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Tom stands behind a wall with a pan in his hand while Jerry sneaks in slowly to get inside his tiny room. As Jerry takes a turn to enter his room, Tom bangs the pan on Jerry’s head. Tom has that evil smile on his face because he thinks he’s finally got the little mouse. Oh, but wait, Jerry stands behind Tom, teasing the angry cat to catch him again! The simple chase scene from the iconic cartoon series is repeated several times and in many different ways, yet Tom and Jerry never stop amazing us.
Here is a compilation video of the funniest Tom and Jerry chase scenes.
Be it baby boomers, millennials, or Generation Z, the iconic cartoon series has excited many age groups. But when you think about what really attracts different generations to the cartoon series, you may feel that it is its malicious plot. Honestly, when I began analyzing what attracted me to the iconic cartoon series, I realized that it could have been the dark humor. Both you and I enjoyed the series because we liked watching another individual’s mishap.
Well, when I further analyzed, I found that it was not Jerry’s mishap that made us tickle, but it was his victory over adversities. Jerry’s victories and the beautiful bond between the cat and the mouse make the cartoon series what it is today—ICONIC!
We will explore the history, evolution, reasons for its popularity, and what graphic designers can learn from Tom and Jerry, all in this article. So, let’s get the ball rolling.
Tom and Jerry: how it all began
The journey of the iconic cartoon began 82 years ago. Creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, both in their 20s, created the first version of the cat and the mouse out of boredom.
While other major studios had created characters like Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig, MGM was still behind in the race. However, with Hanna and Barbera developing the idea of a cat and mouse cartoon, the studio’s fate began to change. The cartoon series dealt with the rivalry and companionship of Tom and Jerry.
In 1940, MGM released “Puss Gets the Boots.” The studio’s first production went on to become a phenomenal success. Despite the animated short winning an Oscar nomination, the animators were not credited.
Months after its first release, a letter from an influential person from Texas arrived asking when she would get to see the “wonderful cat and mouse cartoons.”
Soon after, Hanna and Barbera were ready with the second installment and changed the names of Jasper and Jinx to Tom and Jerry.
An article published on BBC mentions that the makers had grown up watching silent films of Charlie Chaplin and understood that the cartoon “could be funny without dialogue.” Scott Bradley’s music and characters expressing themselves without dialogue ensured the series had a global appeal.
Tom and Jerry: evolution
After their birth in 1940, Tom and Jerry evolved in more ways than one. Let us go back in history and explore how the pair evolved over time.
Hanna-Barbera (1940 – 1958)
Hanna and Barbera faced harsh criticism by others at MGM cartoon studio for coming up with the idea of another cat and mouse cartoon. The late 30s saw a surge in cat and mouse cartoons, which is why people in the studio were not keen on producing another series featuring the animals. However, Hanna and Barbera believed they had created something unique that could easily separate them from the crowd.
Here is a key takeaway for entrepreneurs and start-ups: you should stand your ground if you believe you have created something unique, even if you have to face challenges.
While Puss Gets the Boot became an instant hit, the names of the characters were not. Hanna and Barbera declared prize money worth US$ 50 for the one who came up with an interesting name. Thus Tom and Jerry were born!
The early Tom and Jerry years under the supervision of Hanna and Barbera are considered the cartoon’s golden era. The duo produced 114 shorts and won seven Oscar Awards during this period.
Gene Deitch (1961 – 1962)
The Gene Deitch era is considered one of its kind in the history of the franchise. The Tom and Jerry tales take a completely different look and approach during this period.
In 1961, MGM hired Rembrandt Films to create 13 Tom and Jerry shorts. Gene, who headed the project, had closely observed the cartoon since its inception. He sought to make the 13 shorts completely different from the original.
Change in location is the first thing you notice about Gene’s series. Unlike Hanna and Barbara’s series, which were set inside and outside the house, the new shorts featured exotic locations. From Ancient Greek acropolis to the forests of Nairobi to the Wild West, Tom and Jerry were seen as globetrotters.
While Gene’s films were not nominated for the Academy Awards, they became the highest-grossing animated films of the time. The series was such a commercial success that it broke the record of Looney Tunes.
Chuck Jones (1963 – 1967)
The years between 1963 and 1967 belonged to the man behind Roadrunner, Wile E Coyote, and Looney Tunes—Chuck Jones. After starting his own studio, Jones directed 34 Tom & Jerry shorts.
Like Gene, Jones created the shorts based on his understanding of the characters. He also added his distinct style to the shorts. Both Tom and Jerry got a makeover: The cat got bushy eyebrows and long-tail like Wile E, while the mouse got Porky Pig-style ears. The iconic Tom & Jerry theme music was also introduced during the Jones era.
Hanna-Barbera’s The Tom and Jerry Show (1975 – 1977)
The creators of the iconic characters returned to the sets with their own TV series—The Tom and Jerry Show. While there were a few visible differences, it reminded one of the franchise’s early days.
