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Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: January 17, 1942
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★½

Fraidy Cat © MGMThis short opens with Tom listening to ‘The Witching Hour’ on the radio, living the part of it.

Jerry mocks the scene, and decides to scare Tom himself, which he does with e.g. help of a vacuum cleaner and a white shirt. Jerry scares Tom to death, who had already been frightened by the radio program.

‘Fraidy Cat’ is less funny than the first three Tom & Jerry cartoons, but it clearly shows that Hanna and Barbera could do much more with the cat and mouse duo than ordinary chases. ‘Fraidy Cat’ also is the first Tom & Jerry cartoon to feature non-realistic gags: when Tom listens to the radio he literally gets “icy chills raised down his spine”: we watch him being covered in icicles. In the next scene he literally has is heart leaping into his throat. Later, we watch Tom’s nine lives leave him, when he is almost sucked away by Jerry’s vacuum cleaner. And finally, when Tom sneaks upon Mammy Two-Shoes, his body stretches beyond any sense of realism. These types of gags would become more and more important in the series, making the Tom & Jerry cartoons funnier and funnier.

Watch ‘Fraidy Cat’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 4
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Night Before Christmas
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Dog Trouble

‘Fraidy Cat’ is available on the European DVD set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

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

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’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: February 10, 1940
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★★★

Puss gets the Boot © MGM

‘Puss Gets the Boot’ marks the first of three game-changing debut cartoons of 1940 (the other ones being ‘A Wild Hare‘ from July and ‘Knock Knock‘ from November), making the year a turning point in American studio animation. From now on cartoons were to be brassier, more energetic and more violent.

‘Puss Gets the Boot’ introduces that illustrious cat and mouse duo, Tom & Jerry. The cartoon was made by William Hanna and Joe Barbera under Rudolf Ising’s flag, and like ‘A Wild Hare’ only meant as a one-off cartoon. Indeed, Tom is called Jasper in this short, and Jerry remains unnamed.

Moreover, the two look quite different from their later incarnations. Not only is Tom drawn with outrageous detail, he also has a white nose and very modest eyebrows. Jerry’s physique is rather unstable, as if he were made of a sort of rather amorphous jelly.

Yet, the characters are well established, and the friendly antagonism between the two is set from the start, as is the prize-winning combination of silent comedy and high production values. Also present is the combination of cuteness and gag-rich cartoon violence that made the Tom & Jerry series unique.

‘Puss Gets the Boot’ also marks the debut of Mammy Two-Shoes, a black maid character whose face we were never to see (except for a few frames in ‘Saturday Evening Puss‘ from 1950). Mammy was borrowed from Disney, who had introduced exactly such a character in ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ (1935). For present American audiences this character is problematical, as she clearly is a stereotype of a black maid. But I, as a European kid, always thought of her as the owner of the house, never realizing the discrepancy of the enormous mansion and the maid’s modest looks. In any case Mammy lasted until 1952, starring 18 Tom & Jerry cartoons in total.

In this very first Tom & Jerry short Mammy tells Jasper (Tom) that if he breaks one more thing, he goes out. So the still unnamed Jerry takes advantage of the situation, in a series of gags that culminate in a scene in which Tom tries to hold a ridiculously high pile of plates. The short features several gags that were pretty modern at the time, like Tom drawing a fake mouse hole entrance, and Jerry poking Tom’s eyes. Indeed, the idea was strong enough to be more or less revisited in ‘Mouse Cleaning‘ (1948), with even better results.

‘Puss Gets the Boot’ is a very well made cartoon. The silent comedy of the two characters is acted out perfectly and the action is timed very well. It’s still very funny, and it’s no wonder that the audiences asked for more cartoons from this cat and mouse duo. The short even was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost it to another MGM cartoon, the equally feline, yet much more saccharine ‘The Milky Way‘.

However, Tom and Jerry would quickly become MGM’s superstars, and they would win no less than seven Academy Awards, more than any other cartoon star. Indeed, Tom and Jerry arguably were the most successful cartoon stars of the 1940s and 1950s, starring 114 cartoons, and lasting until 1958, when MGM shut its animation department down. However, even that wouldn’t be the end of the cat and mouse duo, and even in the 21st century still films are made featuring these great characters.

Watch ‘Puss Gets the Boot’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 1
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Midnight Snack

‘Puss Gets the Boot’ is available on the European DVD set ‘Tom and Jerry Collection’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: May 22, 1943
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★½

The Lonesome Mouse © MGM‘The Lonesome Mouse’ is one of those Tom & Jerry cartoons in which the two enemies work together.

When Mammy throws Tom out of the house, Jerry rejoices. He even paints an Adolf Hitler-mustache and hairdo on Tom’s portrait, But then he gets lonesome, so he and Tom set up a great fake chase to get Tom back into the house.

Highlight of this cartoon are the loony faces Jerry makes to scare Mammy. Tom and Jerry actually talk in this cartoon.

Watch ‘The Lonesome Mouse’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No.10

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Sufferin’ Cats
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Yankee Doodle Mouse

Director: David Hand
Release Date: October 26, 1935
Rating: ★★★

Three Orphan Kittens © Walt DisneyOn a winter night three kittens are thrown in a sack into a garden.

Luckily they can escape the cold by entering the house, which they explore. This sweet cartoon contains elaborate gags with a.o. pepper, a bottle of milk, and a pianola.

‘Three Orphan Kittens’ was penned by Joe Grant and Bill Cottrell, and benefited from Fred Moore’s appealing animation. Indeed, it won an Academy Award. Its success made it one of those rare Silly Symphonies to evoke a sequel (‘More Kittens‘ from 1936). Moreover, it clearly inspired other animation film makers: the milk bottle gag was more or less copied by Fleischer in ‘We did it‘ (1936) which also stars three kittens. And, some of the pianola gags may have inspired Hanna and Barbera in their ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947).

At least Hanna and Barbera copied the black maid (of whom we only see her arms and legs) for their own Mammy Two-Shoes in the Tom & Jerry series. The black maid would also return in a few Disney shorts: ‘More Kittens‘ (1936), ‘The Pantry Pirate‘ (1940, starring Pluto), and ‘Figaro and Cleo‘ (1943).

Watch ‘Three Orphan Kittens’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 56
To the previous Silly Symphony: Music Land
To the next Silly Symphony: Cock o’ the Walk

Director: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: October 6, 1951
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes

Nit Witty Kitty © MGMWhen Mammy hits Tom on his head with a broom, he looses his mind and thinks he’s a mouse. This to great annoyance of Jerry, because Tom eats all his cheese and wrecks his bed.

‘Nit Witty Kitty’ is a well-told cartoon, if a little bit slow and low on gags. Highlight of the cartoon are Jerry’s attempts to deliver Tom a “sharp blow on the head”.

Watch ‘Nit-witty Kitty’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 61
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Slicked-up Pup
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Cat Napping

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: May 26,1951
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes, Meathead
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕

Sleepy Time Tom © MGMTom has been hanging out all night with three other cats.

He comes home early in the morning, only to meet a very angry Mammy. The same night Jerry has plundered the kitchen, so Mammy orders Tom to stay awake to chase the mouse away. Not an easy task for the exhausted Tom. Especially when Jerry repeatedly makes him fall asleep. In the end Tom is thrown out, only to be picked up again by his friends for another long night out…

‘Sleepy Time Tom’ is a hilarious cartoon with great gags and wonderful animation involving Tom’s feeble attempts to stay awake. Together with ‘Daffy Duck Slept Here‘ from 1948, its’arguably the funniest cartoon about sleep ever, outdoing other great cartoons like the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Coo-Coo Bird‘ (1947),  the Donald Duck shorts ‘Early to Bed‘ (1941), ‘Fall out-Fall in’ (1944), ‘Sleepy Time Donald’ (1947), and ‘Drip Dippy Donald’ (1948), or the similar Pluto short ‘Cat Nap Pluto‘ (1948).

One may indeed consider ‘Sleepy Time Tom’ to be the last of the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons. Although other funny Tom & Jerry shorts would be made in the years to come, the average quality of the designs, animation and stories would only diminish during the rest of the fifties.

