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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 216 minutes
- Tom & Jerry…and Chuck
- Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood
What happens when the director of some of the greatest cartoons in history, that involved a rabbit, duck, rooster, pig, coyote, road runner, canary, cat, skunk, hunter, et al takes over another prized franchise involving a cat and mouse? Eh…
The Cat and Mouse
Tom & Jerry
In 1963, Chuck Jones, recently released from his over 30-year tenure at Warner Bros, where he directed a multitude of their classic Looney Tunes shorts, came aboard the Tom & Jerry franchise in an effort to revitalize it. This was after a widely-considered disappointing and offbeat (putting it mildly) stint the cat and mouse had under director Gene Deitch. Jones sought to bring his distinctive style that he developed with all the Looney Tunes characters that made them endearing and enduring toon icons. Unfortunately, that didn’t end up being the case.
For obvious reasons, Jones’ “Pussyfaced Tom” redesign had to be reworked…
I would have never figured my reaction to the Chuck Jones version of Tom & Jerry, considering that I loved both Jones’ incredible work on the Looney Tunes shorts and the exploits of the cat and mouse during the Hanna-Barbera years on the franchise. Both franchises were multiple Oscar winners and although I consider the Looney Tunes shorts to be among the greatest series of cartoons ever drawn, I still highly enjoyed Tom & Jerry as a kid and even to this day. I hate to say it, but that changed when Chuck Jones took over on them.
Quick Tom & Jerry history lesson for you: Hanna-Barbera produced 114 shorts from 1948 to 1958, garnering a record seven Oscar winners. Director Gene Deitch produced 13 episodes in Eastern Europe from 1960 to 1962. These are generally considered odd and quirky at best to downright failures at worst. Jones took over the franchise and brought along many of the people with whom he produced the Looney Tunes shorts so spectacularly. Jones changed the look of both characters and the stories were somewhat less violent. Jones sought to bring his Looney Tunes formula to Tom & Jerry and as a result, the toons ended up being quite different from the award-winning shorts from Hanna-Barbera.
Yeah, and that whole subplot of Jerry being Speedy Gonzalez’ cousin, Tornado Texada, was just not well-thought-out either…
That’s a general take on the impact Jones had on the franchise. A personal take is that Jones’ version of Tom and Jerry pales both in comparison to his earlier work and to the original Hanna-Barbera shorts. Almost everything that he did that worked so well on Looney Tunes fell flat on Tom and Jerry and the toons had little of the flavor that made the HB version so fun to watch. This is especially disappointing, considering that Jones brought along noted writer Michael Maltese and layout artist Maurice Noble and many of his other colleagues from his Warner Bros. days. For me, what made Hanna-Barbera’s Tom and Jerry work was the clever storylines, the constant one-upping the characters did on each other and yes, the hyper violence. Jones’ incarnations are far too cute and too bland for me to stomach.
Jones’ Looney Tunes were sharply plotted, they featured a fun level of violence and, most importantly, they were as easily accessible to adults as they were for kids. For whatever reason, the formula didn’t translate to Tom & Jerry, despite Jones recycling many of his ideas for the duo. I think, however, that younger kids might like these better than the HB versions because that seems to be the audience, intended or not, that these play to best. But me, I’ll stick with Jones’ earlier work and the HB installments.
Tom suddenly realized there was that one mousetrap he had forgotten about…
The episodes have been transferred quite nicely in 1.85:1 anamorphic and the sound is suitably fine as well. All 34 Chuck Jones shorts are included: Penthouse Mouse (1963), The Cat Above and The Mouse Below (1964), Is There a Doctor in the Mouse (1964), Much Ado About Mousing (1964), Snowbody Loves Me (1964), The Unshrinkable Jerry Mouse (1964), Ah, Sweet Mouse-story of Life (1965), Tom-ic Energy (1965), Bad Day at Cat Rock (1965), The Brothers Carry-Mouse Off (1965), Haunted Mouse (1965), I’m Just Wild About Jerry (1965), Of Feline Bondage (1965), The Year of the Mouse (1965), The Cat’s Me-ouch (1965), Duel Personality (1966), Jerry, Jerry, Quite Contrary (1966), Jerry-Go-Round (1966), Love Me, Love My Mouse (1966), Puss ‘n’ Boats (1966), Filet Meow (1966), Matinee Mouse (1966), The A-Tom-inable Snowman (1966), Catty Cornered (1966), Cat and Dupli-cat (1966), O-Solar Meow (1966), Guided Mouse-ille (1966), Rock ‘n’ Rodent (1967), Cannery Rodent (1967), The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R. (1967), Surf-Bored Cat (1967), Shutter Bugged Cat (1967), Advance and Be Mechanized (1967), Purr-Chance to Dream (1967).
For some reason, the Tom and Jerry Wonderbread commercial campaign never really caught on with consumers…
There are two good featurettes: Tom & Jerry…and Chuck and Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, the former a 20-minute look at how Jones came to the franchise, and the latter a 25-minute introspection by Jones about his life and career. Despite personal preference, this is a pretty good set for fans who enjoy these cartoons.