The MGM Oneshot Cartoons are a series of oneshot cartoons, produced by Fred Quimby for MGM's in-house cartoon studio. Many of these shorts were directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, as well as future star directors Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Most of these cartoons were made from 1939 to 1943. The shorts were made in an attempt to find a new star series for MGM, as well as to make up for the previous failures of The Captain And The Kids and Count Screwloose. One of these experiments, "Puss Gets the Boot", did start a series—the Tom and Jerry cartoons, one of the most famous cartoon series of the golden age. Another notable oneshot was the anti-war short Peace on Earth.
These shorts were succeeded by Tom & Jerry and by the Tex Avery MGM Cartoons, many of which were also oneshot cartoons. Two final oneshots were produced in the 1960s by Chuck Jones for the studio while he was working on his revival of the Tom and Jerry series.
- Little Buck Cheeser: A follow-up to the Happy Harmonies short "Little Cheeser".
- An Optical Poem: An independently-produced abstract short by experimental filmmaker Oskar Fischinger.
- The Little Goldfish: One of two films Harman and Ising intended to outsource to Walt Disney, but finished for themselves.
- Art Gallery: The last appearance of Harman and Ising's Good Little Monkeys characters.
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears: The second of two films intended to be outsorced to Disney, but ended up finishing for themselves.
- The Bookworm
- One Mother's Family
- The Blue Danube: This short was considered one of the three cartoons that Hugh Harman did not regret making.
- Peace on Earth: The second of the three cartoons that Hugh Harman did not regret making.
- The Mad Maestro
- Puss Gets the Boot: The short that would later lead to the creation of the Tom and Jerry series.
- Home on the Range: Has no relation to the Disney feature film.
- A Rainy Day
- Swing Social
- Tom Turkey and His Harmonica Humdingers
- The Milky Way: Won the 1941 Academy Award, ironically beating out both A Wild Hare and Puss Gets the Boot.
- The Bookworm Turns: A follow-up to "The Bookworm". Last cartoon directed by Friz Freleng for MGM.
- Romeo in Rhythm
- Papa Gets the Bird
- The Homeless Flea
- Gallopin' Gals
- The Lonesome Stranger
- Mrs. Ladybug
- Abdul the Bulbul-Ameer: Animated adaptation of the 1877 poem. Features caricatures of Groucho Marx, Lou Costello and Al Ritz as news reporters.
- The Little Mole
- The Goose Goes South
- Dance of the Weed
- The Alley Cat: The debut of recurring Tom and Jerry characters Butch and Toodles Galore.
- Little Cesario
- Officer Pooch
- The Field Mouse
- The Hungry Wolf: This short had some animation contributed by Disney animator Bill Tytla, who went to MGM's cartoon studio during the infamous 1941 Disney studio strike to briefly work there. Micheal Sporn's splog has a post about it.
- The First Swallow
- Little Gravel Voice
- Bats in the Belfry
- Chips off the Old Block
- The Boy and the Wolf
- War Dogs: Tom and Jerry's Spike the Bulldog makes a cameo.
- The Stork's Holiday
- Leo Master Spanish: A short starring MGM's mascot Leo the Lion made exclusively for audiences south of the border.
- Innertube Antics
- The Tree Surgeon
- Good Will to Men: A remake of "Peace on Earth" and a rare example of a non-Tom & Jerry cartoon made for MGM by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Also the last cartoon produced for MGM by Fred Quimby, who died soon after.
- All Just a Dream: The end of "The Little Goldfish".
- Animation Bump: When Harman and Ising were brought back in 1939 to give the MGM Cartoon Studio the kick in the pants it needed, they had used the time in their absense to considerably refine their animation skills to the point of full-blown Disney quality, resulting in The Twelve Principles of Animation being in full effect in these shorts. It helped that Harman And Ising had in fact worked on one outsourced Silly Symphonies short, "Merbabies", during that time.
