Beginning in 1960, in addition to the original 114 H-B cartoons, MGM had new shorts produced by Rembrandt Films, led by Gene Deitch in Eastern Europe. Production of Tom and Jerry shorts returned to Hollywood under Chuck Jones's Sib-Tower 12 Productions in 1963; this series lasted until 1967, making it a total of 161 shorts. The cat and mouse stars later resurfaced in television cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and Filmation Studios during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; a feature film, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, in 1992 (released domestically in 1993); and in 2001, their first made-for TV short, Tom and Jerry: The Mansion Cat for Boomerang. The most recent Tom and Jerry theatrical short. The Original version of the Tom and Jerry theme song was written by the Uncle Dave Macon AKA the Dixie Dewdrop southern banjo player and songwriter The Karate Guard (2005), was written and co-directed by Barbera.
Today, Time Warner (via its Turner Entertainment division) owns the rights to Tom and Jerry (with Warner Bros. handling distribution). Since the merger, Turner has produced the series Tom and Jerry Tales for The CW's Saturday morning "The CW4Kids" lineup, and a string of Tom and Jerry direct-to-video films — all in collaboration with Warner Bros. Animation.
Plot and formatEdit
The series features comedic fights between an iconic set of enemies, a house cat and mouse. The plots of each short usually center on Tom's numerous attempts to capture Jerry and the mayhem and destruction that ensues. Tom rarely succeeds in catching Jerry, mainly because of Jerry's cleverness, cunning abilities, and luck. Despite this, there are also several instances within the cartoons where they display genuine friendship and concern for each other's well-being. Other times, the pair set aside their rivalry in order to pursue a common goal, such as when a baby escaped the watch of a negligent teen babysitter, causing Tom and Jerry to pursue the baby and keep it away from danger.
The cartoons are infamous for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised in theatrical animation, such as Jerry slicing Tom in half, shutting his head in a window or a door, Tom using everything from axes, firearms, explosives, traps and poison to try to murder Jerry, Jerry stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron and a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, plugging his tail into an electric socket, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, causing a tree or an electric pole to drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, tying him to a firework and setting it off, and so on. Because of this, Tom and Jerry has often been criticized as excessively violent.:42:134
Music plays a very important part in the shorts, emphasizing the action, filling in for traditional sound effects, and lending emotion to the scenes. Musical director Scott Bradley created complex scores that combined elements of jazz, classical, and pop music; Bradley often reprised contemporary pop songs, as well as songs from MGM films, including The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me In St. Louis. Generally, there is little dialogue as Tom and Jerry almost never speak; however, minor characters are not similarly limited, and the two lead characters are able to speak English on rare occasions and are thus not mute. For example, the character Mammy Two Shoes has lines in nearly every cartoon in which she appears. Most of the vocal effects used for Tom and Jerry are their high-pitched laughs and gasping screams.
Before 1954, all Tom and Jerry cartoons were produced in the standard Academy ratio and format; in 1954 and 1955, some of the output was dually produced in dual versions: one Academy-ratio negative composed for a flat widescreen (1.75:1) format and one shot in the CinemaScope process. From 1955 until the close of the MGM cartoon studio a year later, all Tom and Jerry cartoons were produced in CinemaScope, some even had their soundtracks recorded in Perspecta directional audio. All of the Hanna and Barbera cartoons were shot as successive color exposure negatives and printed by Technicolor; the 1960s entries were done in Metrocolor.
Tom (called "Jasper" in his debut appearance) is a blue and white domestic shorthair cat. He usually lives a pampered life, although the characters usually live in several lifestyles, while Jerry is a small brown house mouse who always lives in close proximity to him. "Tom" is a generic name for a male cat (The Warner Bros. cartoon character Sylvester was originally named Thomas). Jerry possesses surprising strength for his size, lifting items such as anvils with relative ease and withstanding considerable impacts with them. Despite the typical cat-eats-mouse scenario, it is surprisingly quite rare for Tom to actually try and consume Jerry. Most of his attempts are just to torment or humiliate Jerry. Despite being very energetic and determined, Tom is no match for Jerry's brains and wits. By the final "fade-out" of each cartoon, Jerry usually emerges triumphant, while Tom is shown as the loser. However, other results may be reached; on rare occasions, Tom triumphs, usually when Jerry becomes the aggressor or when he crosses some sort of line (the best example of which occurs in The Million Dollar Cat where, after finding out that Tom's newly acquired wealth will be taken away if he harms any animal, including a mouse, he torments Tom until Tom finally loses his temper and attacks him). Sometimes, usually ironically, they both lose, usually when Jerry's last trap potentially backfires on him after it affects Tom (An example is in Chuck Jones' Filet Meow short where Jerry orders a shark to scare Tom away from eating a goldfish. Afterwards, the shark scares Jerry away as well) or when Jerry overlooks something at the end of the course. Sometimes, they both end up being friends (only for something to happen so that Tom will chase Jerry again). Both characters display sadistic tendencies, in that they are equally likely to take pleasure in tormenting each other. However, depending on the cartoon, whenever one character appears to be in mortal danger (in a dangerous situation or by a third party), the other will develop a conscience and save him. Sometimes, they bond over a mutual sentiment towards an unpleasant experience and their attacking each other is more play than serious attacks. Multiple shorts show the two getting along with minimal difficulty, and they are more than capable of working together when the situation calls for it, usually against a third party who manages to torture and humiliate them both. Sometimes this partnership is forgotten quickly when an unexpected event happens or when one character feels that the other is no longer necessary. (Example is when in Posse Cat, when Jerry decides to pretend to get chased by Tom in exchange for half his food. Tom agrees to this, but then he goes back on his word later.) Other times however, Tom does keep his promise to Jerry and the partnerships are not quickly dissolved after the problem is solved.
