Tom & Jerry, from a 1952 movie poster.


Original Medium: Theatrical Animation
Released by: MGM
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera
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Tom & Jerry (no relation) debuted in Puss Gets the Boot (1940), directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera and released by MGM. The nonstop …

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… action, which relied exclusively on sight gags rather than dialog, made a strong impresion on moviegoers. It began a series that eventually ran to more than 150 theatrically-released shorts, garnering more Oscars than any other cartoon characters in Hollywood history. It also "inspired" an impressive number of imitators, including Famous Studios' Herman & Katnip, Terrytoons' Little Roquefort, and Hanna-Barbera's own Pixie & Dixie.

Academy Award winners in the Tom & Jerry series are Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943), Quiet, Please (1945), The Cat Concerto (1947), Mouse Cleaning (1948), Two Mouseketeers (1952) and Johann Mouse (1953). They also received nominations for The Night Before Christmas (1941) and Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Mouse (1947). All "Oscar material" cartoons in the Tom & Jerry series were directed by Hanna and Barbera.

One of the Oscar winners, Two Mousketeers, began a series within the series — costume stories set in a medieval French royal castle. Others in the same vein include Touché, Pussy Cat (1954) and Royal Cat Nap (1958). In comic books, too, a Two Mouseketeers series was spun off from the regular Tom & Jerry comic. In 1956, when Disney appropriated the word "Mouseketeer" for its Mickey Mouse Club TV show, the comic book's title was changed to Mouse Musketeers.

The directing team concentrated almost exclusively on Tom & Jerry from the mid-1940s until the end of their time at MGM. In fact, the studio released only three Hanna-Barbera-directed cartoons during the 1950s that did not star the cat and mouse — two that featured Spike & Tyke, a Tom & Jerry spin-off, and one non-series cartoon.

In 1957, Hanna and Barbera left MGM and opened their own studio. Tom & Jerry went on hiatus for several years, re-emerging in 1961 for a brief and painfully-remembered series produced in Czechoslovakia by Gene Deitch (whose prior credits include stints at UPA and Terrytoons). In 1963, Warner Bros. veteran Chuck Jones took over MGM's cartoon department, bringing on another abrupt change in style and direction for Tom & Jerry. Jones closed out the theatrical series with Purr Chance to Dream (1967).

In 1975, the now-successful Hanna-Barbera Studio bought their old characters from MGM, and produced a series of made-for-TV cartoons with the pair. 48 new cartoons were made between then and 1977, when this final series ended.

The Tom & Jerry comic book was published monthly from the late 1940s to the early '60s, less frequently during the late '60s, and sporadically during the 1970s. The final issue came out in 1982.

Today, Tom & Jerry can still be seen on TV. The frenetic action of the old shorts from the 1940s and '50s entertains generation after generation.


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Text ©1999-2006 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.