Chuck Jones Looney Tunes rivaled William Hanna and Joe Barberas Tom and Jerry cartoons at the cinema. During the 1940s & 50s, Hanna and Barbera had the upper hand. The cat and mouse shorts had higher budgets and won 7 Oscars. This success was no help when MGM dumped the animation department and sent Hanna and Barbera packing without a golden parachute in 1957. A few years later MGM hired Gene Deitch and his Czechoslovakian animators to revive Tom and Jerry. The thirteen cartoons they produced were vicious, brutal and mean spirited. The characters were drawn so they looked like foreign bootleg cartoons. These cruel shorts were the inspiration for Itchy and Scratchy on The Simpsons. Chuck Jones found himself released from Warner Brothers in 1963. MGM hired him to revive their valuable franchise. After years of being competition, Tom and Jerry were now under Chuck Jones pencil. Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection brings together all 34 shorts created during this era.
Jones brought along several of his pals from Termite Terrace including Abe Levitow, Maurice Noble and Michael Maltese. The first thing youll notice on Jones version is Jerry ears grew and Toms eyebrows were more sinister. The budgets were tight so the animation is conservative when compared to the Tom and Jerry shorts that won all the Oscars. The action is limited with the chases being conservative in motion. They were still a step up from the Deitchs output. Jones toned down the vicious nature to focus on the pursuit.
“Pent-House Mouse” has Tom living the high life at the top of an apartment building. Jerry is a poor mouse looking up at the good life. He gets a boost while working a lunchbox on the nearby construction site. Eventually Tom attempts to make Jerry a sandwich. But things get nasty when they tumble into a dog show. “Snowbody Loves Me” takes their chase to the Swiss Alps. Many of the titles play off famous movies, books and songs. However they are not spoofs. “Bad Day at Cat Rock” has nothing to do with the Spencer Tracy film. Tom and Jerry cause havoc in a construction site. “The Brothers Carry-Mouse” is not Russian themed. Its more mouse in the house humor.
“The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R.” comes close to being a parody of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Jerry is a secret agent on a mission to steal a cheese vault from Tom Thrush. Theres a slick secret agent car. Jerry wears the trenchcoat and hat to look like a spy. Tom looks like Dracula. He unleashes numerous devices on Jerry to protect his cheese, but can he stop it? This was a bonus feature on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series boxset, but looks better here. “Surf-Bored Cat” has Tom being punished while hanging ten. “Advance and Be Mechanized” is a futuristic tale from the moon where Tom controls robots mining the cheese. Jerry has his own mini-robot to pick up the scraps.
Unlike the recent Tom and Jerry: The Spotlight Collection, all 34 cartoons on Chuck Jones appear to be uncut. This completeness might have something to do with blackface gags being inappropriate in the civil rights era. Theres not much that feels uncomfortable about any of the humor on Chuck Jones output. The stories are aimed for the kids even with the adult pun titles. The jokes are rather safe instead of brutal. The actions arent completely destructive. This brings it back to the chase between a cat and mouse. Ultimately Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection exorcises the freakishness of the previous regime.
“Penthouse Mouse,” “The Cat Above and The Mouse Below,” “Is There a Doctor in the Mouse,” “Much Ado About Mousing,” “Snowbody Loves Me,” “The Unshrinkable Jerry Mouse,” “Ah, Sweet Mouse-story of Life,” “Tom-ic Energy,” “Bad Day at Cat Rock,” “The Brothers Carry-Mouse Off,” “Haunted Mouse,” “I’m Just Wild About Jerry,” “Of Feline Bondage,” “The Year of the Mouse,” “The Cat’s Me-ouch,” “Duel Personality,” “Jerry, Jerry, Quite Contrary,” “Jerry-Go-Round,” “Love Me, Love My Mouse,” “Puss ‘n’ Boats,” “Filet Meow,” “Matinee Mouse,” “The A-Tom-inable Snowman,” “Catty Cornered,” “Cat and Dupli-cat,” “O-Solar Meow,” “Guided Mouse-ille,” “Rock ‘n’ Rodent,” “Cannery Rodent,” “The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R.,” “Surf-Bored Cat,” “Shutter Bugged Cat,” “Advance and Be Mechanized” and “Purr-Chance to Dream”
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfers are much better than earlier releases of these cartoons on DVD. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The sound levels are good even though most of the track consists of music and sound effects. There are English subtitles.
Tom and Jerry…and Chuck (20:23) lets us know how Chuck Jones took over the franchise. They give a sample of the Czech Tom and Jerry for comparison purposes.
Chuck Jones: Memories of a Childhood (26:11) is a documentary from Turner Classic Movies. The legendary animator reminisces about his early days during an interview from 1997. Theres pencil animation to bring vision to the memories. He attributes his creative to a childhood fall that ended head first into concrete.
Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection gives us the final era of the mouse and cat that was theatrically distributed. Jones and his crew of ex-Warner Brothers animators didnt merely recycle the Coyote and Roadrunner scripts. The cartoons remind us that this was about a cat and mouse game between a cat and a mouse.
Warner Home Video presents Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection. Boxset Contents: 34 cartoons on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: June 23, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: chuck jones, Tom and Jerry