tom and jerry maker Barbara dies
December 20, 2006 10:40pm CST
Its high time to remember the man who created a cat and a mouse,which became so famous that he is known by their names. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were both part of the Rudolf Ising unit at MGM's animation studio in late 1930s. Barbera, a storyman and character designer, was paired with Hanna, an experienced director, to start directing films for the Ising unit; the first of which was a cat-and-mouse cartoon called Puss Gets the Boot. Completed in late 1939, and released to theatres on February 10, 1940, Puss Gets The Boot centers on Jasper, a grey tabby cat trying to catch an unnamed rodent, but without breaking anything; the African-American housemaid Mammy has threatened to throw Jasper out ("O-U-W-T, out!") if he breaks one more thing in the house. Naturally, the mouse uses this to his advantage, and begins tossing wine glasses, ceramic plates, teapots, and any and everything fragile, so that Jasper will be thrown outside. Puss Gets The Boot was previewed and released without fanfare, and Hanna and Barbera went on to direct other (non-cat-and-mouse related) shorts. "After all," remarked many of the MGM staffers, "haven't there been enough cat-and-mouse cartoons already?" The pessimistic attitude towards the cat and mouse duo changed when the cartoon became a favorite with theatre owners and with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which nominated the film for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons of 1941. It lost to another MGM cartoon, Rudolph Ising's The Milky Way. However, producer Fred Quimby, who ran the MGM animation studio, quickly pulled Hanna and Barbera off the other one-shot cartoons they were working on, and commissioned a series featuring the cat and mouse. Hanna and Barbera held an intra-studio contest to give the pair a new name; animator John Carr won with his suggestion of "Tom and Jerry". The Tom and Jerry series went into production with The Midnight Snack in 1941, and Hanna and Barbera rarely directed anything but the cat-and-mouse cartoons for the rest of their tenure at MGM. Tom & Jerry in the 1946 Academy Award winning cartoon The Cat Concerto.Tom's physical appearance evolved significantly over the years. During the early 1940s, Tom had an excess of detail--shaggy fur, numerous facial wrinkles, and multiple eyebrow markings--all of which were streamlined into a more workable form by the end of the 1940s; in addition from his quadrupedal beginnings Tom became increasingly, and eventually almost exclusively, bipedal. Jerry stayed essentially the same for the duration of the series. By the mid-1940s, the series had developed a quicker, more energetic (and violent) tone, because of inspiration from the work of MGM Animation colleague Tex Avery, who joined the studio in 1942. Even though the basic theme of each short is virtually the same, Hanna and Barbera found endless variations on that theme. Barbera's storyboards and rough layouts and designs, combined with Hanna's timing, resulted in MGM's most popular and successful cartoon series. Thirteen entries in the Tom and Jerry series (including Puss Gets The Boot) were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons; seven of them went on to win the Academy Award, breaking the Disney studio's winning streak in that category. Tom and Jerry won more Academy Awards than any other character-based theatrical animated series. Tom and Jerry remained popular throughout their original theatrical run, even when the budgets began to tighten somewhat in the 1950s and the pace of the shorts slowed slightly. However, after television became popular in the 1950s, box office revenues decreased for theatrical films, and short subjects. At first, MGM combated this by going to all-CinemaScope production on the series. After the MGM accountants realized that their re-releases of the older shorts brought in just as much revenue as the new films, the studio executives decided, much to the surprise of the staff, to close the animation studio. The MGM animation department was shut down in 1957, and the final of the 114 Hanna and Barbera Tom and Jerry shorts, Tot Watchers, was released on August 1, 1958. Hanna and Barbera established their own television animation studio, Hanna-Barbera Productions, in 1957, which went on to produce such popular shows as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo.