The Frog And Toad books by Arnold Lobel are some of my favorite things on the planet. Yes, they’re great books for kids, but for adults, I’d argue they’re even better. Yes, they’re short and written simply, but their lessons on friendship are lessons adults greatly need reminding of, since research has shown that people are reporting fewer close friends than ever.
I believe a huge reason why is that society teaches us from a young age that romance is inherently more important than friendship, rather than the two both being valid forms of true love. The Frog And Toad books remind me in my adult years of what a healthy friendship looks like — and the books are funny and well-written enough that they’re entertaining for everyone, regardless of age.
However, the same can’t be said for Apple TV’s adaptation of the books, as the show was clearly made with little kids in mind, first and foremost. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it does mean older kids and adults will have to sit through a couple of slower-paced scenes and moments of characters pointing out what should be obvious to anyone in their double digits.
Frog And Toad follows two best friends, Frog and Toad, as they spend their days hanging out together and, in the process, learning what it means to be a good friend. If you’re a parent, this is an excellent show to show your children. It’s sweet, wholesome, and good-natured, featuring some of the nicest characters you’ll come across in a children’s show.
It’s also refreshingly patient and isn’t constantly trying to bombard the screen with dumb jokes and flashy colors like movies like Trolls World Tour and Minions do. It takes its time with the stories it tells, kind of like how the Winnie the Pooh movies did — allowing many of its scenes to simply be calm and understated, especially when they need to be.
The biggest reason why you should introduce this show to your kids, however, is because just like the books, the show features strong messages about true friendship. Each episode features two segments, each running for about 11 minutes, and each segment ends with Frog and Toad learning something new about what it means to be a true friend.
These lessons are lessons even I, as an adult, felt good being reminded of. I was a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan, but even that sometimes felt shallow with its lessons like, “Through friendship, we can accomplish anything!” Frog And Toad features deeper lessons, like, “It’s important to tell your friends you love having them in your life,” and “Sometimes an activity is made even better, simply because you’re doing it with your best friend.”
This is mostly due to the fact that many of the stories are faithfully adapted from the books, so the messages about friendship still remain strong from page to screen. I do like the new stories just fine, but the original stories are the ones that really got to me, especially since some of the additions they make in order to lengthen the story also make the story sweeter.
Unfortunately, this also lends itself to the show’s biggest problem: the stories just aren’t eventful enough to sustain an 11-minute runtime. Lobel’s books were incredibly short — each book has an average of 64 pages. To compensate for this, the show adds more characters to the mix, but this also means several conversations and bits of dialogue that could easily be cut out.
There’s this one story where Toad tries to buy ice cream for himself and Frog, and he asks the ice cream man what flavors they have, so the ice cream man sings him a song about it. It’s a cute enough song, but then he sings the song two more times in full at later points in the segment. There was no need for him to sing the song in full so many times, and the latter two times just felt like padding.
I’m also not too sure about the order of the segments. The Letter, for instance, is a story that appears at the very end of the first book, and it feels right in this place. It’s a sentimental story that works because we’ve just spent four previous stories establishing the friendship between Frog and Toad. The emotional ending works strongly because the bond between Frog and Toad has already been greatly established, and through four different instances.
In the show, however, this story is the second segment of the very first episode. While it still tugs at the heartstrings, its appearance in the pilot might affect how much it’ll be able to endear new viewers.
Still, I don’t think little kids are going to be too bothered by either of these, and the tender moments do still hit the right notes for viewers of any age. It’s near impossible not to be endeared when Frog tries to do something nice for Toad and vice versa, and when the two best friends tell each other how much they appreciate having each other in their lives.
Another way Frog And Toad reminds me of the Winnie the Pooh films are the visuals — both have a very gentle picture-book feel to their art style, and looking at them is enough to make you feel all warm and cozy on the inside. The show is filled with gentle lush colors and cute character designs, really evoking the feeling of watching a picture book in motion.
I especially love the end credits, which is the part of the show that most resembles the art style of the books, feeling like a heartfelt homage to Arnold Lobel.
The cast all do a great job with their respective characters. Nat Faxon is a joy as Frog, really personifying the liveliness and enthusiasm Frog constantly had in the books. Kevin Michael Richardson as Toad is utterly endearing, really turning Toad into such a likable character.
At the end of the day, though, Frog And Toad succeeds simply because it feels like it was made with the best of intentions — to teach kids how to sustain a healthy and true friendship.
With loneliness on the rise, I do think it’s important that we teach kids from a young age that friendships are important relationships, especially since they will soon be entering a world where people look at you funny when you tell them you’re happy being single. And for adults, while the show is pleasant enough, I highly recommend revisiting the books as well as a reminder that true love comes in more forms than just romance.
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While it could stand to be either shorter or more substantial, Frog And Toad feels like a loving ode to true friendship, never missing the charm and whimsy that made the books such classics.
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