The series included 48 seven-minute shorts, which formed the part of The Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape/The Mumbly Cartoon Show episodes telecasted on ABC.
According to new broadcasting norms, children’s television could not highlight violence in any form. ABC was quick in following and banned violence completely from kid’s shows. As a result, the series could not use its signature chase scenes and violence. Not only did they tone down the violence, but the sworn enemies also became friends.
Filmation Studios (1980 – 1982)
MGM commissioned Filmation studio to create new episodes for television. The new series was different from the 1975 Hanna-Barbera version. Filmation brought back the iconic chase scenes and gave them a slapstick twist. While the new series was not as violent as their earlier counterparts, it easily reminded everyone of the original cat and mouse rivalry.
While the series included funny chase scenes and added characters like Droopy, Spike, and Bear, the show could not replicate its former glory. After only running for over a year, CBS decided to pull the plug on the show.
Tom & Jerry Kids (1990 – 1994)
Better known as the third Hanna-Barbera era, the years between 1990 and 1994 saw the ‘babyfication’ of the central characters. The trend of babyfication (child versions) of iconic cartoon characters was at its peak during the 80s and 90s. Tom & Jerry also became a part of the trend. The show included the iconic chase scenes, albeit with a twist. Baby Tom appeared wearing a bow tie, while baby Jerry was seen in a red cap.
The show also included dialogues by characters like Spike, Tyke, Droopy, and his son Dripple.
Warner Bros.’ The Tom and Jerry Show (2006 – Present)
Turner merged with Warner Bros. in 1996. The merger gave access to the MGM library which included Tom and Jerry.
In 2006, Warner Bros. produced thirteen new episodes of a series titled Tom and Jerry Tales. The Tales were half-hour episodes with three shorts. The series was popular because it used iconic chase sequences. While the new series gained popularity, the show had to be canceled due to the block shut down of WB Kids.
In 2014, Tom and Jerry were brought to life just ahead of their 75th birthday. The new series left the iconic characters of Tom and Jerry untouched but gave it a modern 2D look with Flash animation.
The iconic characters created in 1940 still have a long way to go. The characters created 82 years ago are still popular today because they have managed to remain relevant. Though the characters have been reimagined several times, they always retained their true personalities.
Why is Tom and Jerry so popular?
The fun-filled world of Tom & Jerry has fascinated generations. Let us explore what makes the characters and the series timeless.
Fosters the idea of friendship
What comes to your mind when you think of Tom and Jerry? Chase sequences, great background music, thrill, and laughter. But it has something more! It has friendship! Yes we know cats and mice can never be friends, but here is Tom and Jerry, breaking the norms, going against their nature to become friends.
The idea that even your sworn enemy can become your best friend is what makes Tom & Jerry so popular.
Brands compete with each other to establish themselves in the market, but unhealthy competition can be a breeding ground for creating hostile relationships. If you want to create a timeless brand, your mantra for success should be friendship.
Additionally, investing your time in a strong branding strategy can help you establish your brand.
Well, we cannot leave out violence when we talk of Tom & Jerry. So, let me address the elephant in the room. I am a father and certainly avoid violence depicted on the screen. But, when it comes to Tom & Jerry, I can’t help but notice the innocence with which the chase sequences are created.
The depiction of violence is another reason for the popularity of the cartoon. But, the violence depicted here does not lead to any fatal consequences. Tom never gives up the chase, and Jerry always wins. Jerry is stronger and courageous than he looks. He never gives up and always wins.
According to a study published on Investopedia, the failure rate of start-ups was 90 percent in 2019. Most start-ups fail because they do not,
- set proper goals
- create proper strategies
Jerry always wins even though he is small because he sets proper goals, strategies, and never quits.
Teaches you to be kind and helpful
The camaraderie between Tom and Jerry is second to none. While their little fights are well known, they always stand by each other in times of danger. Both think of the best ways to help each other and make the best out of any situation. In times of grave danger, they make themselves useful and solve the problem.
As a business owner, you should never be afraid to seek or give help. Some of the biggest brands in the world are known for their charity works. Apart from giving back to society in the form of charity, brands such as Adidas, Disney, and Cannon tie themselves with various social responsibility activities such as,
- Protecting marine life
- Sustainability programs
- Upliftment programs for various tribal groups in Asia and Africa
- Commitments towards carbon neutrality
- Water consumption reduction
Encourages one to become a fast problem solver
When Tom & Jerry made its debut in 1940, nobody expected it to be different from other cat and mouse cartoons popular then. However, it became a rage upon release. Not only was Tom & Jerry different from the pack, but stood out from the crowd due to its central theme. Apart from the rivalry and friendship, their problem-solving abilities attracted the audience.
Both Tom and Jerry are quick problem solvers and have the ability to get out of any tricky situation.
