Tom and Jerry, two of the most honored cartoon characters in motion pictures, were created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Their plot centered on a never-ending battle, in other words, a chase between a housecat and a brown mouse. The Hanna- Barbera duo had written and directed 114 Tom and Jerry cartoons from 1940 to 1957, at the MGM cartoon studio in Hollywood. The pair won a total of 7 Oscar awards for Best Animated Short Subject, more than any other character-based theatrical animated series. 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 66th position, in the ‘Top 100 Animated TV Shows’ by IGN, in January 2009. Read on to know interesting and amazing information on the history, origin and background of Tom and Jerry.
Interesting & Amazing Information on Origin & Background of Tom & Jerry
Joseph Barbera, a storyman and character designer, paired up with an experienced director, William Hanna to create a cat-and-mouse cartoon. The first cartoon was titled ‘Puss Gets the Boot’ and it released in theatres on February 10, 1940. Having lost to another MGM cartoon at the Academy Awards, Hanna and Barbera held a contest to give the cat and mouse a new name and look. Animator John Carr won the contest, with his suggestion of Tom and Jerry. The series went into production and eventually, Hanna and Barbera went on to direct only the cat-and-mouse cartoon, for the rest of their tenure at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
The main protagonist, Tom was a blue-grey longhair cat while Jerry, the second protagonist, was a small & brown, house mouse. 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 released on August 1, 1958, after 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 from Rembrandt Films was contracted by MGM to produce new Tom and Jerry shorts. A total of 13 shorts were released under this contract. These episodes were not very favorably received by the general audience. In the early 1963, Chuck Jones, who was fired from Warner Bros. Cartoons, started his own animation studio and produced a total of 34 Tom and Jerry 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. The year 1965 saw the Hanna and Barbera cartoon series airing on television, in heavily edited form.
The Jones series featured Mammy Two-Shoes. Eventually, she was replaced by a fat White Irish woman, as in ‘Saturday Evening Puss’. The series were translated into various foreign languages, since it had almost no dialogues. It started broadcasting in Japan in 1964. Since then, Tom and Jerry cartoons have been airing on television everyday in India, Germany, South East Asia, the Middle East, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela, other Latin American countries and in eastern European countries. Various Tom and Jerry movies have also been released such as ‘Tom and Jerry: The Movie’, ‘Tom and Jerry: The Magic Ring’, ‘Tom and Jerry: Blast Off To Mars’, ‘Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry’ and ‘Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale’.
Tom and Jerry together form an Academy Award winning pair of a cat (Tom) and a mouse (Jerry). The shorts of Tom & Jerry were written, and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Their first appearance was in “Puss Gets the Boot”.
In each short Tom is shown trying unsuccessfully trying to catch Jerry. In some shorts they both are seen as going along very well and there is no particular reason shown as to why Tom is always desperately chasing Jerry all the time but 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. The shorts of Tom & Jerry have had the most violence ever in he field of animation though it never involved blood or gore in any scenes. 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 Jerry shorts enhancing the emotions in the scenes. The music for the shorts was created by music director Scott Bradley.
While Tom is depicted as bluish-grey housecat, Jerry is shown as a small brown mouse living in the same house. Even though Tom is very energetic he is unable to catch Jerry as Jerry is too smart for Tom. In most of the shorts Jerry is shown as winning in end but in some rare shorts Tom wins and Jerry loses. Even though both take pleasure in hurting each other they help out each other when one of them is in serious danger and then they end up being friends. Tom and Jerry are rarely, if ever, shown speaking. Most of the sound effects for the pair were provided by William Hanna also the co-director of the series. A vicious bulldog is the protector and guarding angel of Jerry in some shorts. He is friendly towards the mouse but is aggressive towards the cat
Early shorts showed that Mammy Two Shoes was the housemaid of the house where Tom lives. Her face is never shown, only her voice is heard and she punishes Tom whenever he misbehaves. She appeared in many shorts till 1952 when Tom was shown living with a couple. After this Tom’s ownership again changes to a woman who is very strict, adores mice and punishes Tom for chasing Jerry.
When “Puss Gets the Boot” was released to theaters on February 10, 1940 no one had imagined that this cat and mouse pair will become so famous. In this short the mouse breaks every fragile thing he can gets his hands so that the cat will be blamed and thrown out of the house. Hanna and Barbera started working on other shorts. The attitude towards the short changed only when it became a favorite with theater owners and was nominated for Academy award for best Short subject ultimately losing out to another MGM cartoon “The Milky Way”. Realizing the potential of the cat and mouse short, Fred Quimby, asked Hanna and Barbera to drop other cartoons they were working on and asked them to work on a series featuring the cat and mouse. It was animator John Carr who suggested the name of “Tom and Jerry”. Since the Tom & Jerry went into production in 1941 with the release of “The Midnight snack” Hanna and Barbera directed nothing else except for the Tom and Jerry series.
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).
After TV started making a dent in revenues of animated shorts, MGM executives decided to close the animation studio. The last of Hanna and Barbera Tom and Jerry shorts “Tot Watchers” was released on August 1, 1958. After Gene Deitch and chuck Jones took charge of Tom and Jerry in 1961 and 1963 respectively, the Hanna-Barbera Studio bought Tom and Jerry from MGM in 1975. They made 48 cartoons between 1975 and 1977 when the series finally ended.