This article is about MGM’s Tom and Jerry. For the early Tom and Jerry cartoons by Van Beuren Studios, see Tom and Jerry (Van Beuren). For other uses, see Tom and Jerry.
Tom and Jerry were an animated cat (Tom) and mouse (Jerry) team who formed the basis of a massively successful series of theatrical short animated films created, written and directed by animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (later of Hanna-Barbera fame). The series was produced by Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1940 until 1958, when the studio’s animation unit was closed down. MGM, in 1960, outsourced the production of Tom and Jerry to Rembrandt Films (led by Gene Deitch) in Eastern Europe. In 1963, production of Tom and Jerry shorts returned to Hollywood with Chuck Jones’ Sib-Tower 12 Productions; this series lasted until 1967. Tom and Jerry later resurfaced in TV cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera (1975 – 1977; 1990 – 1993) and Filmation Studios (1980 – 1982). The original MGM shorts helmed by Hanna and Barbera shorts are notable for having won seven Academy Awards, tying it with Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies as the most-awarded theatrical animated series.
Tom and Jerry
Tom is a bluish-grey, greyish-blue, or plain grey housecat, depending on the short (his fur color is close to that of the Russian Blue breed of cats), who lives a pampered life, while Jerry is a small brown mouse who always lives in close proximity to him. Tom is very quick-tempered and thin-skinned, while Jerry is independent and opportunistic. Though very energetic and determined, Tom is no match for Jerry’s brains and wits. By the iris-out of each cartoon, Jerry is usually shown triumphant, while Tom is shown as the loser. However, many other results have been reached: on rare occasions, Tom triumphs. Sometimes, usually ironically, they both lose. Once in a while, particularly at Christmas, Tom may actually save Jerry’s life, or at least share gifts with him. On at least one occasion, their daily chase is portrayed as a sort of enjoyed routine between the two of them; in one particular episode, Tom is smitten with a female cat, and then Jerry, jealous, proceeds to break them up, after which Tom is grateful and they shake each other’s hands, and then they mutually start the chase again.
Both characters display sadistic tendencies, in that they are equally likely to take pleasure in tormenting each other. However, unlike Jerry, Tom has an enormously powerful conscience, and often panics if he thinks that Jerry is seriously injured, dying or dead. Jerry sometimes uses this to his advantage.
Occasionally Tom will win, or the pair will end off on mutual terms, and there are signs that signify such an episode. For example, Tom will most likely win if:
* Jerry does something overzealous and uncalled for in response to Tom’s actions
* Jerry spends the episode irritating Tom, instead of Tom attacking Jerry (example: In one cartoon Jerry and an unnamed other mouse were amusing itself by making Tom think he was subconsciously injuring himself while he slept. In the end the 2 mice were caged and Tom got his peaceful nap)
* Tom remains passive throughout the cartoon
The pair will usually end in mutual terms if:
* Jerry saves Tom from a lethal injury (It must be something serious, like drowning) or vice-versa
* The pair teams up to get rid of a mutual enemy (although Tom is extremely paranoid; he will sometimes start fighting again if it looks as though Jerry pulled a trick on him)
* Tom is shown to have some sort of non-malicious fun or to passively enjoy something, such as nature.
* The pair is trying to protect something, like a baby
* Tom is wrongfully punished for something that didn’t involve Jerry
On occasion, the two will both lose, which may occur if:
* Jerry’s final trap/plan has a possibility of humorously backfiring
* Jerry overlooks something in the course of the fighting
* Spike is involved, and is in one of his moods where he will attack anything, even Jerry (Spike is Jerry’s friend and protector and usually saves him from Tom).
