Saturday, 9 March 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Cat and Mouth (The Many Voices of Thomas "Tom" Cat and Jerry Mouse)

Tom and Jerry were famously mute. At least, that's how I remember them. But when you look back at the series, you realize just how vocal they were.

And I'm not talking about THIS poor excuse for Tom and Jerry...

That was a clip from the ill-advised 'Tom And Jerry: The Movie', a 1992 theatrical release where the duo talked throughout as if they were FRIENDS (!), trying to help an orphan or some shit.

No, I'm talking about Hanna-Barbera's original punch/kick/waffle-maker-to-the-tail theatrical shorts, where this is mostly what you heard...

Or this..

Or this...

Sometimes the screams were a little higher pitched...

Sometimes they weren't screams at all...

Most of the sounds Tom and Jerry made over the course of Hanna-Barbera's 114 cartoon run were made by their co-creator, William Hanna. Every yell, laugh, gulp and exhale were his, except for a few more elaborate sounds, which we'll get into below.

Later in the series, when Chuck Jones took over, Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny fame provided vocal effects.

But these are still just sound effects, really. I'm talking about actual talking.

Well, in the case of Tom, he had many different voices.

Here's Tom as dumbass, evidenced by a brief spelling lesson heard at the end of 1946's Trap Happy...

Tom was a dumbass previous to that, in 1945's The Mouse Who Came To Dinner. Other voices in this include Mammy Two Shoes, a series regular (and unfortunate reflection of the times) voiced by Lillian Randolph, and Sara Berner as Tom's unimpressed date.

Tom's voice in 1944's The Million Dollar Cat shifts between dumbass and shrieking lunatic.

At times, Tom could sound more gentlemenly. His tones are quite pleasing in 1950's The Framed Cat, during his attempts to distract Spike the Bulldog. Wiki tells me Daws Butler did both Tom and Spike's voice for this. Daws Butler would work with Hanna-Barbera most of his life, creating dozens of other famous voices including Yogi Bear and Snagglepuss.

Here's an insane and hilariously dated cartoon called The Zoot Cat (1944), where Tom can be heard as 1930's hipster, horn-dog Pepe Le Pew impersonator, and...uh, that guy! (who shows up at the 5:15 mark) Wiki says Billy Bletcher voiced Tom in this one. Billy also voiced Spike. He did so up until 1949, until he was replaced by Daws Butler. Sara Berner can also be heard as "Toots". William Hanna portrays the radio announcer.

Sometimes Tom's voice turned downright creepy and menacing. Here are 2 lines that used to scare me as a child, and I still don't know the official meaning behind them. The first clip is from 1944's The Bodyguard...

And this is from 1944's Mouse Trouble...

That last line also shows up at the end of 1953's The Missing Mouse, after Tom kicks an exploding rodent in the butt. Yes, I just typed that with a serious face.

Sometimes the voices came from Tom's head, which may have been causing his violent tendencies all along. ("X marks the spot.")

Sometimes Tom sounded like Droopy. Oh wait, that's not Tom.

Sometimes Tom adopted an entirely different voice when he sang.

Here he is as jazz singer in Solid Serenade (1946). Ira "Buck" Woods provided the voice.

Here's his nod to the country/western genre, as seen in Texas Tom (1950). Although lip-syncing accusations have put this performance into question.

Here's Tom as opera virtuoso in Chuck Jones' The Cat Above and The Mouse Below (1960). Jerry's not bad either.

Speaking of Jerry, where's his voice in all of this? Well, he had his highs and lows. His voice was extremely high (and provided by Sara Berner) in his cameo with Gene Kelly in 1945's 'Anchors Aweigh', which was recently replicated on an episode of 'Family Guy'.

Then his voice couldn't have been lower in 1956's Blue Cat Blues, with smooth, dulcet tones provided by Paul Frees. Don't think his spirits could have been any lower in this either.

What a depressing way to end a Saturday morning! Not as depressing as that movie they made in the 90's though.

Still, I think we've heard enough. Tom, Jerry - Quiet Please!

1 comment: