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Creator: Van Beuren Studios

Van Beuren Studios (pronounced Van Burr-en), originally known as the "Fables Studio", was a cartoon studio that lasted from 1928 to 1936. It is the least known cartoon studio of The Golden Age of Animation, yet its brief history is dotted with interesting films and major animation talents.

If asked what Van Beuren Studios was famous for, most people today would probably look at you with a blank stare, not knowing that the little known production company also helped lead the pack when it came to classic cartoons of their time.

Van Beuren Studios was started by an upstart named Amadee J. Van Beuren. Paul Terry was also involved in the studio’s history, but later left to start his own production company, called Terrytoons. Van Beuren’s most recognized characters were called “Tom and Jerry,” but bear no relation to the cat and mouse characters released by MGM Studios eight years later. Their success was modest, yielding 26 cartoons in all. Aesop’s Fables, the studio’s other front runner gave rise to the now not so recognizable Cubby Bear, one of the series’ stars.

Walt Disney Studios had already made a splash with music and sound effects in their early toons, and Van Beuren promised to follow suit and do the same later on. The producers hired Disney veterans Burt Gillett and Tom Palmer to create a new series in hopes of jump-starting the B-list studio’s reputation. The somewhat well-received series was called “Rainbow Parade”, a series of lavish Silly Symphonies clones, also starring licensed characters like "Toonerville Folks" and "Felix the Cat".

Despite the studio’s mild successes during its waning years, it was forced to closed its doors when RKO Radio Pictures decided to release Walt Disney cartoons, rather than those produced by Van Beuren.

—description cited from Toonjet.Com.

Like many non-Disney/Warner Bros. cartoon studios, critics and historians generally tend to give Van Beuren the footnote treatment, writing off the cartoons as cheaply produced drivel—but this isn't quite true. For all the sloppy animation and one-note characters, there are some inspired gags here and there, as well as some very good musical scores provided with each cartoon. Despite this, many of the shorts were scattered and lost for a long time, due to their public domain status and lack of care. The fact that the studio's role in the History of Animation was very minor and tangential compared to the other studios didn't help. Fortunately, thanks to recent DVD collections, especially from Thunderbean, and the fact that all of the studios cartoons are public domain, the bulk of this studio's sound output is available on DVD for viewing, save for some of the sound Fables and the missing Toby the Pup shorts. Research copies of the entire Van Beuren sound output are available for animation historians on Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research website.

It is also worth noting that Van Beuren was located directly across the street from one of their competitors, Fleischer Studios!

Works of the studio:

  • Aesop's Fables, AKA "Aesop's Film Fables" (1929-1933) inherited from the Fables Studio, which was formerly run by Paul Terry. Originally a long running silent cartoon series, it now became a series of sound cartoons which introduced one of the earliest sound cartoons, "Dinnertime", which notably predates Disney's Steamboat Willie by a month. It lasted around 120 shorts, including its sub-series. Paul Terry's Farmer Al Falfa was also a recurring star of the silent shorts, even appearing in a few of the early sound films before Terry, who had left to found his own studio, wrangled back the rights to the character.
    • The Fables had its own sub-series, "Cubby Bear" (1933-1934), which ran for 16 shorts, with a 17th one being finished, but unreleased until it resurfaced on a Cubby Bear DVD collection decades later. Notably, three shorts in the series, "Gay Gaucho" (1933), "Cubby's World Flight" (1933) and the unreleased "Mischievous Mice" (1934) were outsourced to the Harman-Ising cartoon studio, and they heavily resemble the Bosko cartoons they made.
  • Van Beuren's Tom and Jerry (1931-1933) Two bungling young men, one short, one tall, which ran for 26 shorts. Absolutely no relation to MGM's Tom and Jerry shorts, but when reissued as home movies, the characters were renamed "Dick & Larry" to prevent confusion.
  • Amos N' Andy (1934): A short lived attempt at adapting the popular radio show of the 30s. It notably featured their original radio actors reprising their roles, but it only lasted for two shorts.
  • The Little King (1933-1934): An animated adaptation of the classic Newspaper Comic strip, lasting 10 shorts. Two shorts preceding this series were also based on Little King's companion strip, "Sentinel Louie", but released as part of the Aesop's Fables series.
  • Toddle Tales (1934); A Roger Rabbit Effect-based series of cartoons made by Burt Gillett to help beef up the quality of Van Beuren's product. It lasted three shorts.
  • Rainbow Parade (1934-1936); A series of color cartoons that lasted 27 shorts, which includes 13 oneshots, and four sub-series, including an adaptation of the Toonerville Trolley comics, Felix the Cat, and their own in-house series Molly Moo Cow and Parrotville Old Folks. Many of the non-series Rainbow Parades are obvious knockoffs of Disney's Silly Symphonies, typical of the 1930s.
    • Felix the Cat (1936) While Felix was very prominent in the silent era, the rise of sound film ultimately proved to be his downfall. However, he survived as a popular newspaper comic, and did receive a very brief three-cartoon revival via Van Beuren Studios' "Rainbow Parade" series during the 1930s, with a fourth short in the planning stages before the Van Beuren Studio abruptly went belly-up In 1936.

