Saturday, 9 April 2011

Chuck Jones' Tom and Jerry

Hey folks,

If some you know that I've posted an article about Tom and Jerry EONS ago (my second post and very first article) well, during this week - I've been watching some Tom and Jerry on the TV and I came across a series that was from the 1960's and that I hadn't seen in a long time. It's also the series which I thought sucked! This is the Chuck Jones version of Tom and Jerry.

Ok, Why do I dislike the Chuck Jones series so much? Well, I have a couple of reasons to explain that. First of all, I really dislike the redesigns of the characters: Tom and Jerry. The animation is terribly clumsy and when there's a gag on - it's poorly timed. Although, the layouts and designs were pretty cool - but I just thought the characters, story and animation were the bad stuff in the series. Although, it's a shame that there were some great animation guys like Chuck Jones, Maurice Noble, Ken Harris, etc. working on it. Although, I must say that there some cartoons that I quite like - but the rest to be just blow!

First of all, I want to talk about the way the characters look. I simply can't get used to the designs and styles of Tom and Jerry here. It is just me or do they just look plain ugly to me. Tom's body often had a shaded colour - but his shade is plain white - completely pale. In the Fred Quimby era, Tom was a very appealing character in terms of wit - and his design was very solid. While here in the Chuck Jones era - Tom's face seems very unattractive and looks like an ape. Jerry has always been a very appealing and cute character during the Quimby era - and a favourite to the character. Also, in the Jones version - he's also pretty ugly in this version.

The gags were are pretty clumsy and poorly timed. I'll explain to you what I mean. In one of the cartoons, The A-Tom-inable Snowman there is a scene where Jerry is inside a cuckoo clock and he disguises himself as a cuckoo - Tom goes up to it to try and make a plan to catch it by waiting every time the cuckoo comes out. Instead, a bomb comes out. There is no big reaction compared to the Fred Quimby era when there's a huge explosion that happens and there's a funny look at what happens to the characters after the result. Here, the only reactions is that the bomb goes off in Tom's mouth and it makes him look unwell. To me, the slapstick just isn't right. But of course, this is Chuck Jones' style here and he does how he feels it should've been done. While when William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's direction is different from what Jones does.

Tom's mouth erupting from the bomb.

What I do notice well is the music. The music here doesn't seem to follow much from the action scenes and it doesn't have any feeling to the scenes - compared to what the old Tom and Jerry shorts had. The music to me, feels like it was written as a piece and then added into the final piece. But, it seems unlikely from my view. 

Like I've mentioned before, there are some of the Tom and Jerry cartoons here - that I thoroughly like. Probably the short that I do like is the cartoon The Mouse From H.U.N.G.E.R. and it was directed by Abe Levitow. One of the reasons why it's probably my favourite of the Jones' version is because it was the first of the Chuck Jones cartoons that I had seen. Of course, when I was a kid - I enjoyed it. But now, I'd probably think it would flaw. It reminded me of a spoof of an early James Bond movie with Jerry as a Sean Connery agent and Tom as one of the villains like Dr. Julius No. Mel Blanc does the voice of the Indian Statue screaming.

It is a fine cartoon to me - and I don't have much a problem with it. I find it clever in a way that Jerry as a spy that his headquarters or movie theater takes place inside a cash register box - like the Mice's headquarters of the Rescue Aid Society from The Rescuers. The gag of Jerry with his secret pack of hand grenades and weapons in his jacket and he ties his jacket tight with explosions inside - is a clever gag itself. But, it is poorly demonstrated here.

The scene with the girl mouse as a bomb disguise is probably the best part of the short. It is sort of one of those James Bond girl traps who trick Bond into being one of his girl agents but are part of his enemies. The scene with Jerry pucking his lips is probably very unappealing, but the scene with Jerry's reaction to the bomb and he says "WOW" with smoke coming out - has good timing here and it's a very funny shot.

While Tom (or named "Tom Thrust" in this short) is displaying a boobie trap in a room to get to the located refrigerator where the cheese are. Tom waits outside, and Jerry makes a trick by using a recording disc with footsteps - and Tom worries that he hadn't been exploded - and he runs in and gets exploded by bombs. To be honest, that is some clever story references. That is why I like the short, because it seems to have more effort here. Even the end of short explains it's a spoof of James Bond with the agent number "001/7" and named "Jerry-Akin".

Besides that short, pretty much the rest of the shorts flaw to me. Of course, I don't mind Chuck Jones' work at all and I like his Looney Tunes work - but to me, I think that he went downhill on Tom and Jerry here, it's not one of his finest achievements and it won't ever be. Although, there were talented guys working on it -- a lot of talented guys in that period had their careers going downhill working on dreadful projects like Ernie Nordli doing layouts for the awful Road Runner cartoons in the DePatie/Freleng cartoons. Or even Friz Freleng producing the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts - they really did suck, I know.

Of course, this is NOT the worst Tom and Jerry version I know - I've seen loads worse before - like the recent Tom and Jerry Tales. Of course, none of the cartoons can ever top the original Fred Quimby/MGM shorts - the original version will always be the best.


RB (Caterwaul Studios) said...

Very interesting Steven.

I think Tom and Jerry are an extraordinary historical study. As you know, they were often controversial, criticized, and yet successful, spanning more than 70 years now (I believe).

Clearly, Chuck Jones' style is evident in the Sib Tower 12 productions of Tom and Jerry. Looking at the Mouse from HUNGER clip, one can note various elements of Looney Tunes and the Grinch. All very interesting!

This is a good post. It caused me to go back and think about what I both liked and very much dis-liked about Tom and Jerry. In the end, I didn't change my mind, but I did find more to appreciate. Well done.

Steven Hartley said...

I liked "Tom and Jerry" as a child and even to this day.

Although I know that they were controversial in terms of violence and sometimes racial gags like when one of the bombs go off a "blackface" appears. Yes! Who can forget the controversial owner, Mammy-Two-Shoes - who often had to have her voice dubbed over the years - or reanimated with a white owner.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. Any true Tom and Jerry fan will notice the difference between Fred Quimby and Chuck Jones era. Jones are just too plain. Its unfortunate that its part of t n j history and we just have to accept it.

Steven Hartley said...

Anonymous - I agree with you.

ThecaTTony said...

I very much agree with what you say. Chuck Jones made good cartoons with Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, but the cartoons of Tom and Jerry are bad, not as Gene Deitch, obviously. The Gene Deitch are garbage.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you but i think they're not as bad as you make it out to be..

it was not as funny or entertaining as the original.

But i'm really surprised to find out that people prefer Chuck jones over ORIGINAL

here >

I mean WTF ??