A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Amphibians In Movies

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E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
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This is one of the most beloved movies ever made to sell merchandise to children. It tells the story of a tween boy named Elliott who lives in the part of Southern California where there are redwood forests. Elliott finds a cross-dressing extraterrestrial botanist eating pizza in his backyard. He uses product placement candy to lure the space alien into his suburban tract house to keep it as a prisoner in a closet full of stuffed animals where it is hidden from his single mother who likes to dress as a sexy cat-woman. But soon Elliott realizes that E.T. is intelligent enough to want to get away from this insane planet and go back home, so Elliott helps it build a communications device from an umbrella and a calculator. Meanwhile, a man with a huge keychain dangling from the front of his pants and his gun-carrying (no fair trying to change that, Spielberg) deep state henchmen in black vans full of computers track the E.T. then illegally break into Elliott's home to take it to Area 51 where they plan to dissect it like a frog. But first Yoda appears on Halloween and boys on flying bicycles help E.T. call for a space Uber. That's how I remember it, anyway. There was also a bunch of stuff about mad scientists turning the house into a hamster playground and E.T. dying, that part was too weepy.
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In a comic scene, Elliott's grade school teacher prepares his students to dissect frogs. He tells the kids that when they cut it open they should locate the frog's still-beating heart. Then he drops a cotton ball soaked in chloroform into each jar containing a frog to knock them out. Back at Elliott's house, E.T. is getting drunk on product placement beer and Elliott, whose connection with E.T. makes him feel what E.T. feels, also gets drunk sitting at his desk. While the other kids quickly put the lids on their jars to kill their frogs, drunken Elliott hesitates. He asks his frog if it can talk, just as he did with E.T. We see E.T. back home looking at a newspaper comic that gives him the idea to make a communications device to contact his space ship, and then Elliott, feeling sympathy with E.T.'s desire to go back to where he belongs, decides to save his captive frog and send it back to where it belongs. He opens the jar and lets it out. Then he starts screaming and running around opening other jars and releasing other frogs, until all the children join him and release their frogs then throw them all out the window - because frogs can fly and pavement is their natural habitat. School officials call Elliott's mom to tell her he's drunk and disorderly.

The frogs are all leopard frogs, probably Northern Leopard Frogs which are the standard frogs sold to schools for dissection, but it's unlikely that tween kids would be dissecting frogs in a California classroom. (I didn't cut one up until I was in a sophmore high school biology class.) A cardinal rule in film sound design is that if the audience sees an animal on screen they have to hear it, so these frogs make a lot of noise - but it's the wrong noise. It's the slowed-down "rib-it" sound of the Pacific Treefrog. Leopard frogs make an entirely different sound. Sure, it's a funny sound, and this is comedy, but this movie has conned billions of people into believing that leopard frogs make the "rib-it" sound. Regardless, E.T.'s sound desingers deservedly won two Academy Awards for best sound and sound editing.

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