     Sound Film Filmography 

1928

1929 (all copyright dates)

  • The Faithful Pup—May 4—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry, Harry Bailey
  • Concentrate—May 4—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • The Jail Breakers—May 6—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • Woodchoppers—May 9—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • Presto ChangoM Ay 20—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • Custard Pies—May 26—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • Skating Hounds—May 27—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • Stage Struck—June 25—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • Bug House College Days—July 23—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • House Cleaning Time—July 23—Aesop's Fables—John Foster
  • A Stone Age Romance—August 1—Aesop's Fables—No Credit
  • The Big Scare—August 15—Aesop's Fables—Paul Terry
  • The Big Burg—Aesop's Fables—?
  • Jungle Fool—September 15—Aesop's Fables—John Foster, Mannie Davis
  • Fly's Bride—September 21—Aesop's Fables—John Foster
  • Summer Time—October 11—Aesop's Fables—John Foster
  • Mill Pond—October 18—Aesop's Fables—John Foster
  • Barnyard Melody—November 1—Aesop's Fables—John Foster
  • Tuning In—Nov. 7—AF—no credits
  • Night Club—Dec. 1—Aesop's Fables—John Foster, Mannie Davis
  • Close Call—Dec. 1—Aesop's Fables—Harry Bailey

1930

1931

  • Toy Town Tales (AKA Toyland Adventure/Toyland Capers) Jan 4-Aesop's Fables—Foster, Davis
  • Red Riding Hood—Jan 18—Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • The Animal Fair—Feb 1—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • Cowboy Blues—Feb 15—Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Radio Racket—March 1—Fables—Foster
  • College Capers—March 15-Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Old Hokum Bucket—March 29, Fables—No credits
  • Cinderella Blues—April 12, Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Mad Melody—April 26, Fables, Foster, Davis
  • The Fly Guy—May 10, Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • Play Ball—May 24, Fables—Foster, Davis
  • Fisherman's Luck—Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • Pale Face Pup—June 22—Aesop's Fables—Foster, Davis
  • Makin 'Em Move (AKA In a Cartoon Studio)-July 5, Aesop's Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Fun on the Ice—July 19—Fables—Foster, Davis
  • Wot A Night—Aug 1, Toma nd Jerry—Foster, Stallings
  • Big Game—Aug 3—Fables—No credits
  • Love in a Pond—Aug 17—Aesop's Fables—John Foster, Mannie Davis
  • Fly Hi (recolored)—Aug 31—Fables-Foster, Bailey
  • Polar Pals—Sept 5—Tom and Jerry, Foster, Rifle
  • The Family Shoe (AKA The Golden Goose)—Sept. 14—Fables—Foster, Davis
  • Fairyland Follies—Sept. 28—Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • Trouble—Oct. 10—Tom and Jerry, Foster, Stallings
  • Horse Cops—Oct. 12—Fables, Foster, J.J. Mc Manus
  • Cowboy Cabaret—Oct. 26, Fables, Foster, Davis
  • In Dutch—Nov. 9—Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • Jungle Jam—Nov. 14—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Rufle
  • The Last Dance—Nov. 23—Fables—no credits
  • A Swiss Trick—Dec. 19—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Stallings

