Tom and Jerry have been entertaining audiences for over 70 years now, and we still can’t get enough of them. The very first Tom and Jerry short, “Puss Gets the Boot” appeared in theatres in 1940, and the two were a hit right off the bat. Although Tom was named “Jasper,” and Jerry was “Jinx,” the famous twosome were off and running. By the time of their next outing, “The Midnight Snack,” they were being called Tom and Jerry.
While the characters have remained constant for all these years, the people who work on them have changed many times over. Three of the most famous are the Hanna-Barbera team, Fred Quimby, and Chuck Jones. They (among others) are all represented on the new collection Fur Flying Adventures Volume 2. The 14 cartoons span the years 1950-2007, with the majority produced in in the 1960s.
The first entry is “Tops With Pops,” (1956) and features Tom’s other nemesis, Spike the bulldog. The ‘toon marks one of the last appearances of Tyke, Spike’s son. Among the many problems Tom is having, it seems that every time he gets Jerry in a compromising position, it turns out he has actually trapped Tyke. Spike is less than amused, and lets Tom know it.
The sixties episodes find our friends in all kinds of cool circumstances. In Chuck Jones’ great “Surf-Bored Cat” (1967), they hit the beach. For “The A-Tom-Inable Snowman” (1966) the guys are out on the ski slopes. This one is pretty unique as it features a cartoon within a cartoon. There is an opening 30-second mini Tom and Jerry bit before the titles come up and the main story unfolds. One of cartoon-land’s greatest characters, the bloodhound in the mountains with a cask of whisky around his neck is present here, and keeps Tom drunk most of the time.
The snow theme continues with “Snowbody Loves Me” (1964), which takes place in Switzerland. Jerry is in heaven when he finds a wheel of Swiss cheese to move into. Even the furniture in his little chalet is made of cheese, and Tom does his best to destroy this paradise.
With all of the creative energy bouncing around the Hanna-Barbera studios, it was inevitable that music would be incorporated into the stories. “Tom and Jerry In The Hollywood Bowl” (1950) has Tom conducting an all-cat orchestra at the famed venue. Of course Jerry decides to horn in on the action, and mayhem ensues.
My personal favorite of the set is also a Hanna-Barbera production from 1950, “Saturday Evening Puss.” Here we find the lady of the house going out for the evening, leaving Tom and Jerry alone. As is always the case, the people are only shown from the neck down, and in this instance the woman is clearly African-American. This unique (at the time) acknowledgment of black people was clearly meant to underscore the wild jazz soundtrack of Scott Bradley. As soon as she leaves, Tom invites three friends for a jam session. They proceed to rock the house with a percussive mania that would make Gene Krupa proud.
The instrumental pandemonium wakes a sleeping Jerry, who does everything in his power to shut them down. When all else fails, he telephones the woman at her card game, and narcs the cats out. When she returns and boots the offenders out of the house, Jerry thinks he is in the clear. Then she puts on a record that is even more wild than the cats were, and louder too.
The four most recent entries in the set are from 2007, and were produced for the Kids’ WB. When classic cartoons are revisited years later, the results are often disastrous. Updating the characters and stories for a modern audience almost never seems to work. Thankfully, this is not the case with the newer Tom and Jerry episodes, which honor the original spirit of the series – and are actually quite amusing.
To sum up, Fur Flying Adventures Volume 2 is 99 minutes of classic Tom and Jerry fun.