- The eponymous wolf of "The Hungry Wolf"; he does want to eat the little kid rabbit who unwittingly comes to his house, but it's clear he was literally starving to death in the first place, and eventually the wolf gets guilty enough about his desires to where he forcibly throws the rabbit out to keep himself from eating him—which fails and he tries to go after him, only for the snowstorm to get the better of him. Ironically, the rabbit and his family take him in during the storm, and the wolf is very grateful for this.
- The Crow in "The Bookworm Turns". He does capture the Bookworm so Dr. Jekyll can give him the worm's brain for his own but this is because he thinks it's necessary for his health and there's little real malice in his actions. When the Crow does get the brain he's happy to go on his way and start studying while leaving the worm be.
- Artistic License – Space: "The Milky Way", which has literal milk. Also "Little Buck Cheeser" with it's cheese-moon.
- Ascended Extra: The donkey from "Little Gravel Voice" would end up a mainstay in the MGM comic book line, dubbed "Benny the Lonesome Burro", and later ended up paired with Barney Bear. Though he never became a regular in the shorts themselves, Benny would re-appear in animated form in "Half-Pint Palomino" with his comic book moniker and dynamic with Barney, and he even made a cameo with some of the other MGM characters in the Tom and Jerry Direct-to-Video Film Series.
- Bittersweet Ending: "The Little Mole"; the kid gets his new glasses broken and comes close to drowning, but he ends up reunited with his mother by the end, and he can once again see his "Dream Castle" (a pile of junk which he imagines is the former due to his very poor eyesight).
- Big Damn Heroes: The worm in "The Bookworm" would have been a goner if it weren't for all of the heroic book characters saving him.
- Big Friendly Dog: The family of Saint Bernard rescue dogs in "Little Cesario"; ironically inverted with Cesario himself in terms of size, but he's still just as friendly.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: The Crow in "The Bookworm" has the worm dead to rights once they make it to the stairs, which the worm can only climb slowly because he has no arms, but rather than grab him right then and there the Crow takes his time slowly stalking after the worm. He gets an even more egregious case of this when the worm winds up trapped between him and a drop into the witches cauldron. The Crow could easily just toss him down and be done with it but instead he sadistically tries to shake him off the book he's trapped on by flipping the pages until they run out, which gives some Boy Scouts time to rescue the worm.
- Bullet Hole Spelling: The episode, The Lonesome Stranger has one of the Killer Diller Boys writing "Is a Sissy" underneath the Sheriff's door, prompting this exchange:Sheriff: Oh yeah?!Killer Diller Boy Member: YEAH! (fires large gun bullet at the sheriff)
- The Cameo: Spike the Bulldog makes a brief cameo in "War Dogs".
- Carnivore Confusion: "The Hungry Wolf", in which a starved wolf just can't bring himself to eat the cute little bunny who shows up at his doorstep (though he almost does).
- Cat Up a Tree: The title character of "Officer Pooch" is trying to rescue a kitten chased up a telephone pole by a dog. Later, the dog chases the kitten up a tree, and finally, a whole bunch of dogs chase Officer Pooch and the other kittens up the same tree.
- Children Are Innocent: In "Little Gravel Voice" all the other animals shun poor Benny for being Cute, but Cacophonic. The exception is a baby chipmunk, who despite being startled by the noise goes back to play with Benny, but is dragged away by its disapproving mother.
- Cigar Chomper: The Spider in "Mrs. Ladybug".
- Clueless Aesop: The ending of "The Little Mole" is supposed to emphasize the innocence of children, but it can easily rub an older audience the wrong way, since its basically "Stay where you are and be content with your fantasies in spite of reality."
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: "Little Cesario", a Saint Bernard pup who initially seems rather unhelpful, but became instrumental in saving the older Saint Bernard, Alexander, from a heavy snowstorm and avalanche.
- Crying Wolf: "The Boy and the Wolf".