1932

  • Toy Time—Jan. 27—Aesop's Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Rocketeers—Jan 30—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Rufle
  • A Romeo Monk-Feb. 20—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • Rabid Hunters—Feb 27—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Stallings
  • Fly Frolic—March 5, Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • The Cat's Canary—March 26, Fables, Foster, Davis
  • In the Bag—March 26, Tom and Jerry—Foster, Rufle
  • Joint Wipers—April 23—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Stallings
  • Magic Art—April 25—Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Pots and Pans—May 14, Tom and Jerry, Foster, Rufle
  • Happy Polo—May 14—Fables—No credits; Sound reissue of "The Polo Match" (1929)
  • Spring Antics—May 21—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • The Tuba Tooter—June 4—Tom and Jerry, Foster, Stallings
  • Circus Romance—June 25—Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Plane Dumb—June 25—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Rufle
  • The Farmerette—June 28—Faboles, Foster, Bailey
  • Stone Age Error—July 9—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • Redskin Blues—July 23—Tom and Jerry-Foster, Stallings
  • Chinese Jinks—July 23—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • The Ball Game—July 30, Aesop's Fables—Foster, Rufle
  • Wild Goose Chase—Aug. 12, Fables, Foster, Davis
  • Jolly Fish—Aug. 19—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Stallings
  • Nursery Scandal—Aug. 26—Fables—Foster, Bailey
  • Bring 'Em Back Half-Shot—Sept. 9, Fables—Foster, Davis
  • Barnyard Bunk—Sept. 16—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Rufle
  • Down in Dixie—Sept. 23—Fables, Foster, Baileu
  • Catfish Romance—Oct. 7—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • A Spanish Twist—Oct. 7—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Stallings
  • Feathered Follies—Oct. 21, Fables, no credits
  • Venice Vamp—Nov. 4—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • Piano Tooners—Nov. 11—Tom and Jerry, Foster, Rufle
  • Hokum Hotel—Nov. 18—Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • Pencil Mania—Dec. 9—Tom and Jerry—Foster, Stallings
  • Pickaninny Blues—Dec. 12—Fables, Foster, Davis
  • A Yarn of Wool—Dec. 16—Fables, Foster, Bailey
  • Bugs and Books—Dec. 30—Fables, Foster, Davis

1933

1934

1935

1936


Tropes related to the studio:

