In the 1930’s and 40’s MGM was trying to get in on the lucrative animation game. The field was dominated at the time by Warner Brothers with their Loony Tunes shorts, and of course, the iconic cast of animated characters coming out of the Walt Disney Studio. For years they had failed to find the right property to take advantage of the market. It wasn’t until the team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera approached the studio with their first project that the times did change, at least a little, for the fledgling animation department at MGM. The project was far from an original one even for the time. It was a very basic cat and mouse adventure featuring a cat named Tom and a mouse named Jerry. There would be almost no dialog on the shorts. It certainly didn’t look like much of a hit to the studio brass, but with no better ideas on the way, they went ahead with the new shorts of Tom And Jerry. There’s a reason why the cat and mouse pair is such a classic. It’s because it works. If you can make your characters entertaining and endearing enough, you can have a hit. MGM finally entered the major leagues, and the team of Hanna and Barbera would become one of the most successful animation teams in history. They would go on to create such cherished characters as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, and, of course, Scooby Doo.
These were the days of the Golden Age in Hollywood. These shorts were not being produced for television, which hadn’t been invented when they began; rather, they were intended for theater goers. In those days going to the movies was much more of an inclusive experience. You always got a cartoon short along with an adventure serial, the likes of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and The Lone Ranger. These multi-chaptered serials were the forerunners to the modern television series. It kept you coming back to the movies to see what would happen next. Each chapter ended in a cliffhanger. These early serials were the inspiration for such film franchises as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Finally you got one, sometimes two movies, all for the price of a single admission.
Then came television, and suddenly entertainment was available in your living room for the cost of a set. It hit the movie industry hard, and cutbacks had to be made. Over the span of a couple of decades the films eventually appeared alone. Serial and animation production was winding down. MGM was hit about as hard as any other studio, and before long Tom And Jerry were on their way out. But television did much to save the cat and mouse duo.
Collected here you’ll find 14 of Tom and Jerry’s best providing over an hour of crazy antics.
The Mouse That Came To Dinner (1945): Tom throws a dinner party for toots and has Jerry as the server. But, it’s Tom’s tail that somehow keeps ending up on the menu.
Springtime For Thomas (1946): Jerry gets a break from running away from Tom when the feline’s thoughts turn to the opposite sex.
Trap Happy (1946): Feeling frustrated Tom decides to bring in a professional exterminator to take care of Jerry.
Polka-Dot Puss: (1949): To avoid being put out of the house for the night, Tom fakes a cold. The special treatment gets the best of Jerry who decides to give Tom a disease to worry really worry about courtesy of some red paint.
Saturday Evening Puss: (1950): Tom invites some of his “really cool cats” over to party disturbing Jerry’s sleep. He gets Mammy to come home only to play the same loud music herself, after giving the kitty foursome the boot, of course.
Little Quacker (1950): When Tom swipes an egg it hatches before he can fix up his breakfast. Deciding that roast duck is better than eggs any day of the week, Tom decides to cook the little duck’s goose, that is unless Jerry can protect the little guy long enough for his momma to come back.
Cruise Cat (1952): Tom’s got a cushy job as the mouse catcher on a luxury cruise ship, but if he can’t get rid of Jerry he’s going to lose one sweet gig.
The Missing Mouse (1953): Tom mistakes Jerry for a dangerous escaped white mouse after Jerry gets covered in white shoe polish.
Jerry And Jumbo (1953): An elephant escapes from the circus and tag teams with Jerry against Tom.
Just Ducky (1953): When a duckling can’t swim, Jerry must teach him before Tom can cook up his dream roast duck recipe.
Little School Mouse (1954): Jerry has opened up a school on outwitting cats.
Tom And Cherie (1955): It’s still Jerry’s cat outsmarting school and he uses his star pupil to deliver love letters which turns out to be great practice as he has to keep getting past Tom.
Muscle Beach Tom (1956): Tom has to compete with a bodybuilder when he takes his lady for a day at the beach.
Down Beat Bear (1956): A bear escapes from the zoo and ends up with Tom And Jerry. Jerry finds it convenient that every time the bear hears music he grabs Tom and dances. That leaves Jerry free to do whatever he wants.
Each episode is presented a 1.78:1 matted format. When you consider the age, you have to be pleased with these prints. There’s a great exhibition of color here. The animation lines are smooth, and the whole thing looks near perfect. There aren’t even that many print defects to distract you here. There is unevenness in contrast and brightness, but all in all these babies are in pretty fine condition.
The Dolby Digital mono track offers pretty much dialog and music or effects. It’s fine for what it is.
I missed the first two collections. There’s few enough of these things that I’d love for Warner to release a complete collection. These were some of my favorite cartoons growing up. I still have a Tom and Jerry coloring book from back in the 1970’s. Has it been that long? “Eeeek.”