A brand that does not focus on problems but on solving them stands a much better chance of going the distance. There are bound to be many challenges in life, but how you tackle them makes all the difference.
Tom & Jerry: exploring the dark side of humor
Have you heard of the term ‘schadenfreude’? Well, it is a real term! Cambridge Dictionary defines the term “as a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when something bad happens to someone else.”
Tom & Jerry is extremely popular with varied age groups, and when I analyzed the reasons for its popularity, the term schadenfreude surfaced in my mind. While it is difficult for people to accept their inclinations towards dark humor, especially when watching pranks and practical jokes played on others, there are enough pieces of evidence to confirm the theory is correct. Long-running shows such as the Big Bang Theory, Impractical Jokers, and Tom & Jerry prove that watching individuals suffering appeals to us.
According to research, schadenfreude can be divided into three categories: relief, dislike, and fairness. You can experience schadenfreude when you dislike a person you see. Similarly, you also experience the feeling when you are relieved to find the subject in question does not have to face schadenfreude. The fairness type of schadenfreude is experienced when you believe that a subject rightfully deserves it.
In Tom & Jerry, we experience the fairness type of schadenfreude. Both Tom and Jerry devise ways to seek revenge for all the wrongs done to them. This justification leads the viewers into experiencing schadenfreude.
While one may debate about the darker side of humor in Tom & Jerry, the cartoon itself is based on the noble ideas of companionship and helpfulness.
What can graphic designers learn from Tom & Jerry?
As a graphic designer or a business owner, the Tom & Jerry series has lots that you can learn from. If you are a business owner looking to create a great-looking logo or brand identity design, understanding a bit about graphic designs can prove useful. We will explore what makes Tom & Jerry iconic from the graphic design angle.
The first and the most important lesson a graphic designer can learn from the iconic Tom & Jerry cartoon is simplicity. The first shorts created by Hanna and Barbera in 1940 used simple design elements put together to make sense. The shorts were created without the use of dialogue, yet they spoke a language that appealed to everyone who saw it. The simple yet incredible chase scenes, the background music, and the hand-drawn cartoon caught the audience’s attention.
From fast food to rapid home deliveries of your favorite products, the modern world can be described in one word—speed. While the graphic design industry has adopted various technologies to keep abreast with the rest of the world, the lack of creativity is sometimes very evident. From software that can create designs instantly to AI-driven tools that can assist a designer come up with unimaginable designs within a short period, the graphic design industry is probably in its phase today!
What about creativity? Creativity needs time: it requires you to patiently look for hidden gems in the deepest corners of your heart. The Tom & Jerry shorts were all hand-drawn! Yes, modern-day technology was not available. But look at what they achieved! They achieved immortality. The graphic design industry creates tens of thousands of designs every day, but can you count the number of designs you remember? Only a few! While the pressure to deliver is going to be there, as a designer, you should never undermine the value of creativity.
The Tom & Jerry shows are always about laughter and amazing chase sequences, and the key to achieving perfection in both these categories is to be spot on with the timing. If you are a graphic designer involved with motion graphics or animation, timing is your primary weapon. The Tom & Jerry series can be a fantastic case study if you are into motion graphics.
From the Tom & Jerry Logo to the actual characters, everything in the iconic cartoon series appears in perfect proportions and spacing. Spaces bring so much to a piece of design. It invokes imagination and allows the various design elements to breathe. Proper spacing makes a design look presentable and professional.
Tom and Jerry is a great example of structural balance between the main characters. The three main characters mostly exhibit a stable relationship. Tom, Jerry, and Mammy Two Shoes, the owner of the house, live in the same household but share opposite relationships within the balance structure. The series beautifully translates the balance structure in its designs. The cartoon depicts two types of balance: first, the relationship structure, and second, the graphic interpretation of the relationship structure.
Develops an understanding of how sound and graphics work together
The iconic Tom & Jerry shorts are known for good music, proper sound effects, and stunning graphics interwoven perfectly. The key to becoming a good animator or a video editor lies in sewing various graphics and sound elements together. A deeper understanding of the following can turn you into a great digital graphic artist:
- Background music
- Various sound effects
- Foley sound
- Motion graphics
As a graphic designer, observing the Tom & Jerry cartoon series can help develop a greater understanding of sound and graphics.
Secret revealed: Tom and Jerry’s real names!
We all know that Hanna and Barbera changed the name of the original characters from Jasper and Jinx to Tom and Jerry after Puss Gets the Boot became popular. Well, here are the real names of your favorite cartoon characters: Thomas Jasper ‘Tom’ Cat, Sr and Gerald Jinx ‘Jerry’ Mouse.
The Tom and Jerry series holds a special place in pop culture not because it depicts a clash between cats and mice but because it spreads the positive message of universal brotherhood. The ability to acknowledge differences and coexist in harmony is what makes the cartoon so special.
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Business Development Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the Media and Digital marketing sector, Passionate about innovation and bringing the future into new business solutions.
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