  • Amoral Attorney: In "Trouble", Tom and Jerry are running a failing lawyer business, and resort to Shameless Self-Promotion by walking right in front of a marching band.
  • Animated Adaptation: They made three of them, based on Otto Soglow's comic "The Little King" (with two preceding shorts based on its companion strip, "Sentinel Louie"), the radio show "Amos N Andy", and Fontaine Fox's comic "Toonerville Trolley".
  • An Aesop: Ironically subverted with the Aesop's Fables shorts (which have parody aesops in the silent shorts and abandoned them altogether by the sound era) but played straight in the Toddle Tales and some of the Rainbow Parade shorts. "Spinning Mice" for instance has the moral of "Leave Well Enough Alone".
  • Animation Bump / Art Evolution: By the late 1933 to 1934 period, the studios animation was considerably improving over their earlier shorts. As early as "Sinister Stuff", the characters become noticeably less flat and more rounded and appealing. Then Burt Gillett got to the studio, and the animation improved even more.
    • The three Harman-Ising Cubby Bear shorts ("Gay Gaucho", "Cubby's World Flight" and "Mischievous Mice") have much more polished animation than the shorts prior to "Sinister Stuff".
    • Several shorts, such as "Makin' Em Move", "The Fatal Note" and "Fiddlin' Fun", have shots where the backgrounds are animated in three dimensional perspective.
  • Art Deco: The Little King shorts have their characters designed like this, in order to match the designs of the original comic.
  • Art Shift: The three Harman-Ising Cubby Bear shorts are drawn In a very different style than the rest of the series.
    • The Little King Van Beuren shorts have more of an Art Deco aesthetic to the character designs to match the look of the comic it adapted from.
  • Ancient Greece: The setting of "Fiddlin' Fun".
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The living clocks in "Grandfather's Clock", and the living kitchen appliances in "Picnic Panic".
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Even though most of the Cubby Bear cartoons are clearly set in the 1930's, there are pirates in "Bubbles and Troubles".
  • Artifact Title: The Aesop's Fables sound films, which abandoned the format of the silent shorts (which were somewhat based on the actual fables and had "Aesops" at the end of each one) in favor of the musical gag cartoon format.
  • Badass Adorable: Cubby Bear is adorable looking, and as we see in shorts like "Goode Knight", he can kick butt if he needs too.
    • When one of their brothers is threatened, the other two kittens in "Rough on Rats" give the evil rat one heck of a beatdown during the climax!
    • Felix the Cat retains this trait in his shorts. He even sword fights the villain of "The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg"!
  • Asteroids Monster: In "Parrotville Fire Department", one of the parrots tries to take down one of living little flames with an axe, but this just splits them into even smaller little fires.
  • Baleful Polymorph: In "Spinning Mice", the evil little devils turn the wizard into a giant rabbit by spilling his own potion on him.
  • Baseball Episode: "The Ball Game".
  • Beary Funny: Cubby Bear.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: A group of them briefly pop up to scare Tom and Jerry in "Wot a Night", but they quickly fall through a trapdoor—just to wind up with a group of skeletons instead.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted in "Jungle Jam"; Tom and Jerry seem like they're going to be rescued from the cannibals cornering them on the beach; but as soon as their leader sees who they're rescuing, he immediately does a 180 with the rest of the navy, leaving Tom and Jerry to wing it and swim for their lives under the fire of the cannibals spears.
    • In "Rough on Rats", two of the kittens save their third sibling from an evil rat this way.
    • In "Along Came A Duck", the frog saves the duck he was messing around with from drowning, as his shenanigans got the duck tangled in seaweed underwater in the first place.
  • Body Horror: In "Swiss Trick", Tom and Jerry are visiting the Swiss Alps, they eat a strange kind of cheese that causes swiss cheese like holes to open up in their body! And then get chased by an army of mice who think they're walking cheese.
    • In "Wot A Night", they inexplicably get their lower bodies (but not their heads) reduced to bare skeletons.
  • Boxing Kangaroo: One briefly appears in "A Royal Good Time", and it helps the King escape from the villain of the short.
  • Brawn Hilda: Katrinka in the Toonerville Trolley series.
  • Butt Monkey: Mr. Bang in the Toonerville Trolley series.
  • Captain Ersatz: Milton Mouse, who was an obvious ripoff of Mickey Mouse. Incidentally, by the time of "Hot Tamale", Milton looked identical to another Mickey Mouse clone: Foxy, of Warner Bros. cartoons. As with Foxy, Walt quickly got wind of Van Beuren's ripoff and forced them to never use Milton again. This didn't stop them from creating another, less blatant ersatz of Mickey, called Cubby Bear.
    • "The Farmarette" features a boop oop a doop cat girl that is obviously inspired by Betty Boop; she's even voiced by one of Betty's actresses, Bonnie Poe!
  • Captured by Cannibals: Waffles and Don wind up in this situation in "Jungle Jazz".
    • The Little King gets captured by a tribe of them in "On The Pan"; he's even served with Happy Birthday topping written in him!
    • Tom and Jerry also suffer this fate in "Jungle Jam". They win them over with their music, at least until they try to run away.
  • Cartoon Bomb: What the villain of "The Fatal Note" tries to kill the King with.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The evil gnomes in "Sunshine Makers", who openly call themselves nasty, mean and sad, and hate anything sunny or happy.
  • Cardboard Prison: Of the lighter variety, the dog catcher in "Dinnertime" unwittingly let's all of his dogs loose while trying to catch the dogs raiding Farmer Al Falfa's meat shop.
    • The royal prison the King visits in "Jolly Good Felons", which is played for laughs; one of the prisoners even removes one of the bars from his cell window, only to dust it off and put it back. Then the King unwittingly ticks off a prisoner by ruining his chess game, which makes him tear the bars off his cell, steal the keys from the prison guard, and then a lever that releases all of the prisoners!
  • Catching Some Z's: In the opening of "Dinnertime", the bird is sleeping like this until his alarm clock wakes him up, and the dog catcher in the same shirt is doing this before he's awakened.
  • Cats Are Mean: The cat in "Dinnertime" and the villainous cat in "Bird Scouts".
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: The cat in "Dinnertime" almost loses his nine lives from falling, but he climbs back up through the air to get them. A nearby dog who was drinking beer sees this, looks at his bottle, and then drops it and runs off in fear.
  • Channel Hop: Of the pre-Tv variety; Felix was previously made by the Pat Sullivan studio and distributed by at least five different companies (Paramount, Winkler, Educational, First National and Copley Pictures). By 1936, Van Beuren licensed the character for their studio, and for that brief period they were distributed by RKO pictures.
  • Christmas Episode: "Opening Night", Cubby Bear's first short. Santa Claus even cameos in the opening.
    • The Little King short "Pals" is set during Christmas Eve, and the reused print of the film was even renamed "Christmas Night".
  • Cool Ship: Tom and Jerry's rocket ship in "The Phantom Rocket".
  • Cute Kitten: The kittens in "Rough on Rats", "Merry Kittens", "Rag Dog" and "Scottie Finds A Home". Felix the Cat also counts in his three shorts.
  • Darkest Africa: The jungle settings of "Jungle Jazz", Mild Cargo" and "Plane Dumb".
  • Da Editor: Walter Finchell's boss, an owl, in "A Little Bird Told Me".
  • Dastardly Whiplash: The villain of "Sinister Stuff".
  • The Dead Can Dance: A good chunk of "Wot A Night" is centered on a skeleton composer playing a piano song, prompting his other skeleton friends to dance to it.
  • Dem Bones: The army of skeletons in "Wot a Night". Tom and Jerry inexplicably wind up like this at the end.
    • A fishing skeleton appears for a gag in "The Rocketeers".
    • The dancing mummy skeleton and his subsequent army of skeletons in "Gypped In Egypt".
  • Deranged Animation: Most of the pre-Gillett Van Beuren cartoons are very wildly animated and surreal in tone.
  • Dinosaur Doggie Bone: A trio of dogs fight over one in "Dinnertime".
  • Distressed Damsel: Cubby Bear's love interest Honey, who seems to exist only to be rescued by Cubby.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Occurs in "Gypped in Egypt" after Waffles and Don unwittingly kill their camel, which causes the Sphinx to put a curse on them.
  • The Ditz: The Little King has shades of this. While he's not incompetent, he acts very eccentric and childish for someone in his position.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: The conflict of "Joint Wipers". Tom and Jerry are amateur plumbers, and they unwittingly flood the entire building they're working in.
  • Domestic Only Cartoon: All of the shorts were made in the US.
  • Downer Ending: While "Jolly Good Felons" ends with the prison riot subdued, the King is mistakenly jailed with all of them, while another prisoner escaped by disguising himself in his stolen regal outfit.
  • Everything's Better With Cows: The "Molly Moo Cow" shorts.
  • Everything's Nuttier With Squirrels: The ending of "In the Bag"; Tom got his money bag swapped out with walnuts, and when he opens the bag in the forest and finds out he's been duped, a bunch of squirrels swarm him!
