A simple concept can last a long time. Cartoons work best when they feature conflict, chases and conniving. A mouse and cat can nail all three in the animated universe. We don’t need a long explanation as to why they hate each other. They are natural enemies.
While working at MGM, the team of William Hanna and Joe Barbera went with the simple to create “Puss Gets the Boot.” It was a cat chasing a mouse that outsmarts the feline. Producer Fred Quimby didn’t see the point of another cat and mouse cartoon. He changed his tune when theater owners wanted more and the short was nominated for an Academy Award. Seven wins, and 13 total nominations, the rest is history.
The animation duo began their long relationship with the cat and mouse duo. Tom & Jerry: Deluxe Anniversary Edition celebrates an undefined anniversary. This might be for the 70th anniversary since “Puss Gets the Boot” was released in 1940. But five years from now, it’ll be for the 75th anniversary.
The first disc has 20 shorts from Hanna-Barbera’s glory days at MGM. All seven of the Oscar winners are included. The other 13 are prime titles from the 114 made by the duo at the studio. All these have been previously released as part of the three volume Spotlight Collection. “Mouse Cleaning” and “Casanova Cat” are not included on Anniversary so they’re still missing from DVD because of their infamous blackface scenes. The duo look so good in these early theatricals. As you watch them in order, you can see how the studio kept cutting the budget. Details vanish from the creatures and the backgrounds lose their shading.
“Through the Decades” is the second disc which gives us highlights of ways the studios reworked the characters. Twice they popped up in feature films including Jerry dancing with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh and the duo swimming with Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet. “Penthouse Mouse,” “The Cat Above the Mouse Below” and “The Cat’s Me-Ouch,” are produced by Looney Tunes legend Chuck Jones. He brought his own perspective on the duo making them more moody and calculating. He also gave Jerry huge ears.
In the 1970s, Tom and Jerry were reunited with Hanna and Barbera for Saturday morning TV. “Cosmic Cat and Meteor Mouse” from the New Tom and Jerry Show really gives us a new duo. Turns out they’ve become friends. Kids aren’t supposed to be shown mortal enemies anymore. They’re so nice to each other that it might get your violently ill. “Jerry’s Country Cousin” from The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show brings back the spite. Although in this case Jerry’s relative from the sticks proves he’s a mighty mouse. As what happened to nearly every set of cartoon characters in the ‘90s comes Tom and Jerry Kids. They stuck a baseball cat on the kitty version of Tom. “Flippin’ Fido” brings out a mean dog that isn’t Spike the Bulldog. “A Game of Mouse and Cat” comes from Tom and Jerry Tales.
This was a 2004 reboot that looks better than anything since the MGM originals. The computer-based animation allows for more shadows on the creatures. This short flips the reality so that the house owner has Jerry keeping stray cats out of her house. The synth music sounds too tinny when mixed with the slapstick action. “The Karate Guard” was Barbera’s solo turn in creating a theatrical short in 2006. Tom, Jerry and the Bulldog Spike get drawn into an Asian action battle. It’s more entertaining than any of their TV versions.
What’s disappointing is the complete overlooking of Gene Deitch’s era. MGM had him outsource the animation to Czechoslovakia in 1960. The shorts looked like Soviet bloc knock offs with their jagged lines and violent action. This is what inspired Itchy and Scratchy on The Simpsons. They could have at least thrown in one of the less mean spirited shorts from Deitch. They do use a still from his “Dicky Moe” on a menu. What a tease.
Disc 1: “Oscar Winners and Classics”
Puss Gets the Boot,” “Midnight Snack,” “Dog Trouble,” “Fraidy Cat,” “Puss ‘n’ Toots,” “The Lonesome Mouse,” “Yankee Doodle Mouse,” “Mouse Trouble,” “Mouse in Manhattan,” “Quiet Please,” “The Milky Waif,” “The Cat Concerto,” “The Little Orphan,” “Saturday Evening Puss,” “Two Mouseketeers,” “Johann Mouse,” “Touche Pussy Cat,” “That’s My Mommy,” “The Egg and Jerry” and “Tops With Pops.”
Disc 2: “Through the Decades”
“Excerpt from Anchors Aweigh,” “Excerpts from Dangerous When Wet,” “Penthouse Mouse,” “The Cat Above the Mouse Below,” “The Cat’s Me-Ouch,” “Karate Guard,” “Cosmic Cat and Meteor Mouse” (New Tom and Jerry Show), “Jerry’s Country Cousin” (The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show), “Flippin’ Fido” (The Tom and Jerry Kids Show) and “A Game of Mouse and Cat” (Tom and Jerry Tales).
Most of the cartoons are in 1.33:1 full frame. “ “Touche Pussy Cat,” “That’s My Mommy,” “The Egg and Jerry” and “Tops With Pops” are 2.35:1 anamorphic transfers. The prints look like the same buffed up versions used on the previous Spotlight Collections. The audio is in Dolby Digital Mono. The levels mix the action noises properly with the symphonic score for the theatrical cartoons. There’s a Spanish dub. The subtitles are in English, Spanish and French.
Much Ado About Tom and Jerry (18:50) gives the history of the cat and mouse. The Gene Deitch era gets attention here.
Tom & Jerry: Deluxe Anniversary Edition gives an overview of what has been done to the cat and mouse over the last 70 years. This is a nice introduction for young kids who enjoy watching them on the Cartoon Network. The avid collector should have most of the titles featured here outside of the Saturday morning TV incarnations.
Warner Home Video presents Tom & Jerry Deluxe Anniversary Edition. Starring: Tom, Jerry and Gene Kelly. Boxset Contents: 30 shorts on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: June 22, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.