There are three ages of Tom and Jerry. Mark them well, my padowan learner, for much honour comes from this knowledge.
1. The Hannah-Barbera years: 1940 -1958. 114 cartoons. One hundred and fourteen! With full body animation, full orchestration, and more anvils on the head, pins up the arse and matches under the claws than I've had hot dinners. These are the ones you can sing along to the end of the theme music with the "Produced by Fred Quimby" caption. But did you know that the crew all hated Quimby because he spent all day sleeping in his office, yet taking all the credit at the many awards ceremonies?
Good grief, some of these are cinema history, for they were produced as shorts for the picture houses in the days before television, where you'd get a short, the newsreel and the main picture for the price of your ticket. Seven academy awards, and another six nominations, every time Jerry getting the better of Tom, and usually ripped to shreds by Spike the dog. And of course, there's a suicidal duckling...
Little known fact number two: All of Tom's screams and yelps of pain were William Hanna in an uncredited role. Now there's a man who suffered for his art.
AS TV took over in the 1950s, the budgets were slashed from 45,000 dollars per short to less than 3,000. Hanna and Barbera worked out their contracts, and did their own thing. The Flintstones. Wacky Races. Scooby Doo. They were responsible for inflicting Scrappy Doo on an unsuspecting world. The bastards.
2. Mid-life crisis: No budget, no bugger doing decent cartoons. It's got to be said that these shorts, by and large, are total crap. Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck fame should have known better, but his work tended to rely on strong spoken word scripts as much as the action, so that's half his tricks gone already. By the time H&B took over production in 1975, the damage had been done.
3. Modern times: Tom and Jerry Kids. A movie in which the characters speak. Jerry Mouse wears a bow-tie. Somebody, somewhere, is having a laugh. In these days where cartoons are driven by the merchandise and spin-offs they create, the seven minute animated short is a lost art. Thank God for DVD and vintage Tom and Jerry marathons on Boomerang.
After seven years of crappy toons featuring Badly-Drawn Man, Scaryduck Junior saw his first proper T&J last weekend. Two hours, back-to-back. I thought he was going to explode.
The internet being what it is, there are any number of deeply encyclopaedic fan sites for Tom and Jerry, telling me all kinds of things I didn't know I didn't know. For instance, I didn't realise that the (now) deeply un-PC woman we only see from the waist down is called Mammy Two-Shoes, and the duckling ("Friend to Jerry, Appetizer for Tom") is simply known as The Duckling.
In retrospect, they should have killed the thing off while they were on top, Veictor Meldrew stylee. All these poor quality comebacks are undignified. They can repackage them all they like, but nothing beats the gems from the 40s and 50s, where you knew a chase round a blind corner would always lead to a rake/cat interface.
Mammy Two-Shoes: "You is a good cat Thomas. I'll go put it in the bin, then I'll fetch you a nice big bowl of cream."
As Jerry Mouse well knew, Thomas only had to win once...
Tragedy at the Scaryduck household, where Getaway Driver Hamster curled up his toes and shuffled off this mortal coil, the evil little git. I was all for a Viking funeral in the fishpond, but was over-ruled by people who just don't seem to appreciate the catharsis of good burn-up. Just don't come running to me when the cat digs him up in three days' time.