  • The Everyman: Cubby Bear. He can be a good fighter, dancer and singer, but otherwise has little going for him personality wise.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: In "Scottie Finds A Home", the eponymous terrier knows right away that the vagrant who arrives at the grandmothers house is up yo no good. After barking at him, the hobo hangs him by his sweater on a nearby tree as he goes off to pester the grandma cat for food.
  • Expy: Their Tom and Jerry were just human versions of previous Van Beuren characters Waffles the Cat and Don Dog.
    • In the Harman-Ising Cubby Bear shorts, Cubby looks, moves and acts very similar to Harman-Ising's own Bosko The Talk Ink Kid.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: The opening of "Mild Cargo" has a goat spreading newspapers of Cubby's arrival at their jungle, while shouting the phrase.
    • The bird from the ending of "A Little Bird Told Me" says this to the kids after she's done telling her story.
  • Follow the Leader: This was Van Beuren's greatest weakness as a studio; while their animation was as off the wall as you could get, their cartoons were very derivative of what other studios were doing, and they were clearly handicapped by their inability to create unique characters. Many of their early 30's cartoons take their surreal cues straight from their next door rival Fleischer Studios; "The Farmerette" even has an obvious Betty Boop stand in, even voiced by one of her actresses, Bonnie Poe. One of their sound fables, "Panicky Pup", is an obvious knockoff of Fleischer's "Swing, You Sinners!" Their Tom and Jerry is a flaccid attempt at a Mutt And Jeff-esque duo, and their Milton Mouse and Cubby Bear, as well as their interpretation of Felix the Cat, are obvious Mickey Mouse knockoffs. Their Toddle Tale and some of their Rainbow Parade cartoons ride off the coat of Disney's Silly Symphonies series.
  • Food Porn: "Pastry Town Wedding" is entirely set in a colorful land of cake and cake decorations.
  • Framing Device: The Toddle Tales and two of the Rainbow Parade shorts have live action openings and endings, with the cartoon segments inbetween that provide the "morals" of the cartoons.
  • The Golden Age of Animation
  • Hair-Raising Hare: The rabbit Tom and Jerry are hunting in "Rabid Hunters". It turns out to be a skunk In disguise.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang in the Toonerville Trolley series.
  • Haunted Castle: The setting of "Wot a Night".
  • Hobos: The antagonist of "Scottie Finds A Home" is a vagrant who heckles the kittens grandma for free food in her own home.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksman Ship Academy: The guards in "Goode Knight" are all cross eyed, and thus are terrible shots with their arrows when they're going after Cubby.
  • In Name Only: Only the earliest Aesop's Fables cartoons were loose adaptations of the actual Fables; later entries usually revolved around cats, mice, and the disgruntled Farmer Al Falfa.
  • Institutional Apparel: The prisoners in "Jolly Good Felons" wear these.
    • The robber villain in "The Phantom Rocket" wears this.
  • iSophagus: Late in "Bird Scouts", the cat that's attacking the birds ends up getting one of their bugles stuck in its throat, which unintentionally rallies the young scouts against it.
  • Jekyll & Hyde / Spiders Are Scary: The spider villain in "Fly Frolics".
  • Knight of Cerebus: The giant rat in "Rough on Rats"; once he shows up, kidnaps and tries to kill one of the kittens, the tone of the cartoon considerably changes.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Gillett era Van Beuren shorts.
  • Literal Ass Kicking: In "Dinnertime", the puppy does this to another dog before running off.
    • Nero's champion does this to Cubby upon accepting his challenge to the chariot race in "Fiddlin' Fun".
    • Jerry does this to a cannibal before running off in "Jungle Jam".
  • Mad Bomber: The villain of "The Fatal Note", who tries, and fails, to kill the King with a bomb.
  • Medium Blending: For some odd reason, the opening titles to "Plane Dumb" has a live action waterfall superimposed behind it.
  • Mickey Mousing; As usual for golden age cartoons, all of the films are timed to musical tempos and beats, with characters often moving directly in synch with the musical tracks.
  • The Middle Ages: The setting of "Goode Knight", where Cubby Bear plays the role of Robin Hood.
  • Mordor: The swampy, gnarly and desolate village of the evil gnomes in "Sunshine Makers", at least until the good gnomes bombard it with Sunshine milk, turning it into a colorful, lively land lush with life again.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Rough on Rats" is mostly a cutesy, happy gag cartoon—but then the rat comes along and kidnaps one of the kittens, trying to cut him in half with a buzz saw as the music and tone takes a dramatic turn as the other two kittens come to his rescue and assault the rat.
