Friday, December 15, 2006

Tom and Jerry

In their first full teaming together, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera at MGM created the cat and mouse Tom and Jerry series (clearly influenced by the frenetic action in Tex Avery's work at Warners), comic adventures about Tom - a gray mangy cat, and Jerry - a wisely innocent mouse. When the cartoon series was first introduced in 1940 with the 9 minute Oscar-nominated Puss Gets the Boot (1940), Tom was called 'Jasper' and the mouse had no name.

Over 100 cartoons from 1940 to 1958 featured the two cartoon characters, and Hanna and Barbera were able to break Disney's Oscar monopoly for award-winning cartoons. They won more Academy Awards than any other cartoon series in history, except for Disney's Silly Symphonies. They won Oscars for Best Short Subject: Cartoon for the following animated cartoons:
  • Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943)
  • Mouse Trouble (1944)
  • Quiet, Please! (1945)
  • The Cat Concerto (1946)
  • The Little Orphan (1948)
  • The Two Mouseketeers (1951)
  • Johann Mouse (1952)
In the last film Johann Mouse (1952), Jerry - the mouse, can't resist waltzing when he hears music from the master of the house, Viennese composer Johann Strauss. Tom, also a resident in the household of the Maestro, takes piano lessons to keep Jerry dancing and entranced - so that he can snatch him. One of their most famous cartoons was Mouse in Manhattan (1945) that featured a score by Scott Bradley (made up mostly of Louis Alter's "Manhattan Serenade" later used in The Godfather (1972) and Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown's "Broadway Rhythm") and Jerry's adventures in the big city. [Hanna-Barbera were also responsible for animated TV cartoon shows including Ruff 'n' Ready, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones and Top Cat.]

Later, in a few famous sequences, Jerry the mouse danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh (1945) - the first instance of the combination of live action and animation in a feature film. Tom and Jerry also performed an underwater fantasy dance with Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet (1953). Famed animator Chuck Jones was assigned to produce new episodes for Tom and Jerry cartoons in the 70s at MGM - but they had lost their spunk and spirit by that time - and were ultimately unsuccessful.
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