Although many supporting and minor characters speak, Tom and Jerry rarely do so. Tom, most famously, sings while wooing female cats; for example, he lip-syncs to “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” in the 1946 short Solid Serenade. His most noted spoken line occurs in two different shorts where Tom clearly says in an eerie, echoing voice “don’t you believe it”. In one episode Tom is left one million dollars and can keep it if he doesn’t bring harm to any mice. Jerry continually annoys him thereafter and Tom eventually resumes attempting to kill him. In the middle of it, he stops and says, “I’ve just thrown away a millon dollars…But I’m HAPPY!” and tries to hit Jerry with everything he can reach with great gusto. Co-director William Hanna provided most of the squeaks, gasps, and other vocal effects for the pair, including the most famous sound effect from the series, Tom’s leather-lunged scream (created by recording Hanna’s scream and chopping the head and tail off the recording, leaving only the strongest part of the scream on the soundtrack).
History and evolution
The Hanna-Barbera era (1940 – 1958)
A screenshot from 1940’s Puss Gets the Boot, the very first Tom and Jerry cartoon. Jerry is just beginning to realize that he isn’t in front of his mousehole, but rather a solid wall painted black by Tom.
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were both part of the Rudolf Ising unit at MGM’s animation studio in late 1930s. Barbera, a storyman and character designer, was paired with Hanna, an experienced director, to start directing films for the Ising unit; the first of which was a cat-and-mouse cartoon called Puss Gets the Boot. Completed in late 1939, and released to theatres on February 10, 1940, Puss Gets The Boot centers on Jasper, a grey tabby cat trying to catch an as yet unnamed rodent, but without breaking anything; Jasper’s owner Mammy has threatened to throw Jasper out (“O-U-W-T, out!”) if he breaks one more thing in the house. Naturally, the mouse uses this to his advantage, and begins tossing wine glasses, ceramic plates, tea pots, and any and everything fragile, so that Jasper will get thrown outside. Puss Gets The Boot was previewed and released without fanfare, and Hanna and Barbera went on to direct other (non-cat-and-mouse related) shorts. Many of the MGM staffers remarked “after all, haven’t there been enough cat-and-mouse cartoons already?”
The pessimistic attitude towards the cat and mouse duo changed when the cartoon became a favourite with theatre owners and with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which nominated the film for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons of 1941. It lost to another MGM cartoon, Rudolph Ising’s The Milky Way.
However, producer Fred Quimby, who ran the MGM animation studio, quickly pulled Hanna and Barbera off the other one-shot cartoons they were working on, and commissioned a series featuring the cat and mouse. Hanna and Barbera held an intra-studio contest to give the pair a new name; animator John Carr won with his suggestion of “Tom and Jerry”.
The Tom and Jerry series went into production with The Midnight Snack in 1941, and Hanna and Barbera never helmed anything but the cat-and-mouse cartoons for the rest of their tenure at MGM.
Tom & Jerry in the 1946 Academy Award winning cartoon The Cat Concerto.
Tom’s physical appearance evolved significantly over the years. During the early 1940s, Tom had an excess of detail–shaggy fur, numerous facial wrinkles, and multiple eyebrow markings–all of which were streamlined into a more workable form by the end of the 1940s; Jerry stayed essentially the same for the duration of the series. By the mid-1940s, the series had developed a quicker, more energetic (and violent) tone, thanks to inspiration from the work of MGM Animation colleague Tex Avery, who joined the studio in 1942.
Even though the basic theme of each short is virtually the same, Hanna and Barbera found endless variations on that theme. Barbera’s storyboards and rough layouts and designs, combined with Hanna’s timing, resulted in the most popular, successful, and highly acclaimed series the MGM animation department ever had. 13 entries in the Tom and Jerry series (including Puss Gets The Boot) were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons; seven of them went on to win the Academy Award, breaking the Disney studio’s winning streak in that category. Tom and Jerry won more Academy Awards than any other character-based theatrical animated series.
