If imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, then Famous Studios
' Herman and Katnip
certainly flattered MGM
's Tom and Jerry
. Given that any mouse and cat cartoon is going to have some similarities with any other cat and mouse cartoon, the resemblances of the characters is still quite striking.
Herman the mouse in particular bears a strong resemblance to Jerry the mouse. Katnip the cat did not look quite so much like Tom the cat, but you would be forgiven if you thought you knew where the inspiration for the cartoon character came from.
Herman and Katnip did diverge from Tom and Jerry in two respects. The characters spoke: Katnip in a dopey Simpleton Voice
, Herman in a Brooklyn twang. The standard episode setup was different, too: Herman's cousins Reuben, Dubin, and Louie (and other, unnamed mice) would be having fun at some activity; Katnip would arrive to persecute them; then Herman would arrive (often coming "from the city") to defend them.
Herman was voiced by Arnold Stang, who later supplied the voice for Top Cat
. There is quite a similarity between the mouse's voice and that of Leo Gorcey of the Bowery Boys. Syd Raymond supplied the voice for Katnip. Raymond was also the voice of Baby Huey
Herman and Katnip are not remembered like MGM's cat-and-mouse pair; not only, perhaps, because they appeared on cinema screens later than their more famous rivals, but also because the personalities of the pair were possibly not quite as engaging. Also, the Famous Studios' cat-and-mouse series did not receive as many later television airings as Tom and Jerry enjoyed.
If Herman and Katnip lacked anything in personality, they tried to make up for it with action. For "action" read blowing Katnip up; sending Katnip off a cliff; squashing Katnip with a 100-ton weight, and so on. With so much emphasis placed on violence—almost all of it delivered to the cat—it's no surprise that Mike Reiss, a writer on The Simpsons
that Herman and Katnip, not Tom and Jerry, were the real inspiration for Itchy and Scratchy
When the series ended, it wasn't so much because the cartoons ran out of steam, as because the studio sold all its ongoing characters to Harvey Comics
, which had licensed them for several years. But Herman and Katnip didn't go on to very great success at Harvey. They appeared in the back pages of a lot of comics during the 1950s and early 1960s, and were featured in an occasional issue of Harvey Hits
(a later Harvey title with rotating stars), but never had their own comic book. When other Harvey characters were re-adapted into animated form—even some who, like Richie Rich
and Wendy the Good Little Witch, had never been animated before—Herman & Katnip
weren't. Eventually, they faded from view, and are now scarcely remembered.
With that said, in October 2011, a complete DVD set of all their adventures was released.
Herman and Katnip and Herman and Henry provides examples of the following tropes:
- Amusing Injuries
- Anvil on Head
- Art Evolution: Katnip had a drastically different design in his early appearances before they settled on his dopier look and color scheme.
- Bloodier and Gorier: of Tom and Jerry, not much bloodier but even more violent and mean-spirited in tone.
- Bloodless Carnage
- Catch Phrase: Katnip's, "Hmmmm, that sounds logical."
- Cats Are Mean
- The Chew Toy: It's pretty much Katnip's designated role.
- Comedic Sociopathy
- Designated Victim: Katnip
- Determinator: Katnip
- Early-Bird Cameo: A prototype of Herman briefly appears in the first Casper the Friendly Ghost short "The Friendly Ghost".
- Eye Pop: Played with at the end of Mouseum.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: These cartoons are mean and they hurt.
- Check out the "wheel of knives" gag at about 2:48. Katnip throws knives at Herman, hitting a wheel instead. Herman hops on top of it and rolls it after Katnip, slicing off segments of his back until he falls flat. Ouch.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Several of the cartoons end with Katnip being killed, and the mice playing around with his dead body. (For example, using Katnip's body as a Christmas tree in Mice Meeting You).
- G-Rated Drug: The use of a catnip dipped flower by Herman, used on Katnip to get him dazed in "Naughty But Mice".
- Heart Beats out of Chest: A melancholy instance occurs in the cartoon "Of Mice and Magic", when Herman hears that Katnip has caught his beloved. A Let's Get Dangerous moment follows.
- Made Of Bologna: The cartoon "Mouseum" shows Herman powering a bladed wheel behind Katnip that shears off successive layers from the cat from back to front. Each layer seems composed of reddish bologna.
- Name and Name
- Name's the Same: "Naughty But Mice" is a title that is shared with a Chuck Jones Sniffles the Mouse cartoon.
- Nice Hat: Herman occasionally wears a snappy looking boater hat when he appears.
- Off with His Head!: Herman decapitates Katnip with a pair of scissors in "Herman The Catoonist" (there was no blood though).
- Panty Shot: From Henry's wife Bertha in "The Henpecked Rooster".
- Sadist Show
- Stay in the Kitchen: Henry says this to his wife Bertha (aka "Chicken Pie") after Herman was took away by his own wife in "The Henpecked Rooster".
- Talking Animal: Herman and Katnip.
- A Taste Of Defeat: Herman never 'lost' to Katnip outright, though some cases had his victory tainted in some way. One case had him take out a similar cat nemesis, only to be tormented by his nine angels.
- The Golden Age of Animation
- They Killed Kenny: Katnip died at the end of a lot of shorts.
- Too Dumb to Live: Katnip, pretty much.