  • Morph Weapon: Of the funny variant; in "Rabid Hunters", Tom corners a rabbit, first pulling out a handgun, but then he turns it Into a hunting rifle on the spot.
  • Ms. Fanservice / Petting Zoo Person: The Mae West horse from "Galloping Fanny", and the Mae West duck in "Mild Cargo".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Celebrity caricatures were common in several of the shorts, such as Honey Bear dressing up as Mae West and Gandhi making a cameo in "Croon Crazy", and a bird in "A Little Bird Told Me" being named Walter Finchell, a play on the famous radio star Walter Winchell.
    • The buzzard who turns his head into that of Jimmy Dirante in "On The Pan".
    • "Cupid Gets His Man" features a character who is a caricature of W.C. Fields.
  • No More for Me: In "Dinnertime", a dig with a bottle of beer has this reaction when he sees a cat climb into the air to recollect it's lost nine lives.
  • No Name Given: The kittens in "Merry Kittens" and "Rag Dog" aren't named, are interchangeable in personality, and are only distinguishable by their colors (white, orange, grey).
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The rabbit in "Rabid Hunters" uses this when Tom and Jerry are chasing it on a tree branch.
  • Off with His Head!: Tom briefly gets his head knocked off as a gag in "Swiss Trick". He quickly puts it back on.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Tom and Jerry disguise themselves in blackface makeup (while impersonating Amos N Andy at the same time) when they travel to Africa in "Plane Dumb". The natives aren't fooled.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Before starting their Little King shorts, Van Beuren made two shorts based on the Little King's companion strip, "Sentinel Louie", which were both released as part of the Aesop's Fables series of shorts.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: The dog pound in "Dinnertime" Is presented like this.
  • Psycho Serum: In "Spinning Mice", the wizards magic potion, which normally turns ugly things into beautiful things, becomes this after an extra ingredient accidentally falls into it, turning a batch of mice into little Red Devils.
    • In "Sunshine Makers", the evil gnomes have a murky spray that can counteract the happy effects of the good gnome sunshine milk.
  • Public Domain Animation: All 189 of their sound cartoons (as well as their 347 silent cartoons) have fallen into the Public Domain, which made it easy for Thunderbean to re-release them once they found the best source materials available.
  • Punny Name: Walter Finchell, the bird reporter in "A Little Bird Told Me", a parody of the then famous radio star Walter Winchell.
  • Random Events Plot: Most of the shorts are strings of gags or musical affairs with no real plot to speak of.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: The wizard in "Spinning Mice" wears this getup.
  • Robot Buddy: Farmer Al Falfa's robot in "The Iron Man".
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Little King, who often takes the initiative to do something in his own hands, including fighting his own assailant in "The Fatal Note".
  • Rubberhose Limbs: Present on virtually all of the characters in the studios shorts, same the occasional design with more muscle or fat on their limbs.
  • Santa Claus: Appears in the opening of "Opening Night" and also appears in "Pals / Christmas Night".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In "Jungle Jam", the Navy pulls this on Tom and Jerry, just when it seemed like they were going to rescue them.
  • Sentient Vehicle: The train early in "Swiss Trick". At one point, it gives out and a rescue dog arrives to give it some brandy to drink.
  • Shameless Self-Promoter: In "Trouble", Tom and Jerry walk right in front of a marching band with a sign in order to promote their failing lawyer business.
  • Show Within a Show: "Makin' Em Move" is set In a cartoon studio run by cartoon animals, who watch the cartoon they made during the end.
  • Shout-Out: In "Pals / Christmas Night", one of the hoboes the King befriends has the NRA (National Recovery Administration) logo tattooed on his chest.
  • The Silent Age of Animation: The earlier Aesop's Fables shorts.
  • Sissy Villain: The Butterfly Professor from "Molly Moo Cow and the Butterflies".
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The setting of "Frozen Frolics" and "Polar Pals".
  • Smelly Skunk: Used for a gag in "Noah Knew His Ark"—the two skunks are stuck in their own private boat tied behind the ark.
    • The rabbit in "Rabid Hunters" turns out to be a skunk in disguise.
  • The Sphinx: A monstrous version appears in "Gypped in Egypt".
  • Space Whale Aesop: The "moral" of "Grandfather's Clock"; don't play around with or smash clocks, because they have hearts and feelings just like you and me!
