10 Things You Might Not Know About TOM AND JERRY - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About TOM AND JERRY


1. In June 1937, animator and storyman Joseph Barbera began to work for the Ising animation unit at MGM, then the largest studio in Hollywood. He learned that co-owner Louis B. Mayer wished to boost the animation department by encouraging the artists to develop some new cartoon characters, following the lack of success with its earlier cartoon series based on the Captain and the Kids comic strip. Barbera then teamed with fellow Ising unit animator and director William Hanna and pitched new ideas, among them was the concept of two "equal characters who were always in conflict with each other". An early thought involved a fox and a dog before they settled on a cat and mouse. The pair discussed their ideas with producer Fred Quimby, then the head of the short film department who, despite a lack of interest in it, gave them the green-light to produce one cartoon short.

2. The resulting short, Puss Gets The Boot, was released on February 10th 1940. It features a cat named Jasper and an unnamed mouse, named Jinx in pre-production, and an African American housemaid named Mammy Two Shoes.

Hanna & Barbera, having been advised by management not to produce any more cat and mouse films, focused on other cartoons. Matters changed, however, when Texas businesswoman Bessa Short sent a letter to MGM asking whether more cat and mouse shorts would be produced as Puss Gets The Boot was proving popular at her movie theatre.  This helped convince MGM to commission a series.

3. A studio contest held to rename both cartoon characters was won by animator John Carr, who suggested Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse after the Christmastime drink. Carr was awarded a first place prize of $50.

"Tom and Jerry" was, though, 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, if Carr was aware of this it's not thought that there was any more than an unconscious knowledge when naming the characters.

4. As well as entertaining audiences, Puss Gets The Boot was a critical success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Subject: Cartoons in 1941  - despite the credits listing Ising and omitting Hanna and Barbera!

5.  After MGM gave the green-light for Hanna and Barbera to continue, the studio entered production on the second Tom and Jerry cartoon, The Midnight Snack. The pair continued to work on the series for the next fifteen years of their career, producing a staggering 114 episodes!

Throughout all their run (and all subsequent versions of Tom and Jerry) the original short, Puss Gets The Boot, is the longest episode of Tom and Jerry, with a runtime of nine minutes and eight seconds.

6. The cartoon violence depicted in Tom and Jerry has often been surrounded with controversy, but perhaps the most controversial aspect, or rather character, was Mammy Two Shoes. She was the owner of Tom in the series, and was mostly known by her legs rather than by her face. In the entire run of Tom and Jerry cartoons, her face was shown only once, very briefly, in the episode named Saturday Evening Puss (above) released on January 14th 1950.

Some years later, in the late 1960s when Tom and Jerry first began being broadcast on television, Mammy Two Shoes proved to be a very controversial element of the series. As she was depicted as a poor black maid who speaks in a stereotypical “black accent” this was seen as being far too sensitive for broadcasters at a time when race relations was rarely out of the news. She was removed from the TV versions, simply by pasting over the scenes featuring her with new scenes. Most of the time, she was replaced with a similarly fat white Irish woman; occasionally, as in Saturday Evening Puss, a thin white teenager took her place instead

Later, Mammy Two Shoes was reinstated in the cartoons but her voice dubbed to make her sound less stereotypical.

7. Another controversy surrounded the 1956 episode Blue Cat Blues. In it Tom and Jerry apparently commit suicide!

The duo are both heartbroken having lost their respective loves. Tom also penniless and depressed sits on the railway tracks waiting for the oncoming train, Jerry joins him as the train's whistle grows louder.

As the train approaches, the cartoon fades to white...

8. During the Hannah-Barbera years, thirteen Tom and Jerry shorts were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject and seven went on to win, breaking the winning streak held by Walt Disney's studio in the category. In total, om and Jerry have won more Academy Awards than any other character-based theatrical animated series.

9. In 1961, MGM revived the Tom and Jerry franchise, and contracted European animation studio Rembrandt Films to produce 13 Tom and Jerry shorts in Prague, Czechoslovakia. All were directed by Gene Deitch (who also wrote most of the cartoons) and produced by William L. Snyder.

Deitch stated that he was not a fan of the Tom and Jerry cartoons, thinking they were "needlessly violent". However, after being assigned to work on the series, he quickly realized that...
"...nobody took [the violence] seriously, [it was merely] a parody of exaggerated human emotions".
He also came to see what he perceived as the "biblical roots" in Tom and Jerry's conflict, similar to David and Goliath, stating,
"That's where we feel a connection to these cartoons: the little guy can win (or at least survive) to fight another day."
Deitch's shorts were commercial successes, with the first released on September 7th 1961, and the last on December 21st 1962. During this time the Tom and Jerry series became the highest-grossing animated short film series of 1961 and 1962, dethroning Looney Tunes, which had held the position for 16 years. But in retrospect, the Deitch era is one that many fans feel to be the weakest run of Tom and Jerry cartoons.

10. After the last of the Deitch cartoons were released, Chuck Jones with partner Les Goldman went on to produce 34 more Tom and Jerry shorts. Beginning in 1963, all of these carried Jones' distinctive style (and a slight psychedelic influence), and a memorable opening theme, in which Tom first replaces the MGM lion, then is trapped inside the "O" of his name.

Though Jones's shorts were generally considered an improvement over Deitch's, they nevertheless had varying degrees of critical success. MGM ceased production of Tom and Jerry shorts with the final, and 161st, theatrical short, Purr-Chance to Dream, released on September 8th 1967.

Happy 80th Birthday Tom and Jerry!

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