Watch ‘Sleepy Time Tom’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 58
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Jerry’s Cousin
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: His Mouse Friday

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: January 19, 1950
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes, Meathead
Rating: ★★★★★

Saturday Evening Puss © MGMWhen Mammy goes out, Tom invites his friends, Meathead, the red cat and the little cat, who we hadn’t seen together since ‘Baby Puss‘ (1943).

Together they play intoxicating hot jazz, which unfortunately keeps Jerry out of sleep. After several attempts to stop them, Jerry calls Mammy who rushes home to catch the cats red-handed. Unfortunately, she likes the same music…

‘Saturday Evening Puss’ is one of the better ‘Tom and Jerry’ shorts, due to the irresistible jazz soundtrack and great comedy from all the characters. Highlights of animation are those of Mammy preparing to go out and of Jerry’s head taking different shapes to corresponding jazz sounds. Seventeen years later, the tables would be turned in Abe Levitow’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Rodent‘ (1967), which is one of the best Tom & Jerry’s by Chuck Jones’s unit.

‘Saturday Evening Puss’ is noteworthy for being the only cartoon in which Mammy’s face can be seen, if only for a split-second when she rushes towards the camera. Unfortunately, this cartoon also exists in a censored version from the 1960s featuring a white girl instead of the familiar black maid.

Watch ‘Saturday Evening Puss’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 48
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Little Quacker
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Texas Tom

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: February 26, 1949
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★

Polka Dot Puss © MGMMammy orders Tom to go out, in the pouring rain, so Tom fakes a cold to be able to stay inside bullying Jerry.

But Jerry elaborates on the idea, drawing polka dots on Tom, making him think he’s really ill, so the mouse can put extreme treatments on the cat. When Tom finally discovers the truth, they both really get the measles.

‘Polka Dot Blues’ is a nice cartoon, albeit not among Tom & Jerry’s best. It contains some mild Tex Averyan takes, and a story line akin to the Donald Duck short ‘Donald’s Off Day’ (1944). Jerry’s ‘treatments’ form the highlight of the cartoon.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Polka Dot Puss’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 39
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Mouse Cleaning
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Little Orphan

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: December 11, 1948
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★★★

Mouse Cleaning © MGMBy chasing Jerry into the house, Tom dirts the kitchen floor, which just has been painstakingly cleaned by Mammy.

She leaves shortly after, but not before warning him that if she’ll see one speck of dirt when she returns, she will throw him out. Jerry of course uses this threat to his advantage.

The plot of ‘Mouse Cleaning’ is very similar to that of ‘Puss Gets the Boot‘ (1940), Tom and Jerry’s very first cartoon, but the execution is much faster and funnier. Tom & Jerry had come a long way since, as is shown by a particularly Tex Averyan doubletake, in which Tom produces multiple eyes and a drops his jaw unto the floor in surprise.

Watch ‘Mouse Cleaning’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 38
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Professor Tom
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Polka Dot Puss

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: September 18, 1948
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★★★

Old Rockin' Chair Tom © MGMWhen Tom fails to catch Jerry, Mammy calls for ‘Lightning’, a red and literally lightning-fast cat, who disposes of Jerry in no time.

This wonder-cat, however, doublecrosses Mammy by plundering the icebox and blaming it on Tom. So Tom is kicked out, too. But he and Jerry team up against the intruder in an equally unlikely as hilarious plot, which involves an iron and a magnet. A classic.

Watch ‘Old Rockin’ Chair Tom’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 36
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Truce Hurts
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Professor Tom

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: August 30, 1947
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes ,Meathead
Rating: ★★★★★

A Mouse in the House © MGMIn ‘A Mouse in the House’ Mammy has two cats: Tom and Meathead. Unfortunately, they are both lazy as hell.

She tells them whoever catches the mouse (Jerry) is allowed to stay. This premise leads to a wild chase, simply packed with wonderful gags. The cartoon builds up brilliantly to a grand finale in which not only both cats are expelled, but Jerry, too.

‘A Mouse in the House’ is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable Tom and Jerry cartoons. Hanna & Barbera must have thought so, too, because the premise of this cartoon was reused in ‘Pet Peeve’ (1954), featuring Spike instead of Meathead. However, the latter cartoon is no match for the perfect comedy of ‘A Mouse in the House’.

Watch ‘A Mouse in the House’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 32

To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Salt Water Tabby
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Invisible Mouse

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Release Date: March 15, 1947
Stars: Tom & Jerry, Mammy Two-Shoes
Rating: ★★★

Part Time Pal © MGMMammy threatens Tom he goes out if he doesn’t catch ‘that mouse’.

In the chase Tom accidentally gets drunk, which changes him into Jerry’s best pal and rebellious against Mammy. This can’t go well, and in the end we see Mammy chasing a hiccuping Tom in a moonlit landscape.

The animation of the drunken Tom is very well done and a delight to watch. However, somehow, ‘Part Time Pal’ also seems to be the most inspirational cartoon to the Czech studio Gene Deitch led for his Tom and Jerry cartoons (1961-1962), because Tom’s design in this cartoon is remarkably similar to those later, way more poorly animated cartoons.

Watch ‘Part Time Pal’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 28
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Cat Fishin’
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: The Cat Concerto

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date:
October 15, 1943
Stars: Figaro, Cleo
Rating: ★★

Figaro and Cleo © Walt Disney

Figaro and Cleo, the two animal sidekicks from ‘Pinocchio‘ (1940) star in this short, which is Disney’s first spin-off cartoon from a feature film (apart from some propaganda shorts).

As J.B. Kaufman reveals in his insightful book ‘Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic’, this short even features some left over animation that didn’t make into Disney’s second feature film.

In ‘Figaro and Cleo’ the two animals are propelled into 20th century America and live in a mansion that’s kept clean by the Mammy Two-shoes-like character from ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ (1935) and ‘Pantry Pirate‘ (1940). When Figaro doesn’t get his milk for punishment for his endearing misbehavior, he tries to capture the female fish Cleo, who actually seems to be in love with Figaro.

First Cleo is saved by Mammy from Figaro’s clutches, but at the third attempt Figaro’s rescued by Mammy from drowning. In the end, the two are friends again, and Figaro gets his milk, after all.

It’s surprising that this very cute, but remarkably unfunny cartoon was directed by Jack Kinney, famous for his hilarious Goofy films. The sweet tone is set immediately, as the cartoon starts with a sugary song by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, reminiscent of some 1930s entries.

This theme song would be used again in the two other Figaro cartoons. Besides these, Figaro would also appear in three Pluto cartoons: ‘First Aiders‘ (1944), ‘Cat Nap Pluto‘ (1948) and ‘Pluto’s Sweater‘ (1949).

Cleo, on the other hand, never appeared in a Disney short, again…

Watch ‘Figaro and Cleo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: December 27, 1940
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★

Pantry Pirate © Walt DisneySurprisingly, in this film Pluto is not Mickey’s dog, but owned by an Afro-American lady, who seems to be the exact copy of Tom & Jerry’s Mammy Two-Shoes, who made her debut in February of that year. However, it was the Disney studio itself who had introduced the Mammy character in ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ (1935).

In ‘Pantry Pirate’ Mammy puts Pluto outside, but he sneaks into the kitchen trying to steal her roast beef. Hindered by an ironing-board, several tea cups and a bucket of soapy water, he doesn’t succeed, but he does escape Mammy’s wrath by quickly returning to his dog house, pretending to be asleep. Here the cartoon abruptly ends.

‘Pantry Pirate’ is the first of seven Pluto cartoons directed by Clyde Geronimi. It’s also one of his best, with gags leading to more gags in excellent pantomimed and physical situation comedy. This cartoon contains some remarkably flexible animation of Pluto, especially during the ironing-board scene. Pluto’s design, however, seems to be stubbier than usual. The Mammy character would return in ‘Figaro and Cleo‘ (1943).

Watch ‘Pantry Pirate’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 3
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Bone Trouble
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Playmate

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