Tom and Jerry have been a part of almost everyone’s childhoods since before they can remember. When was the first episode?
A short titled Puss Gets the Boot, was released on February 10, 1940. The idea behind the short was the infant form of Tom and Jerry, but the characters were named Jasper and Jinx. The first short released with the pair being named Tom and Jerry was The Midnight Snack, released in 1941.
Keep reading to learn more about the fascinating story of Tom and Jerry.
The Start of an Era
Animator and storyman, Joseph Barbera, teamed with animator director, William Hanna, to create a new cartoon for MGM. Early ideas involved having two “equal characters who were always in conflict with each other.”
They considered having the characters be a fox and dog before settling on a cat and mouse. They got the go-ahead to produce a single short from the idea.
Puss Gets the Boot was made, featuring Jasper the cat and Jinx the mouse, although Jinx was only named in the pre-production. It was released in theatres on February 10, 1940. Barbera and Hanna were expecting the short to be the last they made of its type.
However, Texas businesswoman Bessa Short sent a letter to the studio, inquiring if more of the cat and mouse shorts were going to be made.
Knowing there was demand for the cartoon, MGM agreed to allow Barbera and Hanna to produce a sequel to Puss Gets the Boot.
MGM held an internal contest to name the characters, and animator Jack Carr coined Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse, winning $50 (about $900 today) in the process.
Barbera and Hanna continued making Tom and Jerry shorts for the next 15 years. The pair made small adjustments to the appearance of Tom and Jerry so they would “age gracefully” and the changes wouldn’t alienate the audience.
Over the years, Jerry slimmed down and Tom gained a smoother appearance to his fur, as well as bigger eyebrows, and a white and gray face with a white mouth.
Initially, Tom would walk on four legs, but began walking on two legs after a few years, becoming almost exclusively bipedal.
Hanna and Barbera made a total of 114 cartoons for MGM in this production, which were hugely well-received. In fact, to this day, Tom and Jerry have won more Oscars than any other animated series.
Each production took around six weeks to make and had a typical budget of $50,000 (over $500,000 today).
The rise of television in the ‘50s and decline of theatrical revenues eventually caused this run of Tom and Jerry to cease in 1957.
The final Tom and Jerry short produced by Hanna and Barbera in this run was Tot Watchers. The animation duo went on to make other popular cartoons such as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo.
Tom and Jerry Return
The classic duo was quickly revived in the early ‘60s, by Gene Deitch and William L. Snyder, under the direction of MGM. The series was produced in Prague, which at the time, was behind the Iron Curtain.
In order to avoid the show being linked to communism, the credits did not state where it was produced, and the crew’s names were transliterated from Czech. 13 shorts were made.
In the later ‘60s, Chuck Jones and Les Goldman took over production of Tom and Jerry, as part of the company Sib Tower 12 Productions (later becoming a division of MGM). 34 shorts were made, with the animation style taking on a slightly psychedelic tone.
In 1975, Hanna and Barbera returned to produce 48 television shorts of The Tom and Jerry Show for ABC.
In 1980, Filmation Studios (part of MGM) produced The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, which included new characters and more of a slapstick approach to the scenes, which wasn’t very well received.
Hanna and Barbera produced their third Tom and Jerry production from 1990—Tom & Jerry Kids. The series followed a trend of the time to “babyfy” classic cartoons and draw the characters in a more youthful manner.
Watch the babyfied Tom and Jerry below.
A television special was made in 2001—Tom and Jerry: The Mansion Cat.
In 2005, Barbera, along with others, produced The Karate Guard, which became his last production of the series. He passed away the following year.
More recently, Tom and Jerry has been produced by Warner Bros and is aired regularly, in various formats, in many languages around the world.