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Tom and Jerry
Tom and Jerry is an American animated series of theatrical shorts, television shows and specials, feature film, home films created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that centered on a never-ending rivalry between a cat (Tom) and a mouse (Jerry) whose chases and battles often involved comic violence. Hanna and Barbera ultimately wrote and directed one hundred and fourteen Tom and Jerry cartoons at the MGM cartoon studio in Hollywood, California between 1940 and 1958, when the animation unit was closed. The original series is notable for having won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film seven times, tying it with Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies as the theatrical animated series with the most Oscars. Tom and Jerry has a worldwide audience that consists of children, teenagers and adults, and has also been recognized as one of the most famous and longest-lived rivalries in American cinema. In 2000, TIME named the series one of the greatest television shows of all time.
Beginning in 1960, in addition to the originals MGM had new shorts produced by Rembrandt Films, led by Gene Deitch in Eastern Europe. Production of Tom and Jerry shorts returned to Hollywood under Chuck Jones's Sib-Tower 12 Productions in 1963; this series lasted until 1967, making it a total of 161 shorts. The cat and mouse stars later resurfaced in television cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera and Filmation Studios during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; a feature film, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, in 1992 and released domestically [where?] in 1993; and in 2000, their first made-for TV short, Tom and Jerry: The Mansion Cat for Cartoon Network. The most recent Tom and Jerry theatrical short, The Karate Guard, was written and co-directed by co-creator Joe Barbera and debuted in Los Angeles cinemas on September 27, 2005.
Today, Time Warner (via its Turner Entertainment division) owns the rights to Tom and Jerry (with Warner Bros. handling distribution). Since the merger, Turner has produced the series, Tom and Jerry Tales for The CW's Saturday morning "The CW4Kids" lineup, as well as the recent Tom and Jerry short, The Karate Guard, in 2005 and a string of Tom and Jerry direct-to-video films - all in collaboration with Warner Bros. Animation.
History and evolution
"Tom and Jerry" was a commonplace phrase for youngsters indulging in riotous behaviour in 19th-century London. The term comes from Life in London, or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom (1823) by Pierce Egan. However Brewer notes no more than an "unconscious" echo of the older original in the naming of the cartoon.
Willliam Hanna and Joseph Barbera were both part of the Rudolf Ising unit at the MGM cartoon studio in the 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 these was a cat-and-mouse cartoon called Puss Gets the Boot. Completed in late 1939, and released to theaters on February 10, 1940, Puss Gets The Boot centers on Jasper, a gray tabby cat trying to catch an unnamed rodent, but after accidentally breaking a houseplant and its stand, the African-American housemaid Mammy (Later Tom's owner) has threatened to throw Jasper out ("O-W-T, out!" as Mammy spells it) 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.
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 by drawing suggested names out of a hat; animator John Carr won $50 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'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- and looked like a realistic cat; in addition from his quadrupedal beginnings Tom became increasingly, and eventually almost exclusively, bipedal. By contrast, Jerry's design remained essentially the same for the duration of the series. By the mid-1940s, the series had developed a quicker, more energetic (and violent) tone, due to the inspiration from the work of the colleague in the MGM cartoon studio, Tex Avery, who joined the studio in 1942.
Even though the theme of each short is virtually the same - cat chases mouse - 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 MGM 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 cartoon studio 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 famous TV shows and movies.
In 1960, MGM contracted a deal with Czech-based production company Rembrandt Films to produce new Tom and Jerry shorts, but aired on CBS, and had producer William L. Snyder arrange with Czech-based animation director Gene Deitch and his studio to make the films overseas in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Deitch states that, being a member of the UPA, he has always had a personal dislike of Tom and Jerry, citing them as the "primary bad example of senseless violence - humor based on pain - attack and revenge - to say nothing of the tasteless use of a headless black woman stereotype house servant." Members of Deitch's newly formed team included William L. Snyder, the producer, Stepán Konícek, composer and musician who studied under Karel Ančerl and was chosen due to his experience as conductor of the Film Symphony Orchestra since 1956, Václav Lídl, assistant composer, Larz Bourne, Chris Jenkyns, and Eli Bauer, who wrote many of the cartoons, and Allen Swift, who played the majority of the characters. This team was contracted to produce thirteen shorts, many of which have a surrealistic quality.
