Animation History
March 18, 2019 posted by Jerry Beck

Chuck Jones “Tom & Jerry” in 1965-66

My friend Ned Comstock from the USC Media Research Library sent me the production notes from a 1965 television press kit for the CBS Tom & Jerry Show. I’m posting pages from it below – but what a mess of misinformation it is.

It says Tom & Jerry were born in 1935 – not true. It says that popularity for cartoons had waned in the 1950s and that “major studios closed down their animation departments” – neglecting to mention that MGM was actually the only studio to do so! It also explains, if you read between the lines, that MGM reopened their animation department due to the ongoing popularity of the theatrical cartoons in Europe, but also suggests the Jones Tom & Jerry shorts were targeted toward Saturday morning TV in the US. I’m amazed MGM released these theatrically in the theaters at all! (Click on each page to enlarge):


MGM certainly had big plans for Tom & Jerry during this period. Too bad they didn’t think ahead just ten years earlier when they dismissed Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The 1960s T&J initiative was certainly a lucky break for Chuck Jones, who disdained limited TV animation and championed full character animation aimed towards the adult sensibilities. Having just been dismissed by Warner Bros. this was the best place at this time for him to land. If only for his chance to make The Dot and the Line (and bring home an Oscar for it) and The Grinch TV special, Jones’ 1960s experience at MGM was not a waste.

It was a lucky break for MGM too… getting an Oscar winning cartoon director to head up its new initiative. Unfortunately, Hanna and Barbera’s cat and mouse were, as characters, so closely associated with Bill and Joe’s artwork, timing and comic sensibilities. Duplicating what made Tom & Jerry work was a daunting task. Gene Deitch tried and had failed (though I always dug them for what they were).

Chuck Jones taking on another artists creation was another thing indeed. Jones had carved out his own identity, and had his own POV. His art style was distinctive and personal. His crew was closely attuned to the facial nuances and unique poses Jones was now famous for. Applying that to Tom & Jerry didn’t quite fit. It was as if Charles Schulz had suddenly taken over Blondie. Not the same.

Less is known about Jones’ co-producer Les Goldman. I thought I’d post this bio of Goldman that was in the press kit (click to enlarge), but hopefully it isn’t as misinformed as the press release above.

Les Goldman and Chuck Jones go over a Tom & Jerry storyboard – click to get a close up of the board!

Here are but three pieces of merchandising done during this 1960s Tom & Jerry push – these are just the tip of the iceberg.



I’m going to end this little MGM love fest with an excerpt from my personal favorite of the Jones’ Tom & Jerry’s. Many praise The Cat Above And The Mouse Below (1964) for its Jones-trademark mash-up of opera and slapstick – but for me, The Cat’s Me-Ouch (1965), the one featuring a mini-Marc Anthony, actually makes me laugh. The personality animation here is also at it’s height — like Jones & crew finally figured out the groove for their Tom & Jerrys; and can you imagine how good the Warner Bros. cartoons might have been had Chuck and Friz (and McKimson, I suppose) been allowed to continue using Bugs, Daffy and the others?

What’s your favorite Jones’ Tom & Jerry?

39 Comments

  • MGM didn’t have any option except to reopen a cartoon studio. Walter Bien’s SIB Productions that was making the T&J cartoons had financial troubles and MGM took it over. See this post.
    The note in Goldman’s bio about Quartet Films starting in 1964 is off by eight years. Trying to straighten out who-was-where-when it a pain, but some trades mention the set up of Quartet in 1956 (with Goldman as one of the four founders); he had been at Academy Films and Transfilm as production supervisor. (He quit Quartet in July 1963; Mike Lah later took over the company).

  • The mini-bulldog ones were also some of my favorites. I also like “Is There a Doctor in the Mouse?” (Jerry makes a potion that makes him super fast) and the one where Jerry makes a house inside a wheel of Swiss cheese.

