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Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: July 19, 1941
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Midnight Snack © MGMFollowing the success of ‘Puss Gets the Boot‘ it would take quite a while before the cat and mouse duo were given their own series. But one and a half year later ‘The Midnight Snack’ was released: Tom & Jerry’s very first official cartoon.

The duo was re-christened ‘Tom and Jerry’, which may have sounded right, as there had been a human cartoon duo before with that name (1931-1933). The looks of the cat and mouse were altered, too: Tom now has his characteristic black nose and thick black eyebrows, which make his facial expressions much stronger. Nevertheless, his features are still very complex. Jerry’s designs have remained the same, but he’s now animated much more consistently, rendering him less pudding-like.

The story of ‘The Midnight Snack’ feels like a variation on ‘Puss Gets the Boot’. Tom catches Jerry stealing cheese from the fridge, only to make a buffet out of the fridge himself. When Mammy awakes, Tom frames Jerry, but in the end it’s he who gets punished by the angry maid. The cartoon violence is still rather mild in this cartoon, the most conspicuous gag being Jerry pricking the trapped Tom with a large carving fork.

Composer Scott Bradley juxtaposes separate themes for the cat and the mouse against each other in a rather complex continuous cartoon score. Bradley used this composition method in the duo’s first cartoons to a great effect. Later, the frantic cartoon action called for more disjointed and less integrated musical scores.

‘The Midnight Snack’ shows the cat and mouse’s great appeal and potential. Yet, in Charles Solomon’s book ‘Enchanted Drawings – The History of Animation’ Joe Barbera reveals that ‘The Midnight Snack’ almost became the last Tom & Jerry cartoon; apparently producer Fred Quimby was opposed to make any more of them, until he got a letter from Texas asking for more of “these delightful cat-and-mouse-cartoons”.

Watch ‘The Midnight Snack’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 2
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Puss Gets the Boot
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Night Before Christmas

‘The Midnight Snack’ is available on the European DVD set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

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Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 16, 1938
Stars: The Captain and the Kids
Rating: ★★
Review:

Poultry Pirates © MGMIn 1937 MGM decided to start its very own studio, after having distributed cartoons by Ub Iwerks (1930-1934) and Harman-Ising. They put Fred Quimby, a producer famous for having neither animation experience nor any sense of humor, in charge.

Quimby hired virtually Harman & Ising’s complete staff away. He also hired some talent from other studios, most notably Jack Zander and Joe Barbera, who would later work on Tom & Jerry, and Friz Freleng. Quimby lured Freleng away from Leon Schlesinger by flattery and by offering him a much larger salary. Freleng stayed less than a year at MGM before happily returning to Warner Bros.

Freleng’s talents were wasted on ‘The Captain and the Kids’, a series based on the classic comic strip of the same name by Rudolph Dirks. MGM had bought the rights to this comic strip, and insisted to make a series out of them. The strip had been around since 1897 (first as ‘The Katzenjammer Kids’), and really felt as coming from another era. Amidst the days of Donald Duck, Daffy Duck and Popeye, these characters were hopelessly old-fashioned, and Freleng struggled to create any fun with them. Consequently, none of the Captain and the Kids cartoons have become classics.

Nevertheless, Freleng’s films were still better than that of other people directing the ill-conceived series, which was, in the end, a failure. In total, Freleng directed six Captain and the Kids cartoons, and one stand-alone cartoon called ‘The Bookworm’, before returning to the greener pastures of the Leon Schlesinger studio.

Of Freleng’s Captain and the Kids cartoons, ‘Poultry Pirates’ is the first. It stars the captain, only, who tries to keep a bunch of chickens and ducks out of his vegetable garden, to no avail. At one point he has to fight a six feet tall rooster, but that happens to be part of a dream.

There’s very little to enjoy in ‘Poultry Pirates’. The animators do no attempts to lip synch, neither the captain nor the chicks gain and sympathy, the story drags on, and the result is frustratingly unfunny.

Watch ‘Poultry Pirates’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Poultry Pirates’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

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