Since the Deitch/Snyder team had seen only a handful of the original Tom and Jerry shorts, and since Deitch and Snyder produced their cartoons on a tighter budget of $10,000, the resulting films were considered unusual, and, in many ways, bizarre. The characters' gestures were often performed at high speed, frequently causing heavy motion blur. As a result, the animation of the characters looked choppy and sickly. The soundtracks featured sparse music, futuristic sound effects, dialogue that was mumbled rather than spoken, and heavy use of reverb. The first of the Gene Deitch shorts, Switchin' Kitten, contains frequent disturbing, high-pitched, hypnotic music and sound effects, while one of the last Deitch shorts, Buddies Thicker Than Water, contains Martian-like and echoed sound effects, heavily synthesized music, and choppy, strange animation, most notably during the climactic scene where Jerry disguises himself as a ghost to seek revenge on Tom.
Fans that typically rooted for Tom criticized Deitch's cartoons for having Tom never become a threat to Jerry. Most of the time, Tom only attempts to hurt him when he gets in his way. Tom's new owner, a corpulent, fat white man (with serious temper problems, often going red in the face similar to Deitch's earlier "Clint Clobber" character at Terrytoons), was also more graphically brutal in punishing Tom's mistakes as compared to Mammy Two-Shoes, such as beating and thrashing Tom repeatedly, searing his face with a grill and forcing Tom to drink an entire carbonated beverage. However, despite these criticisms, the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons are still rerun today on Cartoon Network on a semi-regular basis.
These shorts are among the few Tom and Jerry cartoons not to carry the "Made In Hollywood, U.S.A." phrase at the end. Due to Deitch's studio being behind the Iron Curtain, the production studio's location is omitted entirely on it. In the midst of production, Joe Vogel, the head of production, was fired from MGM, who ordered Deitch and his team to finish the shorts and rush them out to release, producing the quality effect demonstrated in the shorts themselves. By contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had expired, and the final of the thirteen shorts, Carmen Get It!, was released on December 1, 1962.
Deitch's Tom and Jerry shorts have seen limited release outside of Europe and Asia; all thirteen shorts are currently available in Japan, where they have been ported to the Tom and Jerry and Droopy laserdisc and VHS, and the United Kingdom, where the shorts are available on the B-side of the Tom and Jerry: Classic Collection - Volume 5 DVD. The only short to have seen DVD release in the United States is The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit, where it is included on the Paws for a Holiday DVD.
The episodes created by Deitch have generally been less favorably received by the general audience than the rest of the series. In his review for Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection, Paul Kupperberg of Comicmix called the shorts "perfectly dreadful" and "too often released", as well as a result of "cheap labor". However, Deitch himself considers his shorts superior to those produced by Chuck Jones later on, while others hold an affinity for the shorts' surrealistic quality. Another criticsim of the Gene Dietch series was that all other major characters in Tom and Jerry were omitted, this included, Spike, Tyke, Toodles and Butch.
After the last of the Deitch cartoons were released, Jones, who had been fired from his thirty-plus year tenure at Warner Bros. Cartoons, started his own animation studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions, with partner Les Goldman. Beginning in 1963, Jones and Goldman went on to produce 34 more Tom and Jerry shorts, all of which carried Jones' distinctive style (and a slight psychedelic influence). However, despite being animated by essentially the same artists who worked with Jones at Warners, these new shorts had varying degrees of critical success.
Jones had trouble adapting his style to Tom and Jerry's brand of humor, and a number of the cartoons favored poses, personality, and style over storyline. The characters underwent a slight change of appearance: Tom was given thicker, Boris Karloff-like eyebrows (resembling Jones' Grinch or Count Blood Count), a less complex look (including the color of his fur becoming gray), sharper ears, and furrier cheeks, while Jerry was given larger eyes and ears, a lighter brown color, and a sweeter, Porky Pig-like expression.
Some of Jones' Tom and Jerry cartoons are reminiscent of his work with Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, included the uses of blackout gags and gags involving characters falling from high places. Jones co-directed the majority of the shorts with layout artist Maurice Noble. The remaining shorts were directed by Abe Levitow and Ben Washam, with Tom Ray directing two shorts built around footage from earlier Tom and Jerry cartoons directed by Hanna and Barbera. Various vocal characteristics were made by Mel Blanc and June Foray. Jones' efforts are considered superior to the previous Deitch efforts, and contain the memorable opening theme, in which Tom is trapped inside the "O" of his name.
Though Jones managed to recapture some of the original magic from the Hanna-Barbera efforts, MGM ended production on Tom and Jerry in 1967, by which time Sib Tower 12 had become MGM Animation/Visual Arts. Jones had moved on television specials and the feature film, The Phantom Tollbooth.