  • One of the things that I think has to be considered is the state of affairs at MGM itself. MGM, as one of the Big Five studios (along with WB, Fox, RKO and Paramount) has been subject to the Paramount Decrees, which forced the divestiture of the movie theatre chains — a key prop for the studios in general, but also the short-subjects specifically. So you had that going. There were also management issues, such as the continuing fallout from Louis B. Mayer’s forced resignation in 1951, a resignation forced by the management of Loew’s, Inc. (parent of MGM) because of declining profits (driven by the Paramount Decrees of a few years before). MGM never really did solve its management problems after that. Hence, I think, the closure of the MGM cartoon studio for the first time in the late 1950s. Things did stabilize a bit for MGM in the late 1950s (Ben-Hur was from this period), which may have prompted the second look, driven (as you say) by the continued market for cartoons in Europe. But by the late 1960s (the tail end of the Jones period), MGM was staggering — this was the period when they infamously sold off the contents of its back lot, early in the Kerkorian era.

    It should also be noted that Warners shut its cartoon studio for a time in the 1950s as well, though they re-opened it not long afterward, with some damage to the roster of personnel (this was when Jones briefly worked for Disney). Columbia (a “minor” studio at that time) had shut its own cartoon studio (the original Screen Gems) in the 1940s. Like MGM, Warners and Columbia would change their minds regarding animation, WB in particular repeatedly opening and closing its studio over the years, and Columbia going with UPA. Interestingly, two of the three studios that owned outright their cartoon branches (Warners, MGM and Paramount) shut down their operations, at least for a time (Paramount being the obvious holdout). Fox and RKO didn’t own their own studios (outsourcing to Terrytoons and Disney, respectively; Universal, a minor, of course had Lantz). The statement in the MGM release is still wrong, but it’s a bit more nuanced, I think.

    I don’t mind the Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons. Some have clever jokes in them. (I’ve always gotten a laugh out of the “Science on a Wet Afternoon” play on “Seance on a Wet Afternoon.”) In fact (shock! horror!) I prefer them a bit to the Deitch cartoons. I think your point about keeping Jones in play for “Grinch” and “Dot and Line” is well-taken.

    • Universal a mkinor studio..? Anyway, I’m hit and miss aboutt he post-HB T&J.s..but Cat and Duplicat is intgersitng and some others..

  • “The personality animation here is also at it’s height — like Jones & crew finally figured out the groove for their Tom & Jerrys; and can you imagine how good the Warner Bros. cartoons might have been had Chuck and Friz (and McKimson, I suppose) been allowed to continue using Bugs, Daffy and the others?”

    Considering that the Warner cartoons were already in decline a few years BEFORE Jones was fired from Warner Bros. (for his moonlighting on UPA’s Gay Purr-ee feature), I doubt more Looney Tunes cartoons from Jones would have really been great. But it might have been interesting to see a few samples anyway, if nothing else to compare them with Depatie-Freleng’s work-for-hire Looney Tunes from the mid-to-late 60s.

    • There are a couple of Jones Road Runners from 1960 or 61 that show no signs of decline, at least to me.

    • That’s good to hear. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen all of Jones’s later LT cartoons, and the last time I watched any of them is probably years ago now. Even so, the general consensus among historians like Barrier, Maltin etc. is that Jones’s cartoons did go through a noticable decline during the late 50s and early 60s, with Jones becoming too self-indulgent as a director and too preoccupied with wringing humor out of every little pose, glance at the audience and wrinkle of an eyebrow (often instead of what would have been funnier and brasher gags in his earlier films). These tendencies are all over the Tom and Jerry cartoons he directed.

  • “The personality animation here is also at it’s height — like Jones & crew finally figured out the groove for their Tom & Jerrys; and can you imagine how good the Warner Bros. cartoons might have been had Chuck and Friz (and McKimson, I suppose) been allowed to continue using Bugs, Daffy and the others?”

    Considering that the Warner cartoons were already in decline a few years BEFORE Jones was fired from Warner Bros. (for his moonlighting on UPA’s Gay Purr-ee feature), I doubt more Looney Tunes cartoons from Jones would have really been great. But it might have been interesting to see a few samples anyway, if nothing else to compare them with Depatie-Freleng’s work-for-hire Looney Tunes from the mid-to-late 60s.

  • My favorites are “Is There a Doctor in the Mouse?” and “The Mouse From H.U.N.G.E.R.”

  • I like the takes on pop culture like beatniks in “Rock ‘n’ Rodent,” space and automation in “Advance and Be Mechanized,” and surfing in “Surf Bored Cat.” The meta-approach to the cheater cartoons in “Matinee Mouse” and “Shutter Bugged Cat” is interesting, too.

  • “The Cat Above and the Mouse Below” is also my favorite one from Jones. Following that, it’s probably “Cannery Rodent”, which has some of overly-cute touches Chuck put in that hurt the series, but at least with the shark as the third character creates sort of the same dynamic Bill & Joe had with Spike in the original efforts (Levitow’s “Surf-Bored Cat” uses the same type of dynamic and to me is probably his best effort with T&J).

    CBS may have aired the classic Tom & Jerry and post-47 Avery/Lundy/Lah efforts, but the decision by someone at MGM and/or CBS to place t he commercial breaks in the middle of the cartoons (as seen in this 1965 commercial bumper Tom Ray did) was a huge negative. The cynical idea that kids would sit through the ad to see how the cartoon came out didn’t work as planned, and the series never got the ratings on Saturday mornings that “The Bugs Bunny Show” did when it moved to Saturdays (the ratings were so poor in the NYC market that WCBS eventually time-shifted the show from late Saturday mornings to 7 a..m on Sundays, where it was totally buried as far as ratings went).

    • CBS itself moved the Tom and Jerry cartoons to Sunday mornings in 1967, where they remained until the network dropped the series in 1972. The networks — CBS and ABC, at least — used to schedule an hour or two of cartoons on Sunday morning back then, but it was a lousy time to show them, since there was always a very good chance your local station was going to preempt them for a local church service or public affairs program.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlLHPaaQLWI

      This is a fun watch of T&J’s finest moments for the 1965 intro.

      The Paley Center’s uncut Coca-Cola copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was unavailable, so this is one of the few CBS cartoons they had with commmercials

    • J Lee, I just wanted to mention that there is no link embedded in the “as seen in this 1965 commercial bumper Tom Ray did” part of your comment. Would be interesting to see the link if you have it. 🙂

  • Fortunately, the CBS show never aired a ONE….but they DID show his interstitials.

    • …and his Mammy Two-Shoes-redrawn-as-Irish Maid inserts!

  • When did the Chuck Jones and Gene Deitch shorts first show up on TV?

    • The Chuck Jones and Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry’s didn’t show up on television until MGM put the cartoons into syndication in 1977.

      You can find ads in industry magazines from the late ’70s with MGM bragging about the ratings success their Tom and Jerry syndication package had been. I guess it helped that the cartoons had been out of circulation since CBS had dropped them in 1972. You had a generation of kids who either had never seen the shorts at all or who barely remembered them. That the TOM AND JERRY SHOW had been consigned to Sunday mornings for most of its CBS run had likely kept a lot of kids from seeing them, either due to local preemption or because you had to be in Sunday School. It probably helped that the shorts were uncut — at least the prints supplied by MGM were uncut. What your local station did to them was beyond Metro’s control. It appears that in some cases, alternate prints were supplied. Depending on local station sensibilities, you might get Mammy Two-Shoes or you might get June Foray’s Irish maid. The syndication package also included the TOM AND JERRY SHOW openings and closings from the network show, for local stations who wanted to use them. I knew someone who had a packet of materials MGM supplied to local stations who bought the TOM AND JERRY package, among which were sheets suggesting how a station could program the individual cartoons into 80 or so half-hours

    • The Chuck Jones and Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry’s weren’t ever added to the original network show? Lenburg’s Cartoon Encyclopedia includes them in the episode listing, and so i thought it was like the Pink Panther, where the show aired on TV as new films continued to debut int he theater, and then later be added to the TV show as time went on.

    • When it came to the Syndie T&J cartoons, station did have a right to how they chose to show those cartoons, I remember my local station in the early 80’s played the original Hanna-Barbera and Chuck Jones stuff together along with the 1975 TV cartoons in the early 80’s, but never did see the Deitch cartoons locally until I saw then on Superstation WTBS Atlanta some years later. Apparently my local station felt it had enough to show as it was.

  • Ha! The four 16mm prints of the Jones T&J group I kept after all these years: The Cat Above And The Mouse Below, The Cat’s Me-Ouch, Tom-ic Energy & Snowbody Loves Me (note the last two also make good use of classical music quotations), all favorites. Love the look, like the tone. But as to actual LOL moments in the Jones era, I might suggest checking out some of the very late entries helmed by Abe Levitow. A couple of really big laughs in those.

  • Note that the press kit says that the cartoons were played in Europe and “the Orient”. Prints with the original titles may still be hidden over there…..

    • They’re especially big in Japan. In a survey of the 100 best animations held there, T&J were the only non-anime entry.

  • I always liked “Snowbody Loves Me,” “The Cat Above and the Mouse Below,” and “Cannery Rodent.” I enjoy the entire series except for “Matinee Mouse” which I actually saw in a theater when it was new and couldn’t figure out why they were using the old style and why the scenes looked so random. Other than that one, these are easily my favorite cartoons of the mid-60’s.

  • I always liked the Dean Elliot ones, as they had a nice, jazzy flow to them. It was’t like the original Tom & Jerry’s, but still had a nice sound of its own. Poddany’s sound on the other hand gave them more of a WB feel (he actually worked with Milt Franklyn at WB), and Brandt brought to mind UPA (at least the Magoo show).

    Tomic Energy, Ah, Sweet Mouse Story of Life, Of Feline Bondage and I’m Just Wild About Jerry are cute stories, where they reconcile at the end (in one way or another, even if the chase isn’t really over).

  • Oh how I wish I were more aware of credits on cartoons in those golden days of having a lot of classic theatrical cartoons available to us on local and network TV, but I only remember Chuck Jones’ bumpers for the first “TOM AND JERRY” show for CBS which brought the theatrical shorts to TV for the first time. Chuck was responsible, from what I’d heard, for the montage that opened each half hour, but his T&J efforts were not part of that telecast, and neither were Gene Deitch’s titles. I cannot remember seeing a Chuck Jones title as part of “THE TOM AND JERRY FESTIVAL OF FUN” feature-length program of some classic MGM shorts strung together, although I could be wrong about that. Jerry, you should someday post the list of titles that were shown as part of that now rare “movie”, as well as whether or not this program differed from state to state.

    I remember it as being the only time that all MGM cartoons were seen together, while I learned later that there were two different filmographies for MGM cartoons, similar to the way LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES were divided up when United Artists had the video rights to some pre-1948 titles, with BOSKO and BUDDY cartoons remaining in the hands of Warner Brothers. I don’t know why there were two such filmography listings for MGM cartoons, but the first “TOM AND JERRY” show only featured a handful of the classic MGM cartoons–no Harman/Ising titles–and the afore-mentioned “TOM AND JERRY FESTIVAL OF FUN” did feature the occasional Gene Deitch title thrown in; I recall thinking that the characters were very much off model even then, and again, I was not paying very close attention to the credits in cartoons.

