Tom and Jerry

CAT AND MOUSE TALES:

MGM's Tom and Jerry Cartoons

1940-1958

Toms, Jerrys, Cats and Mices

     MGM was not the first studio to launch a cartoon series featuring a team named Tom and Jerry.  That honor belongs to the Van Beuren Studio, which released about two dozen black and white animated shorts from 1931 to 1933 starring two guys, one tall, one short, named Tom and Jerry.  Later on, when these cartoons made it to television, the characters were renamed Dick and Larry so as to avoid confusion with the more famous MGM cat and mouse characters.

     Abbott and Costello fans who have the DVD of the 1952 Colgate Comedy Christmas show know that there was also a human team named Tom and Jerry who were acrobats.

     There was once a musical team who called themselves Tom and Jerry.  In 1957, they had a minor hit single titled "Hey Schoolgirl".  The recording career of Tom and Jerry was shortlived, ending in 1958.  However, a few years later, they re-emerged in the folk scene and recorded an acoustic album under their real names: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.  That album's acoustic ditty "The Sounds of Silence" would be turned into a huge hit with the addition of electric instruments, and Simon and Garfunkel would go on to have many other hits including "I Am a Rock", "Mrs. Robinson" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water".  Like the cartoon Tom and Jerry, they fought a great deal, though they never used axes or polo mallets.  That we know of.

Herman and Katnip    In 2004, as part of a German-American experiment to accurately map the Earth's magnetic field, two satellites were launched into orbit.  One satellite was named Tom, and you can guess the other.  No reports that they are currently chasing each other through outer space.

    No doubt MGM's Tom and Jerry remain the most famous of all Tom and Jerry's, and are the best remembered cat and mouse team in history.  In the 1940s, as Tom and Jerry became popular, Paramount's Famous Studios (formerly Fleischer) launched an obvious "copy-cat" series featuring Herman and Katnip. Herman was voiced by character actor Arnold Stang, while Sid Raymond voiced Katnip.  Unfortunately, these cartoons are not easy to find today, and the one example I have seen was heavily edited for violence.

Cat and mouse games     Then there's Itchy and Scratchy, Matt Groening's long-running cat and mouse duo as seen on The Simpson's.  Itchy and Scratchy take the violence of Tom and Jerry and multiply it by approximately a thousand, with Scratchy the cat being bodily mutilated in scores of stomach-churning ways during the show's history.  Although most people assume Itchy and Scratchy are based on Tom and Jerry, producer-director David Silverman has said they are actually modeled after Herman and Katnip.  On The Simpsons, when Krusty the Clown loses the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons to a more popular children's show, he opts to show a sample of yet another animated cat and mouse, "Worker and Parasite" (from Eastern Europe, Krusty informs us.)  After an appropriately surreal, existentialist ten-second clip in which nothing happens in a variety of ways, Krusty's sole comment is "What the HELL was that?".

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