5 things you never knew about Tom and Jerry cartoons

Two decades before The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera made animation history with the cat and mouse.

Image: The Everett Collection

We all grew up with Tom and Jerry. No matter what your age might be. The cartoon cat and mouse made their debut 80 years ago when MGM released the short Puss Gets the Boot in theaters on February 10, 1940. 

The animal adversaries were the creation of young animators Joseph Barbera and William Hanna (originally working alongside Rudolf Ising). 

The wildly popular Tom and Jerry cartoons garnered critical acclaim, as Hanna-Barbera crafted 114 shorts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer up through 1958.

Hanna-Barbera left behind their cat and mouse to pursue their own Hanna-Barbera Productions, which would make television history with the smash primetime series The Flintstones in 1960. Other creators (Gene Deitch, Chuck Jones) would continue to make Tom and Jerry toons, while the superior originals ran in syndication. 

To celebrate their 80th birthday, let's look at some fascinating facts about the early era of Tom and Jerry.

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1. They were originally named Jasper and Jinx.

The cat — then more of a realistic quadruped — chasing the chubby little mouse was dubbed "Jasper" in the debut cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot. The name of the mouse never arises onscreen in the cartoon itself, though he was named "Jinx" in pre-production. That being said, there was some debate over that matter, amongst the creators nonetheless. Hanna certainly considered the mouse to be named Jinx, as mentioned in his memoir A Cast of Friends. Barbera was not so sold.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. There was later a contest to name the characters.

So how did Tom and Jerry come to be "Tom and Jerry"? A contest, of course! Animator John Carr won $50 (more than $800 in today's cash) for coming up with the monikers Tom and Jerry. 

Image: The Everett Collection

3. They were named after a cocktail.

So why "Tom and Jerry" you might ask? Well, it was a popular boozy Yuletime drink, essentially eggnog with brandy added in alongside the rum. The drink recipe and name dates back to the 1820s, so it certainly predates the cat and mouse. In the early 19th century, "Tom and Jerry" was a British term for rambunctious youth, as coined in the 1823 book Life in London, or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom by Pierce Egan.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. They won seven Oscars.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loved Tom and Jerry just as much as the kids in the audience. In total, 13 Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons earned an Oscar nomination in the Short Subject, Cartoon category. Eight of them would win a trophy. The Yankee Doodle Mouse took home the duo's first Oscar. Seven shorts in total would win Oscars.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. They were in a live-action Gene Kelly movie.

The 1945 musical comedy Anchors Aweigh paired dancing icon Gene Kelly with many celebrity partners, but none as fantastical as Jerry Mouse. Kelly and Jerry perform together through the magic of filmmaking in "The Worry Song." Jerry is royalty, while Tom makes a cameo as a servant. Some sources claim that the film originally wanted Mickey Mouse, but Disney declined to lend out their famous rodent.

Image: The Everett Collection

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RobertRodriguez 6 months ago
I grew up with Tom-and-jerry love the show love all the cartoons that came out for my time 56 years old and I miss all those cartoons
VaughnBaskin 8 months ago
Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse along with Spike and Tyke Pitbull, Yakky Doodle, Barney Bear, Red, McWolf, Screwball "Screwy" Squirrel, George and Junior Bear, and of course Droopy Bloodhound, really set the tones for every H-B, R-S, and Krofft character that comes after that, from Huckleberry Hound all the way to H.R. Pufnstuf. MeTV really needs to add Tom and Jerry to the Weekday afternoon and Sunday morning lineup roster with The Flintstones this year!
Barry22 8 months ago
Always been a fan of the Original Tom and Jerry, not the crap that came afterwards. I know it was racist, but the African-American cleaning lady always made me laugh. I'm not sure, but did they stop showing those episodes? I also heard they went back and and redubbed the voice.
RobCertSDSCascap Barry22 8 months ago
They replaced her body with the one shown below.
Steve922 Barry22 8 months ago
Please do not confuse "racist" with "stereotypical" of the day. All cultures were open to good natured ribbing. This was the practice of the day. Yes the cleaning lady's voice was replaced in several cartoons with a sterotype Irish American voice.
RobCertSDSCascap 8 months ago
Never a fan, since Jerry won 99.9% of the time.
I am still a fan of The Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show!
It was fun seeing them work together. Great theme
song, too!
Set your dial for a while!
Have a laugh, wear a smile!
The Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show!
You'll begin with a grin
When you first tune us in:
The Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show!
Introducing that famous cat and mouse...TOM & JERRY!
And there it is...it's THE GREAT GRAPE APE!
("I am, I am, Grape Ape, Grape Ape!" "Love that Tom and Jerry!")
(instrumental solo)
Lots of zing, lots to sing!
Everything's gonna swing!
So, get ready - here we go! (Beegle Beagle: "HERE WE GO!")
Big or small, short or tall,
You will all have a ball
On The Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show!
Wish they would release it on DVDs!
What they said! Always have been for 41 years, always will be a 1975 Tom and Jerry fan! 😊 Even erected a well-detailed fansite dedicated to the show. @ http://1975tomjerry.orgfree.com/ ! Enjoy. ☺

Jeremy 8 months ago
My only complaint about them is not really the violence, it's the fact that Jerry wins more times than Tom. It's like they should've named it "Jerry and Tom" instead of "Tom and Jerry." There was another Tom and Jerry that I believe came before the cat and mouse did. Here's one of their cartoons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvtMrkc7tyg.
BrittReid 8 months ago
Violence 101.
MarkEd BrittReid 8 months ago
It's a cartoon, no one got hurt.
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 8 months ago
My brothers and I saw one of the earliest Tom & Jerry cartoons where the old lady called the cat "Jasper". Now it makes sense, they must have forgotten to edit that particular cartoon when it was released to the public.
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