- Cute, but Cacophonic: The donkey from "Little Gravel Voice"; his bray is not only extremely obnoxious, but literally harmful, as the wolf it encounters later finds out the hard way.
- Cute Kitten: The trio of kittens in "The Milky Way".
- Delivery Stork: "The Stork's Holiday" is about a stork who is nearly driven to retirement after almost getting shot down by artillery fire while trying to make a delivery.
- Denser and Wackier: "The Lonesome Stranger", a parody of western cartoons, is noticeably more gag-oriented and wild in its animation than most of the other shorts. Apparently, Hugh Harman made it as part of a bet with producer Fred Quimby to prove he could do comedy in the vein of Tex Avery and Bob Clampett.
- Digital Destruction: When the shorts were restored for TV airings, many of them went through the DVNR process, which unintentionally scrubbed away a lot of the detail and linework from many shorts, such as "Gallopin' Gals" and "Tom Turkey and His Harmonica Humdingers".
- Dog Face: Officer Pooch, from the eponymous short.
- Double Take: In "The Little Mole", Dr. Primrose Skunk reacts this way when the mole points him to his dream castle (actually a pile of junk that he mistakes as a castle due to his poor eyesight above ground).
- Even Evil Has Standards: Dr, Jekyll and his alter-ego Mr. Hyde in "The Bookwork Turns" are certainly a Mad Scientist who has no issue conning the Crow into a morally dubious experiment and later exploiting his access to the Bookworm for another one but when the now giant sized Bookworm goes after the Crow he promptly intervenes and undoes his earlier work, turning them back to normal.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: The fate of the Spider in "Mrs. Ladybug"; after unwittingly swallowing his cigar to hide it from the nearby kid, it burns him from the inside and he drinks something nearby to put it out—only to find out it was a jug of gasoline! Seconds later, he violently explodes and is sent to Kingdom Come.
- Fluffy Cloud Heaven: The spider in "Mrs. Ladybug" ends up here after unwittingly blowing himself up.
- Furry Confusion: "Officer Pooch" has both a Dog Face and a non-anthropomorphic dog.
- Get Out!: The Wolf from "The Hungry Wolf" angrily says this several times to the kid rabbit before forcing him out of his house, but it's to keep himself from trying to give in to eating the kid.
- Hitchhiker's Leg: Done by the little goose on "The Goose Goes South" using a cardboard leg for displaying stockings.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: The premise of "Little Gravel Voice"; the protagonist is a cute, friendly little donkey who suffers from having a bray so dreadfully obnoxious that it scares away all the other animals. Ironically, his bray ends up harming and scaring away a hungry wolf, which earns him the friendship of the other animals—once they tie up his snout with his ears, of course. The donkey, later coined "Benny the Lonesome Burro" would repeat this trope for most of his early appearances in the comic books before finding permanent companionship with Barney Bear.
- Ironic Echo: In "The Goose Goes South", the hitchhiking goose keeps running into a guy who won't pick him up, giving him an unintelligible reason why. At the end, the guy drives off a dock in Florida and yells for help. The goose then gives him the same kind of double-talk as to why he won't rescue him.
- Limited Animation: "The Dot and the Line".
- Musical Episode: Several of them are, like their predecessor series Happy Harmonies.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Art Gallery" features several caricatures of famous movie stars of the day. "Gallopin' Gals" also features caricatures of female celebrities of the time period.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: The Crow in the "Bookworm" shorts. He's not especially bright and the worm he's usually after is both smart enough and fast enough to avoid him easily but he has his moments of guile, like in the first cartoon where he chases the Bookworm into an ambush by other villains and gets a Near-Villain Victory.
- Overly Polite Pals: The Southern Gentlemen in "The Goose Goes South", who go "After you, sir" to each other over what turns out to be a pinball game.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: "Blue Danube", although there are custom lyrics made for it in the short.
- Rotoscoping: Used in Blue Danube, Goldilocks and Peace on Earth.
