Friday, 14 November 2014

Thermos Cartoon Violence

Violently jerky camera movement on impact was not uncommon in the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons. Here’s an example from “Sorry Safari” (1962). The unnamed hunter (played by Deitch’s buddy Allen Swift) bashes Tom with his thermos. Each shot is taken twice.

The Deitch T&Js are generally a sorry mess, not a sorry safari, but the elephant design in this one is funny.

Deitch’s cartoons were produced by William Snyder, who seems to have worked out a secret deal with MGM for the cat and mouse shorts. Here’s the part of a Daily Variety story from March 9, 1961 dealing with the cartoons:
Mochrie Details MGM Plan To Resume Tom & Jerry Cartoon Prod’n Abroad
New York, March 8. – Bill Snyder’s deal with Metro for production of new Tom & Jerry cartoons in Europe, closed more than six months ago, today was publicly announced by Robert Mochrie, sales veepee, to more than 75 delegates before winding two-day sales sesh at Astor Hotel.
During past several years Metro reissued T&J's in color and other shorts singly and in packages. About five years ago Metro curtailed all shorts production when cost per subject was found prohibitive. Snyder, through his Rembrandt Films, has produced cartoons abroad for half Metro's tally sheets. He's been quietly making T&J's to build backlog for one a month release starting May 8.
Former trade paper reporter, Snyder has imported numerous foreign features and shorts, one or two winning Academy recognition.
And contrary to popular belief, the cartoons weren’t all done at Deitch’s studio in Czechoslovakia. Here’s Variety again, from April 21, 1961:
Bill Snyder, whose “Munro” short won an Oscar Monday, has five units working on new product in four foreign countries: one each in London, Zurich, Milan, Rome and Prague. Stories, soundtrack and layouts are prepared in Gotham, he said. Three of 13 “Tom & Jerry” subjects for Metro have been completed
While Deitch et al were making their shorts overseas, MGM continued to release Tom and Jerrys from its own closed studio in a compilation “Tom and Jerry Festival of Fun.” Finally, Metro announced a change. The headline in a lengthy front-page Variety story of August 30, 1963: “MGM Revives ‘Tom-Jerry’ Shorts After 6 Years, Walter Bien Producing”. Thus ended Gene Deitch’s brief connection with a 23-year-old cat and mouse team. We’ll have the Bien story tomorrow.


  1. The picture of the pacyderm looks like a cousin of Terrytoons Sydney the Elephant.

  2. Snyder/Deitch "...quietly making T&J's to build backlog for one a month release starting May 8." would explain why in Gene's online autobiography, the MGM shorts' production is listed before the Popeye cartoons Deitch directed, even though the latter ended up on TV before the full run of the former hit theaters.

    The bio also mentions the disdain Gene had for the type of cartoon violence Hanna-Barbera specialized in when Snyder got the MGM contract, and that definitely comes out in the shorts, especially in the first half dozen or so of his Tom & Jerrys. In the later ones, he seems to have gotten the worst of that disdain out of his system and does a better job of making the gags not more painful for the audience than they are for the cat on screen.

    (Gene's Popeye work involved cartoons he directed that were animated at his studio in Czechoslovakia, Halas and Bachelor's in England, as well as studios Italy and Zagreb, Yugoslavia. The four that presumably were done in the Milan studio mentioned in the article probably have the best animation out of all of Deitch's Popeyes, and whomever worked on the backgrounds actually put some extra effort into it, compared to the other three groups.)

  3. I noticed when watching this short on Boomerang a few months ago, that the gag with Tom temporarily losing his hearing had been altered. Instead of complete silence, we hear muted music and jungle noise. Ruins the whole point of the joke.

  4. 11/15/14 Wrote:
    The unnamed violent brute in the Deitch Tom & Jerry shorts was supposed to be Clint Clobber, according to Gene Deitch, but he couldn't use the name because of a copyright agreement he left with the character at Terrytoons, so this character was a facsimile of Clobber, who went unnamed , but had many of Clobber's rude mannerisms. The Deitch T&J's are shown a lot on Boomerang (probably because they are no longer allowed to broadcast the H-B shorts with Mammy Two-Shoes in the scenes, due to NAACP's complaints), and to me, I always thought they were mildly funny when I saw them as a child on Channel 50 in Detroit. They aren't as good as H-B's, but they aren't as abysmal as the 1970's versions by H-B done in 1975 and originally premiered on Channel 7-ABC/WXYZ Detroit. I think that many people find them crudely animated, but it has been stated by Leonard Maltin that MGM wanted to churn the shorts out as cheaply and quickly as possible, due to budget cuts made in the late 50's.The most amusing comment by Maltin was his opinion on the low-budget music scores on the Deitch shorts, stating that they sounded like they were recorded in a lavatory (a bathroom, obviously, and with the overt echo sounds the engineer made at the time, they do sound like bathroom-echo sound.) MGM just didn't want to spend more than they did. The Popeyes' from the same era made by King Features TV Syndicates were notoriously cheap as well.