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Western Animation / Puss Gets the Boot

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Puss Gets the Boot is an MGM Oneshot Cartoon, and is the first Tom and Jerry short. It was produced in 1939 and released to theaters on February 10, 1940 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was produced by Rudolf Ising (who had virtually nothing to do with the entire production; according to Joseph Barbera, he was never even in the room during production) and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, their first collaboration in what would be a half-century long partnership, with musical supervision by Scott Bradley. The cartoon was animated by Carl Urbano, Tony Pabian, Jack Zander, Pete Burness and Bob Allen.

The only screen credit on this film was "a Rudolf Ising Production." The short is notable for featuring the first appearances of the characters who would later be christened "Tom and Jerry" and would go on to appear in over 110 more short cartoons, seven of which won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject. As such, Puss Gets the Boot gave the animated duo their first Oscar nomination, though the short lost out to another Rudolf Ising MGM cartoon, The Milky Way. In the short, Tom's name is Jasper and Jerry is not given a namenote . The plot set up the basic formula for Tom and Jerry cartoons for years to come, and as such, established many of the tropes commonly found in their shorts.

The short begins with the mouse, named Jinx but later known as Jerry, being tormented by Jasper, the cat later known as Tom (we'll refer to them by their finalized names from here on, for convenience's sake). Jerry struggles to stay alive, being chased by Tom until he unwittingly knocks over a houseplant, raising the ire of his owner. She delivers Tom an ultimatum; if he knocks down one more thing, she'll throw him out. Jerry uses this ultimatum to his advantage, and manages to turn the tables on Tom by threatening to knock fragile things over for the rest of the short, and of course, hilarity ensues.

This short contains examples of the following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: As mentioned above, Jerry is not yet named in this short, though MGM's press gave him the name of Pee-Wee.
  • Amusing Injuries: As expected from a slapstick cartoon. Granted, the injuries here are notably less violent than the series would become later.
  • Aside Glance: Jerry winks at the 4th wall.
  • Bowdlerise: Most versions of this cartoon aired on TV (particularly Cartoon Network and Boomerang in America) redub the black maid's voice so she doesn't sound stereotypically black, which, in this case, includes correcting the two times she misspells "out" when she warns Tom not to break anything else in the house. Contrast to UK dubs, which do keep in her voice, but slightly edit the voice track to make it sound like she's spelling "out" correctly (the latter edit of which makes it painfully obvious that censorship editing has been done; the former would only set off alarms to those who have watched the uncut version before).
  • Cats Are Mean: Tom is much more mean-spirited here than most of his later appearances.
  • Dish Dash: Jerry piles dozens of dishes into Tom's paws near the end of the episode, and then causes him to drop them, getting Tom kicked out.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • While Jerry looks slightly different from his more famous incarnation, Tom is almost completely unrecognizable, looking and sounding more like a real cat. It's rumored that his heavy retool came mostly from the directors realizing that the more realistic he looked, the less funny it would be when he got hurt.
    • Another noticeable difference from later shorts is that the characters' names are completely different, the cat being named Jasper and the mouse being unnamed but possibly being called Pee-Wee. The very next short would switch to naming them Tom and Jerry, respectively, and Hanna & Barbera never looked back. To elaborate, the housemaid refers to Tom as "Jasper;" this is because the original name for the pair was "Jasper and Jinx" (the name "Jinx" is never mentioned onscreen, but appears in pre-production materials). When MGM decided to make a series with the pair, a studio contest was held to rename them, with the $50 prize going to animator John Carr, who is reputed to have taken the names from a 1932 Damon Runyon story (Runyon himself got the names from a cocktail, which derives its name from a 19th century stage play).
    • The maid was also unaware of Jerry's presence.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The cartoon opens up to Tom toying with Jerry, 'cuz he can.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The puss got the boot.
  • Eye Poke: Jerry pokes Tom's eye near the beginning of the short.
  • The Faceless: The black maid is only shown from the chest down in the cartoon.
  • Graceful Loser: As the Maid drags him outside by the tail, Jasper just calmly grimaces and taps his paw.
  • Just Toying with Them: Tom is content to simply play around with Jerry, and while tormenting him, has no intentions to harm him beyond slapstick. That is, until Jerry punches him right in the eye. Tom becomes determined to eat Jerry for the rest of the cartoon.
  • Karmic Trickster: After being tormented by Tom early in the short, Jerry takes advantage of the Maid's ultimatum to Tom and intentionally tries to break various things in the house, which he succeeds at the end and gets Tom thrown out of the house.
  • Kick the Dog: It's pretty clear from the beginning who the antagonist is supposed to be as we see Tom toying with Jerry.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Upon hearing the Maid's footsteps, Jerry kicks Tom in the behind and breaks all of the dishes he was carrying, which prompted the Maid kicking him out the house.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: The Maid misspells "out" twice in this short (first as "o-w-t," then as "o-u-w-t"). More recent version use the less racist re-dub which does away with this unflattering character trait, although it did pop up in a different cartoon from the same creators a few times.
  • No Name Given: While Jerry's name wasn't mentioned on-screen, he had the name "Jinx" in pre-production materials. Meanwhile, the Maid was nameless in this short, though she would later be named "Mammy Two Shoes".
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Jerry says it when he's caught by Tom, though it's sped up in a chipmunk-like voice and hard to distinguish.
  • One-Shot Character: Tom and Jerry originally were destined to be this, but positive reaction to this short caused the executives to decide that more should be made, and the Tom and Jerry series was born.
  • Painted Tunnel, Real Train: A very rare example of the trope actually working against the intended victim. Tom paints a mouse hole on a wall with ink and sits back as Jerry knocks himself silly trying to run into it.
  • Pun-Based Title: Its title, Puss Gets the Boot, is an obvious play on "Puss in Boots".
  • Say Your Prayers: Jerry does this in a high-pitched chipmunk voice when Tom catches him by the tail.
  • The Speechless: The Maid is the only one with spoken dialog, besides the aforementioned Say Your Prayers scene, which is unintelligible anyway.
  • Spoiler Title: Yes, as the title suggests, the 'puss' ends up getting 'the boot'.
  • The '30s: As it was released in early 1940, it gives a glimpse into the cultural 30's/Depression Era. Downplayed a bit, however, because except for in America, the 30's ended in 1939 with the start of WWII.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Throughout the cartoon, Tom's Smug Snake act gets broken several times.