO Max: https://play.hbomax.com/episode/urn:hbo:episode:GXo0CbAOd1rDCYwEAABQn?camp=Search&play=true 

I also found a low-resolution version on Vimeo, though the audio and video appear to be slightly out of sync with each other:

Hello, my baby! from sogooth on Vimeo.

Information sources and additional resources:

  • The History of Michigan J. Frog: