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.
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?