A cat, sick of the annoying mouse living in his home, devises a plot to take him out with a trap loaded with cheese. The mouse, wise to his plan, safely removes the snack and saunters away with a full belly.
Growing up, we were all obsessed with this cartoon, and the obsession carried on to the next generation aswell. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a Gen Z or a Millennial, you probably grew up glued to the TV – watching on as Tom and Jerry kicked up a ruckus.
Puss gets the Boot was the first short they released, in 1940. The debut was a hit and won the studio an Oscar nomination for best animated short. Despite their work, the animators were not credited.
By the mid-1940s, the series had developed a quicker, more energetic and violent tone, due to the inspiration from the work of their colleague in the MGM cartoon studio, Tex Avery, who joined the studio in 1942. Even though the theme of each short is virtually the same – cat chases mouse – Hanna and Barbera found endless variations of it.
Thirteen 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 the category. Tom and Jerry won more Academy Awards than any other character-based theatrical animated series.
In 1945, Jerry made an appearance in the live-action MGM musical feature film Anchors Aweigh, in which, through the use of special effects, he performs a dance routine with Gene Kelly. Tom is briefly seen in Anchors Aweigh – he appears as a servant, offering King Jerry some food on a tray.
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. After MGM realized that their re-releases of the older cartoons brought in just as much money as the new cartoons did. Eventually, the studio executives decided, much to the surprise of the staff, to close the animation studio.
From 1955 until the close of the MGM cartoon studios a year later, all Tom and Jerry cartoons were produced in CinemaScope, some even had their soundtracks recorded in Perspecta directional audio. The MGM cartoon studio was shut down on May 15, 1957, and the last of the 114 Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry shorts, Tot Watchers, was released on August 1, 1958.
In 1961, MGM revived the Tom and Jerry franchise, and contracted European animation studio Rembrandt Films to produce thirteen Tom and Jerry shorts in Prague, Czechoslovakia. All thirteen shorts were directed by Gene Deitch and produced by William L. Snyder. Deitch himself wrote most of the cartoons, with occasional assistance from Larz Bourne and Eli Bauer. Stěpan Koniček provided the musical score for the Deitch shorts. Sound effects were produced by Tod Dockstader. The majority of vocal effects and voices in Deitch’s films were provided by Allen Swift.
Beginning in 1963, Jones and Goldman went on to produce 34 more Tom and Jerry shorts, all of which carried Jones’ distinctive style (and a slight psychedelic influence). Jones had trouble adapting his style to Tom and Jerry’s brand of humor, and a number of the cartoons favored full animation, personality and style over storyline.
One of the biggest trends for Saturday morning television in the 1980s and 1990s was the “babyfication” of older, classic cartoon stars, and on March 2, 1990, Tom and Jerry Kids, co-produced by Turner Entertainment Co. and Hanna-Barbera Productions (which would be sold to Turner in 1991) debuted on Fox Kids and for a few years, aired on British children’s block, CBBC. It featured a youthful version of the famous cat-and-mouse duo chasing each other.
In 2001, a new television special titled Tom and Jerry: The Mansion Cat premiered on Boomerang. It featured Joe Barbera (who was also a creative consultant) 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”.
In 2001, Warner Bros. (which had, by then, merged with Turner and assumed its properties) released the duo’s first direct-to-video movie, Tom and Jerry: The Magic Ring, in which Tom covets a ring that grants mystical powers to the wearer, and has become accidentally stuck on Jerry’s head.
It would mark the last time Hanna and Barbera co-produced a Tom and Jerry cartoon together, as William Hanna died shortly after The Magic Ring was released. Four years later, Bill Kopp scripted and directed two more Tom and Jerry DTV features for the studio, Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars and Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry, the latter one based on a story by Barbera.
Thirteen half-hour episodes (each consisting of three shorts, some of them—like The Karate Guard—were produced and completed in 2003 as part of a 30-plus theatrical cartoon schedule aborted after the financial disaster of Looney Tunes: Back in Action) were produced, with only markets outside of the United States and United Kingdom signed up.
Cartoon Network, which began rerunning the Tom and Jerry Tales in January 2012, subsequently aired a second series consisting of two 11-minute shorts per episode that likewise sought to maintain the look, core characters and sensibility of the original theatrical shorts.
Similar to other reboot works like Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated and The Looney Tunes Show, several episodes the new series brought Tom and Jerry into contemporary environments, telling new stories and relocating the characters to more fantastic worlds, from a medieval castle to a mad scientist’s lab.
Cartoon Network still holds the rights and plays the repeats periodically but there has been no change in the appearance of the characters.
It is a cartoon that has definitely lived a really long and glorious life. And out of all the cartoons, Tom and Jerry is one that no one can ever replace.
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