I am glad there is a cartoon on this list. Granted it’s a bit of a stretch to consider a 7-minute Tom and Jerry cartoon a movie, but it is the best kind of cartoon. “The Cat Concerto,” directed by cartoon masters William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, is simple, entertaining and has inventive animation.
This short may have come out in 1947, but like most of the great cartoons, I got to watch it in the mid-90s. This was before Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Yogi Bear, and The Flintstones all ended up on Teletoon Retro and Seth MacFarlane swooped in with Family Guy. For me these cartoons weren’t just a form of entertainment, they were teaching tools. Back then I was living in Chile so the cartoons were always in Spanish. They didn’t teach me grammar, but I did learn that “What’s up doc?” in Spanish is “Que hay de nuevo Viejo?”
Not that I could ever get any language lessons from Tom and Jerry. With these two it’s always the same basic premise. Tom the cat is doing something around the house, Jerry the mouse starts bothering him, and they start fighting without ever saying a word. In “The Cat Concerto” Tom is a pianist trying to play Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which wakes up Jerry who is sleeping inside the piano.
At first Jerry is happy to just sit on the piano and watch, but Tom finds him distracting and flips him off. As Daffy Duck once told Donald Duck, “This means war.” Jerry fights back by putting a trap on one of the keys, playing with Tom’s chair, and jumping on the piano’s chords. Tom tries to crush Jerry with the keys and attempts to knock him out with those tiny hammers inside the piano. As all the fighting takes place, the action still manages to match the music. Even if Tom is playing with his feet you get the illusion that it’s him playing the instrument.
This is all very entertaining despite the age of this cartoon. It makes sense for it to be on Empire magazine’s list. Yet, Tom and Jerry they are not my favourite. When it comes to old school cartoons, I’ve always been more of a Looney Tunes fan. I think it’s the lack of dialogue. Tom and Jerry never say anything, but just about every character in the Bugs Bunny universe has a catchphrase. Daffy has “You’re despicable,” Tweety has “I thought I saw a putty cat” and Sylvester has “Sufferin succotash.” And how funny is it when Will E. Coyote and the Sheep Dog go to work in the morning and say “Hello Ralph” “Hello Sam”?
Tom and Jerry are great together, Hanna and Barbera can make great cartoons that mesh physical humour and classical music, but when it comes to old-school animated shorts, I am siding with Warner Bros.