    I’m sorry to go so far off topic here, and I don’t have knowledge of the Chuck Jones cartoons to pick a favorite. However, I wish I knew more about ’em, because I do have one or two whose score I rather like. If I ever find out those titles, I’ll come back to this and list them here. I wished that Chuck Jones had done more one shot titles while at MGM. Just imagine how terrific the SNIFFLES type of cartoon would have been if it were done at MGM. Would Jones be able to get away with a drunken electric razor and mouse? Oops, but then again, Hugh Harman had one of his good little monkeys a little intoxicated in “ART GALLERY”, right?

    • “The Tom and Jerry Festival of Fun” When was that out? I seem to recall a festival of Tom and Jerry cartoons that circulated in the early to mid 1970s. It had a number of great H & B MGM shorts which was where I first saw them on the big screen. No Jones shorts in that festival, but, towards the end, they DID slip in a couple of the Gene Dietch shorts. I had never seen any of these before. Anywhere. Ever. I remember I was shocked and drepressed by them. I knew from the moment the MGM title card came up on those that something was off. But when the cartoon came on, with it’s strange timing, awkward drawings and a soundtrack sounding like it was recorded in a public bathroom, I got a sick feeling inside, like this was the death of Tom and Jerry. It was brutal getting through those. And I mean no offense to Mr Deitch. He is a very gifted cartoonist and artist who has done some very wonderful and innovative work. But if Chuck Jones struggled with interpreting the characters one can only imagine what Gene dealt with.

      Happily, after the Deitch shorts, Chuck Jones brought quality character animation back to the series. Yes, they were different from the H & B sjortd and some were very strained and off putting, but they were still far more watchable than the Deitch offerings and even the abysmal Hanna-Barbara television counterparts from 1975. Oh, and I refuse to even give thought to the early ‘80s Filmation duo, (sadly, assisting on those was one of my first jobs in the industry). I’m sorry!

      Poor Tom and Jerry have really had to endure a lot of awful incarnations over the years as they passed through the meat grinder of an ever changing industry. But I still love the H & B MGMs the best, Everything on those, the style, the drawing, the timing, the music, it all just worked.

  • By and large, Chuck’s Tom and Jerrys weren’t half bad.

  • I’ve always like the Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons, much better than Gene Deitch’s efforts. It’s true that they aren’t like the original Hanna-Barbera ones, but Jones’s lavish animation, combined with Dean Elliott and Eugene Poddany’s music have not only made it my second favorite era of Tom and Jerry behind only the original Hanna-Barbera era, but one of my personal favorite animated works of the 1960s. The Mouse From H.U.N.G.E.R., The A-Tom-Inable Snowman, Ah, Sweet Mouse Story of Life, Rock N Rodent and Snowbody Loves Me are my top 5 favorite Chuck Jones T&J shorts.

  • Will second Jerry’s opinion on “The Cat’s Me-Ouch!”, and also vote for “Jerry, Jerry Quite Contrary” and “Love Me, Love My Mouse” which at least aspire to more than six minutes of chase gags. But good lord, guys, get that Dean Elliott loving shit OUT of here. If anything could’ve accentuated Jones’s increasingly cluttered poses and stodgy timing, it was Elliott’s “aural vomit”, to quote a friend. Said friend also heard, while on the job at one of the SatAM houses in the ’80s, Elliott going on about what a hack Scott Bradley was. Yeah, OK, bro.

    • At least he was better than Lava was at Warners. Matter of fact, why didn’t they hire him after the death of Franklyn?

    • I suspect one of the things that makes the later Chuck Jones timing look slow is the lack of both Mel Blanc in his prime and the large WB orchestra. Gentle music and vocal sound effects in the case of the Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons do not leave people rolling in the aisles!

    • Lava was a staff composer at Warners, so it was just economical to add the cartoons to his duties. His work may have been bad for the ’60s WB cartoons, but his work for Republic serials in the ’40s was excellent and he did write the theme for the immortal F-Troop. That’s considerably better than Elliott’s repertoire, which amounted to extended farting.

