Tom and Jerry - 70 years of the cartoon series
By Eugene Moodubelle
03 March 2010: Not only children but even adults enjoy cartoons. Among the cartoons no other series has caught the imagination and fascination as that of the ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoon series that has captivated the world since the last 70 years.
The cat and mouse cartoon series was created by a team comprised of Joseph Barbera-a story teller and character designer and William Hanna-an experienced director. The first cat and mouse cartoon that they had produced was titled ‘Puss Gets the Boot’. This short cartoon was released in theatres on 10th February 1940. Barbera and Hanna directed 114 Tom and Jerry cartoons between 1940 to 1957at the Metro Goldwyn Mayer(MGM) Cartoon Studio in Hollywood.
Shorts of Tom and Jerry were nominated thirteen times for the Academy Award for Best Short Subjects: Cartoons category and went on to win the award seven times. Tom and Jerry has won more Academy Awards than any other animated series. The shorts which won the Academy Awards are “Yankee Doodle Mouse” (1943), “Quiet, Please”(1945), “The Cat Concerto” (1947), “Mouse Cleaning” (1948), “Two Mouseketeers” (1952), and “Johann Mouse” (1953). The series has also been named as the ‘Greatest Television Shows of All Time’ by TIME, in 2000. Tom and Jerry was also placed at the 66thposition, in the ‘Top 100 Animated TV Shows’.
Tom and Jerry are two of the most honoured cartoon characters in motion pictures. The story line of each Tom and Jerry Cartoon Episode is centered on a never-ending battle, in other words, a chase between a housecat and a brown mouse. In some shorts they both are seen as going along very well. Sometimes one cannot understand as to why Tom is always desperately chasing Jerry all the time. However, irrespective of the reason the chase given by Tom to Jerry has always been admired by viewers. In most cases Tom is unable to catch Jerry simply because Jerry is smarter and more cunning than Tom. In several shorts Tom and Jerry are shown trying to murder each other with axe, pistols, and explosives along with using whatever is handy as a weapon to hit each other. Music has always played a very important role in all the Tom and Jerryshorts enhancing the emotions in the scenes. The music for the shorts was created by music director Scott Bradley.
The physical appearances of both Tom and Jerry were evolved over the years. The series developed into a quicker, more energetic tone. Though the original theme of the series, cat chases mouse, remained the same, Hanna and Barbera came up with numerous variations on this theme. The final shot of Hanna and Barbera was ‘Tot Watchers’, which was released on 1st August 1958, after which the MGM cartoon studio closed down in 1957. Later, Hanna and Barbera opened up their own television studio, Hanna-Barbera Productions, in 1957 and went on to produce various famous TV shows and movies.
In 1960, Czech-based animation director, Gene Deitch was asked by MGM to produce new Tom and Jerry series. Gene Deitch produced 13 shorts. However, these episodes were not very favouably received by the general audience. In the early 1963, Chuck Jones, who was removed from Warner Brothers Cartoons, started his own animation studio and produced a total of 34 Tom and Jerry cartoon shorts. The main characters were given a changed appearance, with Tom getting thicker eyebrows, a less complex look, sharper ears and furrier cheeks. Jerry got larger eyes and ears, a lighter brown color and a sweeter Porky Pig-like expression.
Tom and Jerry later reappeared in television cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera and Filmation Studios during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and a feature film, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, in 1993. The never-ending fight between the house cat Tom and the mouse, Jerry, has been a comic trademark for multiple generations reaching beyond language and nationality. Even though various producers carried forward their story in varying styles of animation, it was best remembered for those produced by Fred Quimby.