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Western Animation / Herman and Katnip

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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. While Katnip's design bears minimal resemblance to Tom's (arguably more closely mimicking Sylvester's), he nonetheless occupies a similar role within the series' central dynamic as an imposing, oft-arrogant predatory antagonist seeking to either outright devour or otherwise surmount Herman and/or his mouse relations.

Herman and Katnip did diverge from Tom and Jerry in two respects. Most notably, the lead characters are verbose in almost every short: Katnip in a dopey, loosely Bert Lahr-esque Simpleton Voice (typically provided by Sid Raymond) and Herman in a plucky, reassured Brooklyn twang (provided by Arnold Stang, the eventual voice of Top Cat) reminiscent of Leo Gorcery's of the Bowery Boys. The standard setup was different, too: Herman's cousins Reuben, Dubin, and Louie (and, in earlier shorts, other, unnamed mice) would be frolicking in a given location or enjoying a form of activity, Katnip would interrupt the scenario to persecute them; then Herman would arrive (often coming "from the city") to defend them.

Herman and Katnip are not remembered like MGM's cat-and-mouse pair; not only, perhaps, because they appeared on cinema screens a decade later (specifically from 1950 to 1959) 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, confirmed that Herman and Katnip, not Tom and Jerry, were the real inspiration for Itchy and Scratchy.

Both Herman and Katnip also had several solo cartoons, where one would appear without the other. Before being paired up with Katnip, Herman had a few cartoons where he either appeared solo, or co-starred with Henry the Rooster, a Henpecked Husband who'd team up with Herman because his tyrannical wife Bertha (initially "Sweetie Puss") was terrified of mice. Herman would likewise appear opposite an unnamed black barncat (with a significantly more imposing design and a higher level of competence than Katnip) within several shorts during the late 1940s (beginning with 1947's Naughty But Mice, which effectively originated the primary narrative formula of the Herman and Katnip series three years in advance). While Katnip conversely debuted opposite Herman, he soon began to appear in a series of shorts where he went up against Buzzy Crow, an ostensibly-amiable yet wily caricature of Rochester from The Jack Benny Program. In these shorts, Katnip would have an ailment or a problem, and read in a book that it would be cured with crow meat. Buzzy would talk his way out of getting killed and used as a cure by claiming he was an expert on this particular ailment, and spend most of the cartoon subjecting Katnip to "alternative" cures — most of which involved a generous dose of pain and torment.

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. note  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 releasednote . Universal Studios, through Harvey Comics parent DreamWorks Animation, now owns the rights to the characters and all shorts in the series, but so far there are no plans for any sort of revival.