  • Spoof Aesop: During the silent era of the series, each cartoon would end with a so-called "Sugar Coated Pill of Wisdom". "Summertime" (1929), for instance, ends with the line "Hairs, brains and skirts are short this season."
  • Standard Snippet: When the Navy Beans are marching out in "How's Crops?", the staple song "The Sailor's Hornpipe" plays. It's also used briefly in "Polar Pals" when a pelican has a xylophone played in its mouth.
    • Early in "Wot a Night", the "Volga Boatmen" song plays when a car is wading through flooded waters.
    • In "Rabid Hunters", the hunting song "A Hunting We Will Go" plays when Tom and Jerry begin hunting.
  • Stock Footage: A scene of Cubby riding a horse in "The Gay Gaucho" is reused from Harman And Ising's "Lady Play Your Mandolin".
    • An entire sequence of "Silvery Moon" is retraced animation from "Toy Time".
    • "Noah Knew His Ark" reuses footage from a short released five months before it, "Ship Ahoy".
    • "The Farmarette" reuses an entire sequence, complete with its original soundtrack, from the short "Farm Foolery".
    • "Chinese Jinks" (1932) reuses a sequence from "Laundry Blues" (1930).
    • "Plane Dumb" reuses a brief sequence of blackface skeletons singing from "Wot a Night".
    • The Little King shorts sometimes reused backgrounds from previous shorts, as well as the staircase sequence that's animated in perspective.
    • The 1936 Egyptian cartoon "Mafish Fayda" traces several scenes of animation from the Tom and Jerry shorts "Wot a Night" and "In the Bag".
  • Sudden Anatomy: Molly Moo Cow's feet can turn into hands whenever the situation calls for it.
  • Super Strength / Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The puppy in "Dinnertime" is able to easily lift up a comically large piece of meat from Farmer Al Falfa's butcher shop before he gets caught.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Much like the more well known cat and mouse duo, Tom and Jerry very rarely speak in most of their shorts, with the exception of "Plane Dumb".
    • Felix the Cat's shorts also count as this, since he was a silent cartoon star to begin with, and even his handful of earlier sound films had no real dialogue for him either.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Waffles and Don are inexplicably able to breathe underwater in "The Haunted Ship".
    • Tom and Jerry do this in "The Rocketeers", since most of the short is set underwater.
  • Thick-Line Animation: The general art style of the studio uses this.
  • Too Many Babies: In "Frozen Frolics", a stork delivers a batch of at least 43 baby penguins to a visibly worried father penguin.
  • Under the Sea: Most of "The Rocketeers" is set underwater, after Tom and Jerry's attempt to fly off on a rocket goes haywire.
  • The Unintelligible: When the Little King "speaks" in "Jest of Honor", it's indecipherable gibberish.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: The robber villain of "The Phantom Rocket".
  • Villain Song: The brief song by the evil gnomes In "Sunshine Makers".
  • The Voiceless: Just like in the comic, the Little King has no dialogue. Even when he does "speak" in "Jest of Honor", it's completely unintelligible gibberish.
    • Tom and Jerry act like this in most of their shorts, with the notable exception of "Plane Dumb".
    • Molly Moo Cow doesn't speak in her shorts either; she either makes cow like moos and grunts, or facsimiles of words like "Yoo Hoo!" At best.
  • Weaponized Headgear: The villain of "In the Bag" has four guns poking out of his hat that he uses to shoot Jerry with during the climatic chase.
  • Wizard Classic: The wizard in "Spinning Mice".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Rough on Rats", the mother cat is present for the first minute, but vanishes for the rest of the cartoon as the kittens play around in the grocery shop, not even appearing when one of her kittens is kidnapped and almost killed by a rat.
  • When It Rains, It Pours: The opening of "Wot A Night" has Tom and Jerry stuck in a rainstorm so heavy, it floods their car!
  • Wheel o' Feet: The butterfly catcher runs like this when he's trying to run after the butterflies in "Molly Moo Cow and the Butterflies".
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Used by two dancing cowboys during "In the Bag".
  • William Telling: In "A Royal Good Time", the King has his servants place apples on their heads, which he perfectly shoots off with his rifle as he moves along.
  • The Wild West: The setting of "Hot Tamale", The Gay Gaucho", "In the Bag" and "Redskin Blues".
  • Woodland Creatures: The birds of "A Little Bird Told Me", who live in a forest village.
  • Written Sound Effect: Tom calls to Jerry for help this way when he falls underwater in "Polar Pals".
  • X-Ray Sparks: One of the mice electrocutes Cubby's cat this way with a lightbulb socket In "Mischevious Mice".

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