Tom and Jerry remained popular throughout their original theatrical run, even when the budgets began to tighten a little in the 1950s and the pace of the shorts slowed slightly. However, after television became popular in the 1950s, box office revenues decreased for theatrical films, and short subjects. At first, MGM combated this by going to all-CinemaScope production on the series; but after the MGM accountants realized that their re-releases of the older shorts brought in just as much revenue as the new films, the studio executives decided, much to the surprise of the staff, to close the animation studio. The MGM animation department was shut down in 1957, and the final of the 114 Hanna and Barbera Tom and Jerry shorts, Tot Watchers, was released on August 1, 1958. Hanna and Barbera started their own television animation studio, Hanna-Barbera Productions, in 1957, which went on to produce such popular shows as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo.
The Gene Deitch era (1960 – 1962)
In 1960, MGM decided that they wanted to produce new Tom and Jerry shorts again, and had producer William Snyder make an arrangement with Czech based animation director Gene Deitch and Deitch’s studio, Rembrandt Films, to make the films overseas in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Deitch/Snyder team turned out 13 shorts. The Deitch shorts are considered in general as being the worst of the Tom and Jerry theatrical shorts, although some have an affinity for their surreal qualities.
Since the Deitch/Snyder team only saw a handful of the original Tom and Jerry shorts, the films that resulted from the arrangement were considered unusual and, in many ways, bizarre. The characters’ gestures were often performed at high speed, often resulting in heavy motion blur. The soundtracks featured sparse music, spacey sound effects (several of the effects were also used on Rocky and Bullwinkle by Jay Ward Productions), dialogue that was mumbled rather than spoken, and featured heavy uses of reverb.
Also notable is the fact that these shorts are the only Tom and Jerry cartoons not to carry the phrase “Made In Hollywood, U.S.A.” at the end. Due to Deitch’s studio being behind the Iron Curtain, the production studio’s location is omitted entirely.
The Chuck Jones era (1963 – 1967)
After the last of the Deitch cartoons were released, MGM turned to American director Chuck Jones, who, having worked with such illustrious characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Road Runner, to name a few, had just ended his thirty-plus year tenure at the Warner Bros Animation Department and started his own animation studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions, with partner Les Goldman. Jones and Goldman went on to produce 34 more Tom and Jerry shorts starting in 1963, all of which carried Jones’ distinctive style (and a slight psychedelic influence), but with varying degrees of critical success. A number of the cartoons were lacking in plot, instead seeming to favour poses, personality and style over storyline. The characters underwent a slight change of appearance: Tom was given thicker, Boris Karloff-like eyebrows, given a less complex look, and furrier cheeks, while Jerry was given larger eyes and ears, and a sweeter expression. The Tom and Jerry title frame was also revamped, with the MGM lion being replaced in mid-roar by a meowing Tom. Jones co-directed the majority of the shorts with Maurice Noble; the remaining shorts were directed by Abe Levitow and Ben Washam, with Tom Ray directing two clip shows built around footage from the Hanna/Barbera era. MGM ceased production of animated shorts in 1967, by which time Sib Tower 12 had become part of MGM, and Jones had already begun to move on to television specials and the feature film The Phantom Tollbooth. These Tom and Jerry shorts are also usually disliked by fans of the show, though not as much as the Deitch-era cartoons.
Tom and Jerry hit television
Beginning in 1965, the Hanna and Barbera Tom and Jerry films began to appear on television in heavily edited form: the Jones team was required to take the shorts that featured Mammy, rotoscope her out, and replace her with a thin white woman. Lillian Randolph’s original voice tracks were replaced with June Foray performing in an Irish accent. Much of the extreme violence in the cartoons was also edited out. Starting out on CBS’ Saturday Morning schedule on September 25, 1965, Tom and Jerry moved to CBS Sundays two years later and remained there until September 17, 1972.
Tom & Jerry’s new owners
In 1986, MGM was purchased by Ted Turner. Turner sold the company in 1988, but retained MGM’s pre-1986 film library, thus Tom and Jerry became the property of Turner Entertainment (where the rights stand today via Warner Bros.), and have in subsequent years appeared on Turner-run stations, such as TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Turner Classic Movies.