      Chuck, you’re definitely right, the soundtrack always plays a huge part of a cartoon’s success and it certainly didn’t help things in Jones’ dotage. Compare how “Chariots of Fur” works so much better with a real cartoon score behind it compared to some of Jones’ other latter-day Road Runner efforts.

      On Jones’ T&J, they’re certainly not all *bad*, but I think a few generations of T&J fans and viewers sure soured on them due to overexposure in syndication and on Cartoon Network (they were “safe” titles, no casual racism to worry about), so the flaws got magnified in repeated viewings.

    • “Said friend also heard, while on the job at one of the SatAM houses in the ’80s, Elliott going on about what a hack Scott Bradley was. Yeah, OK, bro.”

      Reminds me of the time when Chuck Jones insinuated Carl Stalling was a hack because he used lots of popular song cues.

  • (Side note to SJC, above: up to the time of the “Paramount Decrees,” which forced the divestiture of exhibition from production and distribution, there were five studios regarded as the “majors,” because either the studios owned major cinema chains or, in the case of Loew’s/MGM, the cinema chain owned the studio. These five were, in no order: Paramount (a/k/a Paramount-Publix pre-33 or so), 20th Century Fox (a/k/a Fox Film Corporation pre-35), Radio-Keith-Orpheum (a/k/a RKO), Warner Bros., and Loew’s-MGM. In a second grouping, which I’ve seen referred to as “mini-majors,” were some other studios that had much smaller chains, and could be competitive in quality. Universal and Columbia fell into that category. Below that, you had outfits like Republic, Producers Releasing Corporation, Monogram, Sono-Art, etc., which were true “minors.” To a large extent, Columbia and Universal survived to replace RKO and MGM as majors. All of the above does have a tie to animation history. Each of the five majors either had in-house studios, or contracted out for significant amounts of animation. [Paramount/Fleischer/Famous, Fox/Terrytoons, RKO/van Beuren/Disney, WB/Schlesinger/WBC, Loew’s/Iwerks/Harman-Ising/in-house.] Universal and Columbia also competed in the animation field, with mixed success [Universal/Disney/Lantz, Columbia/Disney/Mintz/Screen Gems]. By contrast, the minor studios, with the possible exception of when Republic worked with Bob Clampett, stayed out of the animation field. I believe that it was the economic, block-booking power of the majors and the mini-majors that provided a main prop for animation efforts, and when the Paramount Decrees were handed down, it knocked a prop from under theatrical animation that was never replaced.)

  • (And damnit, I knew I forgot someone. United Artists, of course, was another mini-major with a small theatre chain and significant ambitions, and at least twice that I know of ventured into animation, hosting Disney for a while in the 30s and then Lantz for a brief interval after World War II.)

  • I thought the Jones cartoons were decent. Although, Jones later said he had a hard times with Tom and Jerry as much as Hanna and Barbera would’ve have with the Roadrunner and Coyote if that happened (and I don’t think they deserved any more black eyes).

  • Poddany’s music for the cartoons seems very much like his scoring for 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In fact, the theme song for CBS’s “Tom and Jerry Show” sound very much like the Poddany Grinch ones, right down to the use of happy bells near the end. There are two or three versions of the open and closing theme, and clearly Jones did the tail end of the montage and the end theme as well.

    When I produced the “Toon Tunes” album series for Rhino Records, I was given the choice of using the MGM Tom and Jerry theme music or the CBS theme music. At the time, the MGM theme had not been released on an album, so that was my choice. Since then a lot of cartoon compilations have been released using the MGM version, so I regret a bit that we didn’t get a clean copy of the CBS one into the marketplace too. But who knew back then?

    Fun fact: the MGM theme we used for “Toon Tunes” was taken from the short, “Blue Cat Blues,” simply because it faded so cleanly from the start of the short itself.

  • great era of tom and jerry!

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