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Western Animation / The Cat Concerto

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The Cat Concerto is a 1946 Tom and Jerry short, released to theatres on April 26, 1947 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was produced by Fred Quimby and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, with musical supervision by Scott Bradley, and animation by Kenneth Muse, Ed Barge, and Irven Spence. It won the 1946 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. The short won the duo their fourth consecutive Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

In what was then an unusual setting for a Tom and Jerry short (this coming before the influx of Recycled In Space plots that would be used in the series later), the short opens with Tom getting ready to perform Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" on a piano in front of an audience at a formal recital. Little does he know that Jerry has (for some reason) decided to live inside the piano, and is rudely awakened by the hammers as Tom plays the piano keys. Jerry then realizes what is happening, but decides to take it in stride and come to the top of the piano, playfully "conducting" Tom with his finger. This irritates Tom, who then flicks Jerry away. And of course, This Means War!...

Also of note is that Rhapsody Rabbit, a Merrie Melodies short starring Bugs Bunny and featuring a nearly identical plot (complete with Bugs playing "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" and going up against a mouse living inside the piano), was released just a few months earlier. To this day no one knows who copied from whom or whether it was a complete coincidence. Animation historian Joe Adamson relates that Technicolor was swamped with work and accidentally sent dailies of Rhapsody Rabbit to MGM, prompting Hanna and Barbera to rush their film to get it released first. Friz Freleng, the director of Rhapsody Rabbit, always maintained that it was a complete coincidence that his short was so similar to the Tom and Jerry one. At any rate, The Cat Concerto was the one that received the Oscar.

Trope Namer for Cat Concerto, when alley cats perform a serenade (though usually singing rather than on the keyboard).

This cartoon provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Title: The Cat Concerto.
  • Amusing Injuries: Much less of this than in most Tom and Jerry shorts, where Tom is usually ruthlessly mangled. Actually, it's Jerry who takes the worse punishment, in a sequence where he's inside the piano getting whacked and pulverized by the piano hammers. Jerry only manages to come out on top through Victory by Endurance, replaying the fugue part whenever Tom is about to finish the song, faster and faster to the point Tom tires and collapses.
  • Cats Are Mean: But mice return the meanness.
  • Coconut Superpowers: A non-superpower example: the camera frequently angles itself so that you don't see Tom's hands, to cut down on the sheer difficulty of animating his fingers in time with the playing.
  • Covers Always Lie: Look at the poster up top. It makes it look like Jerry knocked Tom out with a piano part. But the depiction of Tom is actually from when he collapsed from exhaustion after rapidly playing the end of the Rhapsody three times.
  • Delayed Reaction: At one point, Jerry takes his time reacting to being smacked by Tom on the head.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Unusual for Tom, of course. He wears the top half of a tuxedo but no pants. Jerry appears in an identical outfit at the very end.
  • Kick the Dog: Or more appropriately, Flick the Mouse. Tom flicking Jerry off the piano when Jerry was just sitting there listening kicks off the cartoon hijinks.
  • Mickey Mousing: To an insane degree. One scene has Tom pounding the keys playing the music as he's actually trying to squash Jerry.
  • Piano Cover Slam: Jerry slams the piano key cover over Tom's fingers.
  • Piano Key Wave: With Jerry under the piano keys, making the wave as he flees from Tom.
  • Shown Their Work: More musically-inclined viewers have noted that Tom is indeed playing the correct notes on the piano, albeit with liberties taken for Rule of Funny. In fact, at least one person has reportedly learned the opening of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 just by watching Tom play it.
  • Squashed Flat: Tom's hands after Jerry slams the piano key cover down on them.
  • Standard Snippet: At one point, Jerry manipulates the keys to change the piece from "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" to the popular song "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe".
  • Team Rocket Wins: Anyone who is used to Jerry dominating for the entire episode is in for a shock with this one. Tom actually deals with Jerry's repeated attempts to interrupt him quite successfully, and even though Jerry pulls a Victory by Endurance and completely exhausts Tom, it can be argued that Tom still won, because he did get to finish the song, and was dominating for the entire short anyway. Though, some feel that even then, despite Tom's success, Jerry stole his credit for the performance.