Skip to main content

Empire List #434: The Cat Concerto


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.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #316: Trainspotting

In the 1990s Hollywood directors were the kings of cinema, whether it was for big summer blockbusters or smaller independent films. Guys like James Cameron or Michael Bay would blow up the screens while Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino put the emphasis on snappy dialogue that created relatable characters for the moviegoers. Then in 1996, as if to scream “we can do this too,” Danny Boyle released Trainspotting in the United Kingdom.
Based on a novel by Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, the movie took the world by storm despite having no explosions, a cast of actors who were relatively unknown and a budget that today could barely pay for the catering of a Transformers movie. Furthermore this is not the story of young people going to college to enter a life full of promise, but about young heroine addicts meandering through the streets of Edinburgh. Despite introducing these characters during an energetic montage set to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge in …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #364: Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers (1994) is not so much a movie as an American nightmare come to life. Loosely based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, starring some of the wildest actors in Hollywood at the time, and boasting a level of violence that unfortunately inspired copycat crimes, it is the textbook definition of controversial. In all fairness there are important messages amidst all the violent mayhem, but director Oliver Stone throws so much content at the screen that these messages can sometimes get lost in the carnage.
Even though the movie came out more than two decades ago it still has a legendary status, which I learned about while reading a chapter in a book about Tarantino’s career. The book, Quintessential Tarantino, contained a lot of interesting facts about the making of the movie and also spoiled the ending, but reading a few words that describe a killing spree is very different than seeing it portrayed on screen. A few years ago the director’s cut became available on Netflix, wh…