Herman and Katnip, Herman and Henry and Buzzy and Katnip provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Amusing Injuries: How else can we explain it when Katnip's around?
  • Animation Bump: Any scene animated by Marty Taras within the shorts directed (in the capacity of 'head animator') by Fleischer/Famous mainstay Dave Tendlar - the surprisingly fluid opening to "Drinks on the Mouse" is a prime example.
    • Conspicuously averted in the series' final entries from 1957-59, which employ extremely crudely-drawn Limited Animation scarcely more fluid than Hanna-Barbera's contemporary output.
  • Art Evolution: Katnip had a drastically different design in his early appearances before they settled on his dopier look and color scheme.
  • Bloodless Carnage: While Herman is very quick to resort to violence to stop Katnip, there's none of the gore you'd expect from such brutality.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Herman speaks with a Brooklyn accent and has no qualms about resorting to violence to defend himself and his family.
  • Buffoonish Tomcat: The titular Katnip, being a very Too Dumb to Live Chew Toy who has a Simpleton Voice and is so gullible that it makes Tom and Sylvester look like lucky jesters.
  • Catchphrase: Katnip's "Hmmmm, that sounds logical" and Buzzy's "So long Stupid!".
  • Cats Are Mean: Most of the time, Katnip is obviously more villainous, especially when it's compared to his inspiration.
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: At the end of "Naughty But Mice," Herman thoroughly dispatches the cat that has been eating his cousins, only to be greeted by nine feline ghosts rising from the grave to chase him away.
  • The Chew Toy: It's Katnip's designated role when justified since he is pretty klutzy as well.
  • Clever Crows: Buzzy, whose way of dealing with Katnip usually involves tricking him into willingly taking punishment, or even inflicting it onto himself, under the guise that this would cure his ailment or solve his problem instead of eating him.
  • Clip Show: The very last Herman and Katnip cartoon, Katnip's Big Day took the form of a "This Is Your Life" show for Katnip, where Herman's antagonists, most notably Herman and Buzzy, arrived to reminisce about "old times." Said old times were always represented by a clip from a previous cartoon where Katnip was hurt and humiliated... though the cartoon did end on a very slight positive note for Katnip, as everyone joins in with singing "For He's A Jolly Good Katnip" and showing that in the end, they did appreciate him.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Most of the humor in these cartoons revolve around Katnip's suffering in some way.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than Tom and Jerry — not really bloodier, but even more violent and mean-spirited in tone.
  • Designated Victim: Katnip.
  • Determinator: Again Katnip, whether it leads to his defeat or not.
  • Domestic Abuse: Poor Henry suffers from physical and verbal abuse at the hands of his domineering wife, whom he affectionately calls Chicken Pie, but is met with her nasty attitude.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A prototype of Herman briefly appears in the first Casper the Friendly Ghost short "The Friendly Ghost".
  • Expy:
    • The '50s short "Of Mice and Magic" had a very blatant stand-in for Betty Boop called "Louise" who was a mouse. Her design and mannerisms were basically the same as Betty's, but adjusted to have bits of a cartoon mouse — also, there was the fact that she was voiced by Mae Questel, Betty's voice actress, who used her Betty voice for Louise.
    • Herman and Katnip themselves are based heavily on Tom and Jerry. Heck Katnip can be even arguably considered to be a far more imbecilic version of Sylvester and his design also looks like a cheap knockoff of Meathead from Tom and Jerry.
  • Eye Pop: Played with at the end of "Mouseum".
  • Eye Scream: In "Sock-a-Bye Kitty", Buzzy smashes through Katnip's eye with a hammer after getting eaten alive.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Many of the cartoons end with Katnip being brutally killed, and the mice playing around with his dead body. (For example, using Katnip's corpse as a Christmas tree in "Mice Meeting You").
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: These cartoons are mean, and they hurt, enough to make Tom and Jerry look tame by comparison. Check out the "wheel of knives" gag from "Mouseum". 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!
  • Forcibly Formed Physique: In the short "Felineous Assault", Katnip runs headlong into a cast-iron skillet, and pops back out in the exact shape of the skillet interior.
  • Good is Not Nice: While Herman is simply trying to keep Katnip from eating him and his cousins, his methods of fighting back can get downright brutal.
  • G-Rated Drug: The use of a catnip dipped flower by Herman, used on Katnip to get him dazed in "Naughty But Mice".
  • Harmless Villain: The titular Katnip, of the Dumb Is Good category at the very least since he is shown to be quite friendly to others {while in a situation or not}, unless Herman and his friends are around understandably (or is only cooperative to them if he needs to support them like a Kindhearted Simpleton in the "Will Do Mousework" short, even if they lied), and doesn't realize that he was being deceived by Buzzy or Herman.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Herman from the start, but Katnip picked up a pair of trousers in later cartoons.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The theme song says "All the mice are feeling gay".
  • 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.
  • Human Popsicle: Happens to Katnip at the end of "Northwest Mousie".
  • Inflating Body Gag: In "Rail Rodents", Katnip gets his head stuck in a water tower's output pipe and inflates like a balloon. In "Mouse Trapeze", Herman tricks Katnip into trying to blow into a horn which has connected to a fire hydrant, which makes Katnip swell several times larger before he pops off and flies across the circus tent.
  • 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: Herman and Katnip. Even the shorts that feature them with other characters fall under this.
  • Off with His Head!: Herman decapitates Katnip with a pair of scissors in "Herman The Cartoonist".
  • Road Runner vs. Coyote: Mouse versus cat of the Expy category.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Henry says this to his wife Bertha (aka "Chicken Pie") after Herman was taken away by his own wife in "The Henpecked Rooster".
  • Talking Animal: Herman and Katnip, along with other characters.
  • Taken for Granite: In "Cat Tamale", Katnip gets trapped in a starch cocoon. He is only able to move his eyes.
  • 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.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Katnip died at the end of many shorts.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: The short "You Say a Mouseful" doesn´t finish with Katnip suffering a horrible fate, instead, he ends it happily dancing and singing with the mice, right after almost boiling Herman alive.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Katnip gets to showcase how dumb he is, whether he's around Herman or Buzzy.


Video Example(s):


"Fall out!"

Herman, using his status as an army sergeant, orders Katnip (a former Private, 3rd class) to march onto a seesaw positioned right next to a window, which Herman then uses to launch Katnip through the window, and out of the department store.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

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