However, there was another Tom Cat in development at the studio. Here’s a model sheet, dated October 3, 1940.
This was for Production 99, supposedly “Baby Puss,” a 1943 Tom and Jerry cartoon. But that’s decidedly not the T and J Tom, and the female cat on the sheet doesn’t appear in that cartoon. No, the sheet looks like it’s for “The Alley Cat,” a cartoon from the Hugh Harman unit with a release date two weeks before “The Midnight Snack.”
I can’t find any of the great poses in the model sheet in that cartoon, but here’s a frame of Tom Alley Cat.
It’s far from the cutsey woodland creature cartoons you think of when you hear Harman’s name. For one thing, it’s full of speed effects and comes to a violently loud ending. There’s perspective animation and interesting layouts that Harman loved. Here are two shots from opposing points of view, not only high and low, but poor side of town vs gleaming, modern art deco apartment tower.
The name “Moreno” on the model sheet, I’m presuming, belongs to Manuel Moreno. He was one of Walter Lantz’s top animators from about 1930 to 1937 and I had no idea he ended up at MGM.
Manuel M. Moreno was born in Mexico on August 30, 1908, the oldest of three children. The family moved to California in 1920. By 1940, Manuel was pulling down $4800 a year at MGM, had a nice home in North Hollywood, two daughters, a son and a housekeeper (not named Two-Shoes). His grandson wrote in the Los Angeles Times on May 16, 1998:
Manuel Moreno worked at Universal with Walter Lantz during the "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" years. He animated and directed at other studios, earned a solid reputation, and could have easily moved into a position at the studio of his choice. Instead, he fulfilled his dream to return to his native Mexico and launch a studio to make animated films in Spanish. Between 1943 and 1946, Caricolor Films made a few shorts--one in Technicolor with stereo sound, called "Me Voy de Caceria"--featuring his character Pelon. Stanford University now holds most of Moreno's notes, papers, photos and home movies, but the films made in Mexico have never resurfaced, since they were lost while searching for a distributor in Hollywood.Moreno died in the Los Angeles area on January 8, 1992.
The design of Tom Alley Cat in this cartoon was borrowed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera for Butch who, as mentioned, appeared in “Baby Puss” and a number of other Tom and Jerrys. The girl cat was also borrowed by Hanna and Barbera and redesigned a bit for “Springtime For Thomas” (1946). Could it be they borrowed the name “Tom” from the Harman unit as well?
My thanks to Mark Sonntag for passing on word about the model sheet.