You're Doing It Wrong

  • 4/09/2009 12:20:00 am
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

When you get a spare minute, we'd recommend that everyone should read the Wikipedia entry for Tom & Jerry. It contains several bits of information we weren't previously aware of (or at least, which we'd learned from Stay Tooned with Tony Robinson and subsequently forgot). Assuming we're not falling for Wikipranksters, key facts include:

  • Jerry's full name is Gerald "Jerry" S. Mouse, and in the first short of what would become Tom & Jerry, was to be called 'Jinx'.
  • In the first five T&J shorts, Tom was exclusively quadrupedal, with the last being 'Dog Trouble'. However, Jerry was bipedal from the very beginning.
  • Despite the first Tom & Jerry short (Puss Gets the Boot) being nominated for an Academy Award, MGM weren't willing to finance any further escapades of (what was then) Jasper and Jinx ("haven't there been enough cat-and-mouse cartoons already?"). Luckily, animation's Hanna and Barbera decided to go ahead and make one anyway, just in time for MGM to relent, and order another two adventures. The second T&J proper bagged another Oscar nom, and their popularity grew.

The main thing we learned (or re-learned, due to Tony Robinson-based amnesia) was that we were horribly wrong in our assumption that Chuck Jones took over production duties on T&J once Hanna-Barbera moved on. H-B actually saw production stopped by MGM, who decided to greedily close down their animation studio after realising repeats of existing shorts made just as much money as the new releases. The studio shut in 1957, and H-B moved on to cartoons for television (which, whatever you may think of them, ultimately led to Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law, so hurrah for that).

In 1960, MGM had seen the folly of their ways, and looked for someone to start making brand new Tom & Jerry shorts. However, they didn't move straight on to Warner Bros. legend Chuck Jones, as we'd thought. With a beady corporate eye on the bottom line, they approached Czech-based studio Rembrandt Films to come up with new Tom & Jerry cartoons on the cheap, from behind the Iron Curtain. Director Gene Deitch and his team had only actually seen a handful of Tom & Jerry shorts, meaning that there's an almost alarming air to the 'new' adventures, with Tom being owned not by Mammy Two-Shoes (latterly 'Mrs Two-Shoes' in the more ideologically correct edits), but rather Generic Unnamed Angry Fat Man, who basically mistreats Tom in several quite harrowing ways. Essentially, it's a mash-up of classic Tom & Jerry, and some of the disturbing 'Parasite and Worker'-esque East European animations that Channel Four used to scare children in the mid-1980s. But don't take our word for it, someone excellent has put them all on YouTube:

"High Steaks" (1961, Dir. Gene Deitch)

Luckily, this didn't last too long, and by 1963 Chuck Jones was in control. The antics of T. Cat and G.S. Mouse were now going in yet another direction, but this time a more anarchic, lively, and most importantly, enjoyable direction. Despite what anyone else might claim, the Chuck Jones T&J shorts were great. Yes, they were. Identifiably different from the H-B years (which still edge it overall), but no less enjoyable for that, unless you're a lunatic.

"Penthouse Mouse" (1963, Dir. Chuck Jones)

Sadly, MGM pulled the plug on cinematic outings for the duo in 1967. They did make a return years later, this time on ABC's The Tom & Jerry Show. And this is how rubbish it was:


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