Retro Characters Tom and Jerry

Retro Staff 1  Comment

Tom and Jerry Bobble Head DollsTom and Jerry is one of the most famous duos of all time.  Since 1940, Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse have been making people laugh at the funny scenarios they get themselves into.

The duo started out as a series of theatrical short cartoon films that were played in movie theaters before the featured film.  From 1940 to 1957, 114 of  these short films were created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  The series was so well received that it received the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) seven times.

While the plot of the Tom and Jerry cartoons remained the same, the appearance of Tom changed over time.  He went from a cat with overly detailed facial features and shaggy hair that walked on all fours to a sleeker looking feline, with heavy eyebrows, that walked upright.  Jerry stayed pretty much the same over the years with his cute little face and batting eyelashes.

Although the original Tom and Jerry cartoons were award winning, they were criticized in later years for having too much violence.  Tom and Jerry routinely tried to hurt each other, and very often succeeded, but being cartoons allowed them to bounce right back as if nothing happened.  The series was also labeled as being racially insensitive for having characters that were stereotypes of black people, such as the maid, Mammie Two Shoes.

Take a look at this early short, called “Dog Trouble”:


In 1958, the Tom and Jerry shorts stopped production due to MGM closing its animation studio, and Hanna and Barbera leaving to open their own studio.  In 1960, MGM hired a Czechoslovakian animation studio, Rembrandt Films, to produce new Tom and Jerry shorts.  These new cartoons lost some of the intensity and humor –  there was less violence, more character development, and more guest appearances from other characters.  Also, the animation techniques were different.  There was motion blur in the characters’ gestures, so the animation looked choppy.  The music chosen was also different, replaced in part by dialogue and sound effects.  To avoid being called politically incorrect, Mammie Two Shoes’ character was deleted, and replaced by a thin white woman.

In 1962, production moved to the animation studio Sib Tower 12 Productions.  More changes took place in the characters’ appearances.  Tom’s fur changed from a blue-grey color to plain grey.  Jerry received a sweeter expression and larger eyes and ears.

In 1965, Tom and Jerry could be seen on television as part of CBS’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup.  Although the shows were edited to delete some of the violence, the series was still a favorite among viewers.

Tom & Jerry Sunbeam Button

Manufacturers, like Sunbeam, used Tom & Jerry to promote their products.

In 1975, Hanna and Barbera acquired the rights to the characters and created 48 new shorts for ABC’s Saturday morning lineup.  There were rules as to what could be shown to children, so the new cartoons were more toned down and actually showed Tom and Jerry as friends in some episodes.  Tom still looked the same, but a red bow tie was added to Jerry’s appearance.  This incarnation of the series lasted on weekly television until 1977.

In 1980, Filmation Studios, in association with MGM Televsision, produced a new series called The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, which was first broadcast in 1980.  The series was a throwback to the original cartoon shorts, where the main plot is the cat chasing the mouse with funny slapstick humor moments.  The series ran on CBS Saturday Morning until 1982.

In 1986, Ted Turner purchased MGM and acquired the rights to all of the films and cartoons.  This library is still owned by Turner Entertainment today, and reruns of Tom and Jerry cartoons can be seen on the Turner channels such as Cartoon Network.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Tom and Jerry episodes were released as modified versions of the originals.  When the trend pointed towards animated baby characters, Tom and Jerry followed suit.  When the trend swayed back towards more violent animation, Tom and Jerry did the same.  More recently, a series called Tom and Jerry Tales was produced, which was more like the original format.  Thirteen episodes were created and the show ran on the CW channel until March of 2008.

Tom and Jerry have been entertaining Americans and people in other countries for more than 70 years.  Generations have grown up laughing at their silly situations, and today debate who is the best duo: Tom and Jerry or Sylvester and Tweety.

Are you a Tom and Jerry fan? What’s your favorite episode?

Last updated: Nov 29, 2008
Filed under: Retro Characters Tagged with: cartoons, Retro Characters, retro kids