Herman and Katnip, from a comic book cover.


Original Medium: Theatrical animation
Released by: Famous Studios
First Appeared: 1947
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Of the cartoon successes of the 1940s, MGM's Tom & Jerry series was perhaps the one other studios looked most closely to as a …

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… subject for possible "borrowing". Not only did that series win more Oscars than anything else outside of Disney — it had another appeal, as well. Unlike Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other big stars of the time, its success rested less on nuances of character that might be difficult or impossible to duplicate, than on a simple, clear, imitatable formula. A cat and a mouse, in endless high-speed chase scenes.

Paramount Pictures' Famous Studios, which had risen from the ruins of the old Fleischer outfit, launched its Tom & Jerry knock-off, Herman & Katnip, on October 10, 1947, with the release of Naughty But Mice. It was part of the "Noveltoon" series, where such stars as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Little Audrey also started. The director was Seymour Kneitel, who spent most of his career doing Popeye, Screen Songs, Little Lulu and other series for Fleischer/Famous.

Herman the Mouse had already appeared in a few Noveltoons, as early as 1944, a couple of which teamed him with a rooster named Henry (who went nowhere). His voice was done by character actor Arnold Stang, whose best known toon role is Top Cat. Katnip had made his first appearance with another prey species, Buzzy the Crow. He was voiced by Syd Raymond, who also did Baby Huey. But both Herman and Katnip made the majority of their appearances with each other.

In fact, Herman & Katnip moved out into a series of their own, one of the studio's more successful ones. It ran more than two dozen cartoons, the last of which, Katnip's Big Day, was released October 30, 1959. Kneitel directed a lot of them, as did Isadore Sparber and Dave Tendlar, also Famous Studios stalwarts. No individual cartoons stand out for conspicuous quality, but one of them, Of Mice & Magic (1953) had its title lifted for a book by animation historian Leonard Maltin.

When the series ended, it wasn't so much because the cartoons ran out of steam, as because the studio sold all its ongoing characters to Harvey Comics, which had licensed them for several years. Harvey's first use of them was in Harvey Comics Hits #60 (September, 1952), which had rotating stars along the lines of Dell's Four Color Comics or DC's Showcase. The subtitle of that issue was "Paramount Animated Comics", but the cover was occupied by Herman & Katnip.

But they didn't go on to very great success at Harvey. They appeared in the back pages of a lot of comics during the 1950s and early '60s, and were featured in an occasional issue of Harvey Hits (a later Harvey title with rotating stars), but never had their own comic. When other Harvey characters were re-adapted into animated form — even some who, like Richie Rich and Wendy the Good Little Witch, had never been animated before — Herman & Katnip weren't. Eventually, they faded from view, and are now scarcely remembered.


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Text ©2003-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Entertainment.