Thursday, 2 August 2012

Oh, Lightning

The pace of cartoons was moving an awful lot faster by the time World War Two ended, but Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera needed a way to show one moving faster than the rest in “Old Rockin’ Chair Tom” (released in 1948). The solution was pretty simple. The character was named Lightning. So the animator, or the effects animator, drew lightning bolts over top of what turned out to be a partial outline of the character’s body.

You can see that brush strokes are substituted for the cat’s body itself, even as a foot about to kick the mouse out of the house.

This is one of those Tom and Jerrys where the two team up against a third character; in this case, Lightning, who threatens to have them both kicked out of their cushy abode. Their solution is to have Lightning swallow an iron while he’s asleep and then pull him around with a magnet. Here are some of the violence drawings.

The great thing about the Tom and Jerrys into the end of the ‘40s is the expressions. You always know what the characters are thinking (other than the maid as you can’t see her face). And the series hadn’t yet become watered down with wayward ducks, little mice, elephants, plots based in France and flattened designs.

The animators are the H-B unit’s usual group—Ray Patterson, Ken Muse, Irv Spence and Ed Barge. I don’t who how many effects animators MGM had at this point.


  1. One of Hanna-Barbera's BEST T & J shorts! Best is all the screen time Mammy gets!!

  2. The T&J team-ups, starting with "Dog Trouble" were always a nice change of place from the standard storyline, which at least to me, could get a little monotonous when I'd see seven in a row like that (possibly with an Abe Levitow one tossed in there) on Ch. 11 in New York back in the 1970s. Joe Barbera began varying the plots by the final years under Fred Quimby, to the point you could no longer be sure when you saw the opening title card that Jerry would emerge triumphant at the iris out, but by then the animation cutbacks and reliance on stock poses had begun to affect the series, even before the later cuts made the MGM cartoons look cheaper than their Warners rivals.