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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 286 minutes
The original Itchy and Scratchy are back for a whole new generation.
Tom, Jerry, Bulldog
Tom is a cat. Jerry is a mouse. They hate each other and fight often.
It is hard to avoid being flippant here, but honestly, there is not a lot to say about Tom and Jerry Tales – the new television rendering of the classic MGM Hanna & Barbera characters. While the 40’s and 50’s theatrical shorts were aimed at more of an all-audience demo – winning the Academy Award for Best Short Subject seven times, tying with Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies as the animated series with the most Oscars – Tom and Jerry Tales is designed for kids. MGM produced over one hundred of the original T&J shorts – some brilliant, some not. T&J Tales certainly isn’t a travesty or marring of the Tom and Jerry name, but the best of the show (each episode is comprised of three shorts) is on par only with the worst of the original series.
I can see young children digging the show – for the slapstick mayhem is still in full swing – but older fans of the classics would have to be pretty stoned to make it through more than one of these current episodes sans a child. It has its moments, but overall it lacks the brilliance required to make the unending violence work. And the animation and music can’t possibly compare with the MGM classics; that was a whole different ballgame back then (almost isn’t even fair to knock it for that).
I completely understand why Warners (ironically now the proud owners of their old competition) would want to reboot the series. Slapstick is timeless, and the characters are so simplistic that they lose nothing being shifted to a new era. Though these very virtues are also part of the problem now – the problem being that the show is a trifle (they would never reboot this show in 50 years). It was the execution of the MGM shorts that made them great. The characters themselves are frankly rather lousy.
Though Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner came almost a decade after the first Tom and Jerry cartoon, as characters and a gimmick – speechless animals caught in an endless loop of absurdist violence – they work better. It’s the perfect set up: the Coyote tries to capture the Road Runner and falls prey to his own treachery. He always deserves what he gets, and that’s what makes it so funny. Tom and Jerry are a little different, especially in the Tom and Jerry Tales, because quite often the characters are removed from their standard setting and paired as equals. Take the Tom and Jerry Tales ep “Feeding Time” for example. Tom is an employee at a zoo, instructed by his boss not to let patrons feed the animals. Then Jerry shows up, trying to feed all the animals for absolutely no reason other than to piss off Tom, and smiling like an asshole the whole time. Tom is simply trying to do his job and suffers horribly for it as the animals all repeatedly beat the shit out of him.
So unlike the Road Runner, Jerry is often not a victim, but a devious sadist – kind of a psychopath really. (You can definitely see where Matt Groening got his inspiration for Itchy and Scratchy from.) It can be hilarious, for sure, but it needs to be done right. Otherwise Jerry is in danger of becoming one of those annoying characters like Chilly Willy. Fucking Chilly Willy… leave that poor goddamn dog alone! He’s just trying to work! Why do you always need to warm up anyway? You’re a fucking penguin! Sorry. Pent up childhood frustration… Point being, when done half-heatedly, like the majority of Tom and Jerry Tales, the shtick feels a bit mean-spirited and unfunny.
Tom and Jerry Tales means well, and your young children might like it. Though if they’ve been raised on smart shows like Spongebob they may tire of it quickly. But hey, if you’re looking for some cat and mouse violence for your kids, why not just show them the original shorts? And why not buy them through CHUD?!
Tom and Jerry: Spotlight Collection, Vol. 1-3
or the later era…
Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection
Simple two-discs-in-one case. No special features.