- Saint-Bernard Rescue: Central trope of Little Cesario, which involves a clumsy St. Bernard puppy who has never successfully saved anyone, but looks up to the heroic Big Alexander, a veteran St, Bernard rescue dog. Later on Big Alexander gets stuck in a blizzard, and it's up to Little Cesario to save him
- Sentient Vehicle: At one point in "Innertube Antics", when the eponymous tube rips the donkey's old Jalopy out of its frame, it crashes through his house's wall—and is found relaxing on the bed, smiling.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: "Art Gallery". Once it looks like Nero has succeeded in burning down the art museum, everything abruptly returns back to normal.
- Spiritual Successor: Many of them are essentially Happy Harmonies with more lavish animation, hence why a few of these shorts featured previous stars of the Harmonies shorts.
- Smelly Skunk: Dr. Primrose Skunk from "The Little Mole"; his first appearance has several flowers go limp as he walks by.
- Snake Oil Salesman: Subverted with Dr. Primrose Skunk from "The Little Mole". He's meant to give off an air of this kind of character, but he isn't evil and even gives the eponymous mole a pair of glasses (only taking some pocket change as a meager fee). The worst thing he does is shatter the kids illusion about his dream castle (a pile of junk that he mistook for a castle due to his poor eyesight above ground) and let him wander off unsupervised.
- Transflormation: "The Tree Surgeon" revolves around an unintentional one.
- The Twelve Principles of Animation: In full-blown effect. The shorts are very solidly drawn, and the films are loaded with more squash and stretch and secondary actions than you can imagine.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Played with. Even after Benny rescues them from a wolf, the other animals still keep away from him out of fear of his loud startling bray. When the poor donkey begins to leave sobbing however, they suffer a Heel Realisation and make peace with him, though still insist on silencing him in some way.
- Villainous Breakdown: The wolf from "The Hungry Wolf" is driven to this when he kicks the kid rabbit out of his house to keep himself from eating him, and then succumbs to his hunger shortly after. Thankfully, the snowstorm outside gets the better of him, and the rabbit and his family save him and welcome him into their house (and the wolf is grateful for this).
- Vocal Dissonance: In “The Goose Goes South” one segment features a pair of hillbillies, an elderly man and his middle aged son who apparently has never left his cradle, when the middle aged bearded son speaks it’s in a high pitched little girl voice.
- The Voiceless: Pantomime was frequently used in the shorts, with some characters having no dialogue whatsoever. "Officer Pooch" is a notable example of this.
- Wartime Cartoon: "War Dogs" and "The Stork's Holiday". "Innertube Antics" is not an explicitly war-themed cartoon, although the rubber scrap drive of the short is an obvious nod to the strict rationing of rubber during the war years.
- Win-Win Ending: The ultimate outcome of "The Hungry Wolf". Nearly starving to death all winter, a cute little rabbit comes to the wolf's front door, and treats him like a friend. The wolf ends up kicking him out from guilt for trying to eat him, the wolf tries to go after him but gets caught in the snowstorm. The rabbit's mother finds him and takes him in for the winter since she has plenty of food. The rabbits have a new friend, and the wolf gets to eat like a king for the rest of season.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: The Crow in "The Bookworm" tries to lure out the worm by attempting a "Little Bo Peep" sham. The worm isn't fooled.
- Who's Laughing Now??: In "The Bookworm Turns" the Bookworm gets turned into a giant, making him as big to the Crow as the Crow usually is to him. He promptly decides to give the Crow A Taste Of His Own Medicine, tormenting him the way he usually does the Bookworm.
- Xanatos Gambit: The Crow pulls this in "The Bookworm". His initial plan is to lure the Bookworm into an ambush by other villains but he loses his temper and tries getting his hands on the Bookworm directly. The chase works out for the Crow either way because he either gets the worm he's after or he can chase said worm into the ambush he was already planning, which is what happens.