Dec. 13 – Tom and Jerry in “The Night Before Christmas”

TOM & JERRY IN “THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS”
Originally Premiered: December 6, 1941

Christmas creates a change of heart between cat and mouse icons in one of their first cartoons ever…

BACKSTORY

Long before spawning famous characters Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone and Scooby Doo, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were paired together somewhat haphazardly by MGM during a hard restructuring of their animated division. Their first conception involved an adorable mouse pursued by a gray cat name “Jasper” and the rest was history.

Or was it? The duo’s first cartoon, 1939’s “Puss Gets the Boot” was released to little fanfare and was somewhat detested internally as formulaic and derivative. But wouldn’t you know it, Tom and Jerry, a phrase derived from 19th-century rapscallion slang, became immensely popular in theaters and was nominated for an Academy Award almost right out of the gate.

William Hanna, Joesph Barbera and “Puss Gets the Boot”

Tom & Jerry went on to star in over 150 theatrical shorts, win seven Oscars, and thrive in television syndication for half a century. Hanna-Barbera would resurrect them for multiple TV series (pairing new shorts with Grape Ape in the 70s, He-Man producer Filmation took a stab in the 80s with The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, and Fox Kids’ Tom and Jerry Kids in the mid-90s) as well as one theatircal movie.

Gotta be where the action is

Tom & Jerry continue to star in direct-to-video fare and global commercial spots to this day. Bittersweetly, one last theatrical cartoon, 2005’s “The Karate Guard“, marked both the duo’s last bigscreen appearance and Joesph Barbera’s last time directing animation before his death.

BREAKDOWN

MGM, letting you know it’s about to get all Xmasy

A lot of people criticize Tom & Jerry for being repetitive and overly violent. Um, I think you mean that’s their biggest assets?! Those are the trademarks I look for in every T & J cartoon, and quite frankly, it’s weird when they’re not there.

The duo’s first ever title billing!

In a weird way, Tom & Jerry are a lot like Family Guy. The unrelated gags are always the star, and you can’t really ever tell which installment you’re watching if they don’t leave the house.

It’s about the small battles

This one’s particularly awesome for a couple of reasons. For starters, it’s pretty well packed with wall-to-wall Christmas imagery.

This picture alone should win 10 Oscars

Say what you will about the duo, next to Disney, no one did theatrical animation this gorgeously, this fluidly.

Click to enlarge

Second, “The Night Before Christmas” is only the duo’s THIRD cartoon. Not only is the relationship well established, the actually play with the formula a bit.

Tom still has yellow eyes at this point

After all, this is Christmas, and after Jerry finds a mouse trap rigged with a lethal cheesy presents, he heads out under the tree for a bunch of playful, diminutive romping that rivals the beloved Chip and Dale shenanigans found in “Toy Tinkers” and “Pluto’s Christmas Tree.”

Ruse foiled

Mostly the episode depicts Jer trying to get away from Tom, however, it then takes an unexpectedly sweet turn, and yeah,  maybe that was simply because this is a Christmas cartoon.

There will be homoeroticism 

Motivated far more by revenge rather than hunger, Tom eventually banishes Jerry outside during the coldest of times.

Must stay alive… Must star in Japanese laundry commercials

But the kittycat has a change of heart. He rescues Jerry from the cold, warms him by the fire, and allows him to live, if only for a precious few more minutes.

GASP! What have I done?!

Now if all this weren’t cockle-smoldering enough, immediately following his icey resurrection…

Love the fire light on Tom here

Jerry rushes over to trigger a trap he’d set in Tom’s milk bowl (FYI Tom & Jerry toons started out long. This was their shortest yet, and it still clocks in at almost 9 minutes.)

Pals already?! We’ve got 70 more years of this to go, fellas…

Jerry uses a candy cane to grab the cheese off of the trap that drove him out in the first place. Not only does it not spring back and kill him, it slowly grinds out a song like an Xmas music box.

Have you ever seen a happier rat?

So, not only was Tom not out to kill him initially, he was giving Jerry a gift?! Bet you feel like a real shithead now, Jerry!

 

None. In fact, when you think about it, would a just God invent two mammals solely to be at constant war with one another? Ergo, Jesus doesn’t exist.

Zilch, other than a silhouette in the opening titles. Perhaps when two animals ignore instinct in order to exhibit kindness, Santa Claus is irrelevant.

Keep it down, Kringle! There are pets fighting

Awesome. Short, sweet, and crammed full of some of the most beautiful, snowy Christmas imagery you’re likely to find in any piece of animation. Add to that, it contains classic a Tom & Jerry reparte right when the duo was hitting their stride.

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)

The Night Before Christmas” is available on both the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection Collection Volume 2 and the vastly superior Tom and Jerry Golden Collection Collection Volume One Blu-ray. For one, the later does away with the introduction by Whoopi Goldberg, and oh yeah, they’ve been remastered in high definition and presented 100% uncut in chronological order. Animation Nerds: Sound up!

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