Tom changes his love interest many times. The first love interest is Toots who appears in Puss n' Toots, and calls him "Tommy" in The Mouse Comes to Dinner. He is also interested in a cat called Toots in The Zoot Cat although she has a different appearance to the original Toots. The most frequent love interest of Tom's is Toodles Galore, who never has any dialogue in the cartoons.
Despite five shorts ending with a depiction of Tom's apparent death, his demise is never permanent; he even reads about his own death in a flashback in Jerry's Diary. He appears to die in explosions in Mouse Trouble (after which he is seen in heaven) and in Yankee Doodle Mouse, while in The Two Mouseketeers he is guillotined offscreen.
History and evolution
"Tom and Jerry" was a commonplace phrase for youngsters indulging in riotous behaviour in 19th-century London. The term comes from Life in London, or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom (1823) by Pierce Egan. However Brewer notes no more than an "unconscious" echo of the Regency-era original in the naming of the cartoon.
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were both part of the Rudolf Ising unit at the MGM cartoon studio in the late 1930s. After the financial disaster of the Captain and the Kids series, Barbera, a storyman and character designer, was paired (out of desperation) with Hanna, an experienced director, to start directing films for the Ising unit. In their first discussion for a cartoon, Joseph Barbera suggested Cat-and-Mouse cartoon entitled Puss Gets the Boot. "We knew we needed two characters. We thought we needed conflict, and chase and action. And a cat after a mouse seemed like a good, basic thought", as he recalled in an interview. Hanna and many other employees complained that the idea wasn't very original, nevertheless the short was completed in late 1939, and released to theaters on February 10, 1940. Puss Gets The Boot centers on Jasper, a gray tabby cat trying to catch a mouse named Jinx (whose name is not mentioned), but after accidentally breaking a houseplant and its stand, the African American housemaid Mammy (later Tom's owner) has threatened to throw Jasper out if he breaks one more thing in the house. Naturally, Jinx uses this to his advantage, and begins tossing wine glasses, ceramic plates, teapots, and any and everything fragile, so that Jasper will be 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 such as Gallopin' Gals (1940) and Officer Pooch (1941). "After all," remarked many of the MGM staffers, "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 favorite with theater 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.
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 by drawing suggested names out of a hat; animator John Carr won $50 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 rarely directed anything but the cat-and-mouse cartoons for the rest of their tenure at MGM. Barbera would create the story while Hanna would supervise production.
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—and looked like a realistic cat; in addition from his quadrupedal beginnings Tom became increasingly, and eventually almost exclusively, bipedal. By contrast, Jerry's design remained essentially the same for the duration of the series. 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 on that theme. Barbera's storyboards and rough layouts and designs, combined with Hanna's timing, resulted in arguably MGM's most popular and successful cartoon series. 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 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 somewhat 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. After MGM realized that their re-releases of the older cartoons brought in just as much money as the new cartoons did, the studio executives decided, much to the surprise of the staff, to close the animation studio. The MGM cartoon studio 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 established their own television animation studio, Hanna-Barbera Productions, in 1957, which went on to produce famous TV shows and movies.
Like a number of other animated cartoons from the late 1920s to the early 1950s, Tom and Jerry featured racial stereotypes. After explosions, for example, characters with blasted faces would resemble stereotypical blacks, with large lips and bow-tied hair. Perhaps the most controversial element of the show is the character Mammy Two Shoes, a poor black maid who speaks in a stereotypical "black accent" and has a rodent problem. Joseph Barbera, who was responsible for these gags, claimed that the racial gags in Tom and Jerry did not reflect his racial opinion; they were just reflecting what was common in society and cartoons at the time and were meant to be humorous.. Nevertheless, such stereotypes are considered by some to be racist today, and most of the blackface gags are cut when these shorts are aired, even though Mouse in Manhattan was shown uncut in July 25th, 2012 on Cartoon Network. Mammy Two-Shoes' voice was redubbed by Turner in the mid-1990s to make the character sound less stereotypical; the resulting accent sounds more Irish. One cartoon in particular, His Mouse Friday, is usually kept out of television rotation because of its depiction of cannibals. If shown, the cannibals' dialogue is edited out, although their mouths still move.
In Tom and Jerry's Spotlight Collection DVD, a disclaimer by Whoopi Goldberg warns viewers about the potentially offensive material in the cartoons and emphasizes that they were "wrong then and they are wrong today", borrowing a phrase from the Warner Bros. Golden collection. This disclaimer is also used in the Tom and Jerry Golden Collection: Volume 1. The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in the U.S society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today's society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed.
In 2006, United Kingdom channel Boomerang made plans to edit Tom and Jerry cartoons being aired in the UK where the characters were seen to be smoking in a manner that was "condoned, acceptable or glamorized." This followed a complaint from a viewer who thought smoking was wrong and that, thus, that the cartoons were not appropriate for younger viewers, There was a subsequent investigation by UK media watchdog OFCOM. It has also taken the U.S. approach by editing out blackface gags, though this seems to be random as not all scenes of this type are cut.