Written by Brandie Ashe
By virtue of their respective species, Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse are sworn enemies. Tom chases Jerry, and Jerry outwits Tom; sometimes, it’s the other way around, as Jerry ends up on the receiving end of Tom’s revenge. They give each other hell and, on the rare occasion, team up to thwart a common foe. It’s a simple conceit, and one that has the potential to run very dry, very quickly. Yet over the course of 18 years and more than one hundred cartoons, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were able to do the seemingly impossible: keep the Tom and Jerry series relatively fresh, entertaining, and funny. The power of these shorts lies in their ability to be inventive with a somewhat limited concept. And unlike their similarly-themed counterparts Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, the Tom and Jerry cartoons, by and large, tend to avoid overly repetitive gags and storylines, whether through clever variations on the chase sequence or, as in the case of the cartoons spotlighted here, through the addition of a few cuddly costars to liven up the action.
Tom and Jerry: Pint-Sized Pals collects thirty cartoons on two discs, most featuring a selection of cute animal sidekicks, most dating from the latter half of the series’ theatrical run in the late 1940s/1950s, and most in their original, unedited, expectedly violent form. Tyke, the son of Tom’s other sworn enemy, the gruff bulldog Spike, appears in five cartoons with the duo and his pop. Nibbles (also known as “Tuffy”), a diminutive diaper-wearing Jerry lookalike, teams up with his mousy mentor and faces off with Tom in six cartoons (including three of the four entries in the “Mouseketeers” miniseries, Tom and Jerry’s delightful take on The Three Musketeers). The adorable, distinctively-voiced duckling Quacker is also featured in six cartoons. Other miniature costars featured in one-off appearances are Cuckoo the canary, a baby woodpecker, a bag of puppies, and one very curious human baby (from Tot Watchers, the final Tom and Jerry short produced by Hanna and Barbera).
The set purports to be focused on “pint-sized pals,” and for the most part, it sticks with this theme, with a couple of exceptions–for instance, The Dog House on disc one features a solo Spike sans son. Also, it’s important to note that not all of the selections in this set derive from the original theatrical cartoons; in an apparently effort to pad out the DVDs, eight recent shorts from the Tom and Jerry Tales TV series are randomly mixed in with the classics. Amongst the decidedly more entertaining “Golden Age”-era cartoons, these lackluster “modern” Tom and Jerry shorts strike something of a sour note.
The DVDs are bare-bones; besides the cartoons themselves, the only special features to speak of are a couple of trailers for other Warner Bros. animation productions. Not much effort went into designing the titles, either–the main menu screen is simply a recreation of the DVD cover, and the sub-menus are merely lists of selections on a green background. But while Tom and Jerry: Pint-Sized Pals is the very definition of a “no-frills” production, a good number of these shorts are nonetheless enjoyable. This is a solid set for those who wish to introduce Tom and Jerry to their kids, as the antics of the child-friendly “pint-sized” animals will no doubt delight younger viewers (personally, I’d venture the target age group for these shorts is 7-10 years old–young enough to appreciate the humor, old enough not to be horrified by the mild acts of violence sprinkled throughout the cartoons). But if you are a collector looking to build your Tom and Jerry library, you’d be much better off going for the more adult-oriented Golden Collection set, particularly as many of these cartoons have already been included on previous DVDs.
Speaking of which, it’s worth mentioning that while the Tom and Jerry cartoons have seen a number of DVD releases in the past, these collections are generally piecemeal compilations, sometimes loosely connected by a vague theme. Thankfully, that has started to change, and the venerable cat-and-mouse duo is starting to get the same loving collectors’ treatment as many of their “Golden Age of Animation” counterparts. In the past decade, Warner Bros. has released a series of Golden Collections on DVD (and, more recently, on Blu-ray in an ongoing Platinum series) that provide fans with a more comprehensive collection of their exhaustive Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies libraries, all uncut and uncensored (though the infamous “Censored Eleven” have not yet been included on these sets).
Perhaps due in large part to the success of these Warner Bros. compilations, Tom and Jerry are finally getting their due, slowly but surely; their first Golden Collection, released in 2011, is a truly spectacular set containing the unedited, original versions of the first thirty-seven Tom and Jerry shorts. The second volume is scheduled to be released this June, but not without controversy: this latest set will exclude from its chronology two controversial cartoons, Mouse Cleaning and Casanova Cat, which feature notorious blackface gags. This is an unusual move, to be sure, considering Warner’s previous release of some racially-insensitive cartoons from the Looney Tunes stable–an issue they addressed on the Golden Collections through an introduction by Whoopi Goldberg explaining the origin and nature of those controversial cartoons. Needless to say, it’s disappointing for adult collectors who wish to see these shorts in their original, uncensored glory, but hopefully recent customer complaints about the exclusion of these ‘toons will prompt Warner Bros. to release them sooner rather than later.