Friday, 26 October 2018

Knitting Brows

“First, put the sweet lovable mouse into a simple situation expressing a natural human need...The result may not make sense, but it will last long enough for you to be comfortably seated before the feature begins.” So says narrator Allen Swift in an aware, apt and ironic description of the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons in The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit (1962), which happens to be a Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoon.

The “result” in this cartoon kind of doesn’t make sense. The plot moves along from a battle spitting out watermelon seeds to a battle involving judo. Meanwhile, Gene Deitch is interested in visual effects. Backgrounds, a lot of the time, consist of solid colour which changes depending on the characters’ mood. Settings and even characters fade out when they become unnecessary. At least Deitch and animation director Vaclav Bedrich are trying something different.

There’s one effect that’s a pretty good visual pun. An annoyed Tom’s eyebrows sprout knitting needles. The cat knits his brows—into a turtleneck sweater. Tom fades away. All that’s left is the sweater. Suddenly, Tom pops into the sweater. It’s a turtleneck like some palooka would wear and, indeed, the setting of a boxing gym descends from the top of the screen.

The very able Chris Jenkyns wrote the story.


  1. I like that the kit comes with coffee and cigarettes for the animator.

  2. The reason the cartoon has no plot is because the whole thing (by modern standards) is a deconstruction of the Tom and Jerry cartoons. Since this is one of the few Gene Dietch T&J cartoons I remember/like, I might take a look at this for my cartoon blog.

  3. Deitch on his blog doesn't hide the fact he disdained the characters and their violence-based efforts when William Snyder got him the contract from MGM. This cartoon comes across as sort of a way to vent what irritated him about the series, though Swift's opening and closing narrastion (and this cartoon and the T&Js Deitch made after this do seem to have less of a desire to make the violence as painful to the audience as it was to Tom).