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The flagship cartoon from the veteran team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Tom and Jerry were originally created by the animation department at MGM studios for a series of theatrical shorts. The ever-duelling cat and mouse, who never spoke, were an instant hit with audiences.
The two had a familiar relationship: Tom chased Jerry and usually ended up being outsmarted by the plucky little mouse. However, many times they would put their differences aside and team up to outsmart a common enemy, such as an invading cat or bullying bulldog.
In 1965, the Tom and Jerry theatrical shorts came to television, packaged with episodes of Tex Avery’s Barney Bear and Droopy.
In 1975, ABC tried another version, The Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape Show. As a reaction to the public outcry against TV violence, new Tom and Jerry cartoons were created, showing the two as buddies.
The show also featured segments starring Grape Ape, a 30-foot-tall purple gorilla, who, while friendly, caused screaming and panic wherever he went. Grape Ape’s companion was a normal-sized dog named Beegle Beagle, who tried to keep him out of trouble, but was no match for the oversized simian’s appetite for adventure.
A year later ABC added Mumbly to the show in his own segments. A clone of Muttley (Dick Dastardly’s sidekick), Mumbly was a detective who solved crimes with the aid of his partner, Schnooker.
Eventually, Grape Ape became too big for the show and was spun off to his own series in 1976, leaving Tom and Jerry and Mumbly to carry the load. The show was cancelled a year later.
Grape Ape and Mumbly landed on their feet by securing jobs on Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics, but Tom and Jerry were out of work for a few years.
The two returned to the small screen in 1980, along with new versions of their old friends Droopy, Barney the Bear and Spike and Slick, in The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show. This version once again pitted the cat and mouse against each other, but in more competitive situations like sporting events or contests.
Following the success of Muppet Babies, Fox revived the duo as Tom and Jerry Kids in 1990.
Viewers were treated to smaller versions of the cat and mouse doing exactly the same thing they had been doing for 25 years – thrashing each other silly.
This incarnation proved to be very successful, co-starring Droopy (along with his son, Drippy), Spike and Slick, and new characters Wild Mouse, the Gator Brothers, and Slow Poke Antonio. Droopy and son were eventually spun off to their own show, Droopy, Master Detective.
During the run of Tom and Jerry Kids, the duo took a shot at film stardom. 1992’s Tom and Jerry: The Movie finally gave the cat and mouse voices, something the cartoon had avoided for over forty years.
Apparently, not many people were interested in what they had to say, as the film left theatres quickly after a disappointing showing.
Tom and Jerry rebounded, moving into daily syndication on Fox Kids for the remainder of their highly successful television run.
Slick the Wolf