Like a number of other animated cartoons in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Tom and Jerry was not considered politically correct in later years. Some cartoons featured either Tom or Jerry in blackface following an explosion, which are subsequently cut when shown on television today. Other ethnic stereotypes are also omitted, particularly the black maid, Mammy Two-Shoes, whose voice was redubbed by Turner in the mid-1990s in hopes of making the character sound less stereotypical.
Later television and theatrical cartoons
The title card for Hanna-Barbera’s 1975 Tom and Jerry Show
In 1975, Tom and Jerry were reunited with Hanna and Barbera, who produced new Tom and Jerry cartoons for Saturday mornings. These 48 seven-minute short cartoons were paired with Grape Ape and Mumbly cartoons, to create The New Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show, The Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape/Mumbly Show, and The Tom & Jerry/Mumbly Show, all of which ran on ABC Saturday Morning from September 6, 1975 to September 3, 1977. In these cartoons, Tom and Jerry (now with a red bow tie), who had been enemies during their formative years, became nonviolent pals who went on adventures together, as H-B had to meet the stringent rules against violence for children’s TV.
Filmation Studios (in association with MGM Television) also tried their hands at producing a Tom and Jerry TV series. Their version , The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, debuted in 1980, and also featuring new cartoons starring Droopy Dog, Spike, and Barney Bear, not seen since the original MGM shorts. Although they returned Tom and Jerry to the original chase formula, the 30 Filmation Tom and Jerry cartoons were of noticeably lesser quality than Hanna-Barbera’s efforts; this incarnation lasted on CBS Saturday Morning from September 6, 1980 to September 4, 1982.
The title card for Hanna-Barbera’s 1990s Tom and Jerry Kids Show
One of the biggest trends for Saturday morning television in the 1980s and 1990s was the “babyfication” of older, classic cartoon stars, and on September 8, 1990, Tom and Jerry Kids Show, produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions in association with Turner Entertainment, debuted on FOX. It featured a youthful version of the famous cat-and-mouse duo chasing each other. As with the 1970s H-B series, Jerry wears his red bowtie, while Tom now wears a red cap. Spike and his son Tyke, and Droopy and his son Dripple, appeared in back-up segments for the show, which ran until October 2, 1993.
A promotional still for the 2005 Tom and Jerry cartoon The Karateguard.
In 2000, a new Tom & Jerry cartoon entitled The Mansion Cat premiered on Cartoon Network. It featured Joseph Barbera as producer and as the voice of Tom’s owner, whose face is never seen. In this cartoon, Jerry, housed in a habitrail, is as much of a house pet as Tom is, and their owner has to remind Tom to not “blame everything on the mouse”.
A new Tom & Jerry short, entitled The Karateguard, which had been written by Joseph Barbera, directed by Barbera and Spike Brandt, storyboarded by Barbera and Iwao Takamoto and produced by Joseph Barbera, Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone premiered in Los Angeles cinemas on September 27, 2005. As part of the celebration of Tom & Jerry’s 65th anniversary, this marked Joe Barbera’s first return as a writer, director and story board artist on the series since his and Hanna’s original cartoon shorts from 1940-58. Director/animator Spike Brandt was nominated for an Annie award for best character animation. On Friday, January 27, 2006, the short debuted on Cartoon Network.
During the first half of 2005, a new series called Tom and Jerry Tales was produced at Warner Bros.. Thirteen half-hour episodes (each consisting of three shorts) were produced, with only markets outside of the United States and United Kingdom signed up. The show then came to the UK in February 2006 on Boomerang, and is set to air on Kids’ WB! (which will air on The CW) in the US in fall 2006 . Tales is the first Tom and Jerry TV series that utilizes the original style of the classic shorts along with the violence.
Source : Wikipedia , The Online Encyclopedia