Combustible Celluloid
Own it:
Search for Posters
Search for streaming:
NetflixHuluGoogle PlayGooglePlayCan I
With: (voices) Allen Swift
Written by: Larz Bourne, Gene Deitch, Eli Bauer, Tod Dockstader, Chris Jenkyns, Tedd Pierce, Bill Danch
Directed by: Gene Deitch
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 95
Date: 06/02/2015

Tom and Jerry: The Gene Deitch Collection (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Double Czech

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the early 1960s, cartoons made for theatrical release were reaching the end of their lifespan. Animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who had made a huge success out of the Tom & Jerry cartoons at MGM, had moved on, and MGM made the very strange decision to hire American animator Gene Deitch to take over the series. Deitch was located in the former Czechoslovakia, and had a crew of animators who had never seen a Tom & Jerry short. What's more, his budgets were much smaller than Tom & Jerry had previously enjoyed. Deitch's cartoons came out looking very different than what fans were used to, and to this day their very existence is met with rage from cartoon fans. But in 2015, Warner Home Video released a remastered collection of all 13 of Deitch's shorts, and I found that if you can shift your expectations just a bit, there's something to love about these misfit 'toons.

Deitch knew he would not be able to replicate the characters' traditional smooth movements, so instead he concentrated on other factors, like interesting background paintings, odd sound and vocal effects, and a slightly off-kilter physical reality for the characters. The claustrophobic images of Mouse into Space and the post-modernism of The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit are not easy to dismiss. Indeed, there's something almost surreal about these cartoons. For so many viewers, the unfair comparison of the Deitch cartoons to the Hanna-Barbera cartoons is enough to sneer at them, but to take just a moment and imagine them as their own, strange, different entity can reveal unexpected pleasures (after all, Deitch was an Oscar winner for the strange and wonderful Munro in 1961). After Deitch's run, MGM hired the newly unemployed Chuck Jones to take over the series back in America until the cartoons ended in 1967.

The thirteen cartoons include: Switchin' Kitten, Down and Outing, It's Greek to Me-ow!, High Steaks (all 1961), Mouse into Space, Landing Stripling, Calypso Cat, Dicky Moe, The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit, Tall in the Trap, Sorry Safari, Buddies Thicker Than Water, and Carmen Get It! (all 1962). There's a short, fascinating interview with Deitch, who acknowledges the negative view of his work, as well as a featurette about the history of the Tom & Jerry cartoons, including their resurrection on TV and video.

CD Universe
Movies Unlimtied