Tom and Jerry: Cartoon Icons of American TV
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Tom and Jerry: Cartoon Icons of American TV

Tom and Jerry is an American series of animated cartoons created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, centering on a never-ending rivalry between Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse. Hanna and Barbera wrote and directed one hundred and fourteen Tom and Jerry shorts between 1940 and 1957.

Tom and Jerry is an American series of animated cartoons created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, centering on a never-ending rivalry between Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse.  Hanna and Barbera wrote and directed one hundred and fourteen Tom and Jerry shorts between 1940 and 1957, before the animation department was closed.

The original Tom and Jerry series, now known as one of the most famous and longest-lived rivalries in American TV history, is notable for having won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film seven times, tying with Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies.  A longtime television favorite with kids, teenagers, and adults alike, in 2000 it was named one of the greatest television shows of all time by Time magazine.

The popular series features on-going comedic fights, usually centering around Tom's numerous attempts to capture Jerry and the chaos and destruction that would invariably result. Though it’s sometimes unclear why Tom incessantly chases Jerry, Jerry’s eating of Tom's master's food (which Tom has been entrusted to safeguard), Jerry’s rescuring of Tom’s other potential dinners (ducks, canaries, and goldfish), and Jerry’s ruining of Tom's attempts to seduce various feline females seems to be reasons enough.

Central to the Tom and Jerry comic template it that Tom rarely succeeds in catching Jerry, mainly because Jerry is remarkably clever, cunning, and quite lucky. Often seeming to intentionally perpetuate their love-hate relationship, while often extremely annoyed at each another, in many episodes there seems to be genuine friendship (as in “Springtime for Thomas“) and concern for each other's well-being (as in "Jerry and the Lion,” where Jerry tricks Tom into thinking he has shot him, and Tom comes running with the first aid kit).

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Often compared to the Simpsons' “Itchy and Scratchy” characters--which many consider an homage to the famous cat/mouse rivals--Tom and Jerry episodes are infamous for some of the most comically gory acts ever committed to the cartoon cell, such as Jerry slicing Tom in half, shutting his head in a window or a door, stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron, plugging his tail into an electric socket, causing a tree to drive him into the ground, sticking matches between his toes and lighting them, and tying him to a firework and setting it off; and Tom retaliating by using everything from axes, firearms, explosives, traps, and poison to try to end Jerry’s life.

While Tom and Jerry has been criticized for being what many consider unnecessarily violent, in reality, there is actually no blood or gore in any of the original cartoons, and neither of the pair are ever seriously injured. (An exception is when Tom gets sliced into pieces in the opening credits of Tom and Jerry: The Movie.) Recurring gags involve Jerry hitting Tom when he's preoccupied--with Tom only feeling the effects moments later--and Jerry stopping Tom in mid-chase--calling for a time-out--just before he does something terribly nasty to Tom.

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Traditionally, music plays a very important part in Tom and Jerry shorts--since Tom and Jerry almost never speak--effectively emphasizing the action, adding emotion to the scenes, and filling in for traditional sound effects.  Most of the dialogue from Tom and Jerry are high-pitched laughs and gasping screams, which are thoughtfully provided via a horn or other musical instrument.  Additionally, musical director Scott Bradley created complex scores that combined elements of popular jazz, classical, and pop music, and often incorporated songs from MGM films like The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me In St. Louis.

Beginning in 1960, MGM had new Tom and Jerry shorts produced in Eastern Europe by Rembrandt Films.  In 1963, however, due to poor quality, production was returned to Hollywood under Chuck Jones's Sib-Tower 12 Productions, producing forty-seven additional cartoons before it wrapped up production in 1967. The famously popular cat and mouse stars then resurfaced when Hanna-Barbera/Filmation Studios produced cartoons during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, with a feature film, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, released in 1992, and in 2001, their first made-for TV short, “Tom and Jerry: The Mansion Cat for Boomerang.” The most recent Tom and Jerry theatrical short, “The Karate Guard,” debuted in Los Angeles theaters on September 27, 2005.

Today, Time Warner (bought by WTBS founder Ted Turner for his Turner Entertainment division) owns the rights to Tom and Jerry and is distributed by Warner Bros.  In February 2010, the now-classic cartoon celebrated its 70th anniversary with a DVD collection of thirty shorts, and in June 2010 the Tom and Jerry Deluxe Anniversary Collection was released to celebrate the animated duo's seventh decade together.  The classic episodes are also running on Cartoon Network TBS, TNT, The WB, Boomerang, and Turner Classic Movies.


> As many cartoon aficionados know, the Simpsons characters, “Itchy & Scratchy,” featured on the Krusty the Clown Show, are thinly-veiled spoofs of Tom and Jerry–a "cartoon within a cartoon."

In the Simpson episode, "Krusty Gets Kancelled,” the Tom and Jerry short "Worker and Parasite,” is a nod to the short-lived Eastern European Tom and Jerry cartoons (directed by Gene Deitch).  To reproduce the shotty animation, director David Silverman photocopied several drawings and made the animation very jerky.

> In 1945, Jerry made an appearance in the MGM musical Anchors Aweigh, in which--through the use of special effects--he performs a dance routine with dancer extraordinair Gene Kelly.  Tom also has a cameo in the sequence as one of Jerry's servants.

This sequence was later lifted and reanimated frame-for-frame in an episode of Family Guy, where Jerry was replaced with Stewie.

> Both Tom and Jerry appear with Esther Williams in a dream sequence in another big-screen musical, Dangerous When Wet.  In the film, Tom and Jerry are chasing each other underwater when they run into Esther Williams, with whom they perform an extended synchronized swimming routine.  Tom and Jerry then have the unique honor of saving Williams from a lecherous octopus who tries to lure her.

> In 1986, Tom and Jerry were lined up to appear in the Oscar-winning film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but when Steven Speilberg attempted to secure the rights, MGM was being purchased by Turner Entertainment at the time and Turner was not willing to lend his most popular cartoon characters to the project.  Also, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera claimed that since they had actually created Tom and Jerry, Hanna-Barbera owned them.

> Johnny Knoxville from Jackass has stated that he watches Tom and Jerry to get ideas for his movie stunts.


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Comments (12)

This is such a great piece of work.

Thanks, Martin. Much appreciated.

Now, that brought back some memories!


I love tom and Jerry. I prefer them as friends than enemies. Good facts here, James. Thank you.

Good account of this pair of cartoon heroes for many children through the ages.

I, too, love Tom and Jerry. It helps remove stress and relaxing, too, because of the fun and laughter. Great article!

Thanks guys!

Akbar Ali

Everything outstanding! Palatable just like hot cakes. Thanks.

Thank you kindly, Akbar Ali.

all time favorite, Tom and Jerry is used as a stress reliever by many youths in the IT industry

Interesting insight, deepa. Would not have known that.