The new “Frog & Toad” series is the perfect queer love story for families

Frog and Toad embrace on the front porch in a moment from the new Apple TV+ series
Photo: Screenshot

It’s 2023, and life’s never been easier. Your biggest worries are simple things: Are there enough buttons on your jacket? Will you drop your giant ice cream cone? Will any mail come today? And perhaps most pressingly, will the seeds in your garden grow?

Ok, so those probably aren’t your biggest problems. They certainly aren’t mine either. I’m sure we’d all collectively love for issues like these to even be on our radar. These are, however, the biggest problems faced by Frog and Toad, the stars of the new AppleTV+ animated series, based on the beloved children’s books by Arnold Lobel.

The books that helped an entire generation learn to read have endured thanks to their immeasurable charm and striking illustrations. A whole new generation will now see those stories come to life on television. Over eight episodes, Frog and Toad is one of the most refreshing, laid-back, and relaxing programs you could ever hope to watch. It’s a beautiful story of male friendship, but it’s so much more than that.

It doesn’t take a detective to realize that Frog and Toad is a gorgeous gay love story.

Queerness has been a part of Frog and Toad since the beginning. Adrianne Lobel, daughter of Frog and Toad creator Arnold, told The New Yorker in 2016 that the amphibians are “of the same sex, and they love each other. It was quite ahead of its time in that respect.” The first book, Frog and Toad Are Friends was originally published in 1970. Lobel came out as gay four years later.

There’s no denying the impact of queerness in Frog and Toad, even if it’s never explicitly stated. You can even get t-shirts that proclaim Frog and Toad are Gay!

Yvette Nicole Brown, who lends her voice to the series, responded to a question on The Daily Show about whether the main characters were gay. “It was a different time when Arnold Lobel wrote these books,” explained Brown. “We found out later that it was his way of working through some things … where the world said he couldn’t be who he wanted to be. He wrote Frog and Toad so he could experience and show love in a way that he couldn’t in real life. So it works as a friendship, and it also works as a tender love story with amphibians.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, showrunner Rob Hoegee explained, “What we wanted to do here is create a faithful adaptation of the books. For people, a lot of readers of a certain age, Frog and Toad as characters seen through a queer lens is hugely important to them. We can’t deny anyone that meaning to them, as far as these characters go. If that’s how you see these characters in the book, it’s fair to say that you will have the opportunity to see a similar viewpoint in the show as well.”

The whole idea of something being gay if you want it to be, however, can be frustrating. It’s often used as a way for media to get away with not having any legitimate representation on screen. In times of heavy censorship, creatives used the practice of queer coding to get around censors to bring any semblance of queerness on screen. It can be frustrating in a modern age, when there’s more LBGTQ+ representation than ever before, to not have characters proclaim their sexuality proudly and publicly.

Frog and Toad don’t kiss, they don’t live together, and they never announce their romantic love for one another. And it’s not that it’s inherently good because it’s not “exposing” children to things like (gasp!) men loving each other. Children are more than capable of embracing people of all sexualities and gender identities without a second thought, and in many ways, they’re more tolerant than most adults could ever hope to be.

But Frog and Toad is different. These characters don’t need to announce their romantic love for one another because everything they do on screen reinforces it. I think anybody of any age watching Frog and Toad, whether they’re queer themselves, or they’ve never even heard the word “queer” before, will understand that these characters are in love. These amphibians will do anything for each other. They’re the first thing each other thinks of when they wake up and the last thing before they go to sleep.

The beauty of their relationship is bolstered by the fact that they aren’t drowned out by heterosexual couples. While there are plenty of other adorable animals that inhabit Frog and Toad’s world, the only real relationship is between Frog and Toad. So many queer love stories are swallowed up by their heterosexual counterparts, but this AppleTV+ series is all about Frog and Toad. The show is wall-to-wall moments of Frog and Toad doing wonderful, lovely things for each other.

In one episode, the pair bake a cake together to celebrate “Frog Bakes a Cake for Toad Day”, and the cake is adorned with pink frosting and purple flowers. It’s not exactly subtle! But Frog doesn’t actually know how to bake a cake, so Toad takes over. Toad loves his partner so deeply that he’s willing to eat the original cake Frog made for him, which is solid as a brick and overflowing with eggshells. It’s disgusting, and Toad can barely swallow a single bite. But he does it because Frog wanted to do something special for him. It’s a beautiful and valuable lesson about how good it feels when someone goes out of their way to make you smile. 

In another episode, Toad notices Frog is unwell. Holding his hand, he brings him to bed and offers to do anything to make him feel better. Frog mentions a bedtime story would really help, so Toad goes out of his way to find inspiration to craft a lovely story for Frog to feel better. In the first episode, Toad bakes the finest cookies of his life just for Frog. A bird named Robin (who is, you guessed it, a robin) tries to get some cookies, but there’s not a chance Toad will give any to anyone but his beloved Frog. 

In one of the sweetest stories in the show, Toad is downtrodden because he waits for the mail every day, but has never once received a letter. When Frog hears of this, he immediately rises to the occasion, going so far as to write a letter of his own so he can send one to Toad, all but guaranteeing his euphoria over his first-ever mail delivery. The two sit on the porch waiting for the postman (a snail), embracing each other, staring at the sunrise.

The whole series is like this. It’s an endless celebration of love and friendship. Frog and Toad is a celebration of queer families and how if there isn’t a world for us, we build it for ourselves, crafting our own sense of community. 

The animation matches the story perfectly. It’s incredibly faithful to the source material; a storybook in motion. But the show is considerably more vibrant than the books, which used a very limited color palette. 

You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy Frog and Toad – take it from this adult with no children. I found myself immediately transfixed by its faithful storybook visuals, lovingly bringing these characters to life. It’s a show with minimal drama and maximum happiness, taking place in a world where hardly anything ever goes wrong — and if it does go wrong, it’s easily fixed. It’s such a warm, joyful series, and it took mere moments to win me over with its charm. I’d imagine it’s even better to watch as a family. What joy it must be to get together and watch something so sweet, cozy, and queer.

In a time where it feels like everything is constantly burning around us, Frog and Toad offers queer people a lifeline, showing them a world where anything is possible and everything is simple. It shows the kind of place we should be starving for — a place where there is unparalleled harmony because everybody understands and accepts one another without hesitation. Wouldn’t that be nice? 

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Trans teen misses graduation because school was going to force her to wear “boy clothes”

Previous article

HRC boots Anheuser-Busch from its top LGBTQ+ employer rating after bad Dylan Mulvaney response

Next article