|Puss Gets the Boot|
|Directed by||William Hanna|
Rudolf Ising (all three uncredited)
|Produced by||Rudolf Ising|
Fred Quimby and William Hanna (co-producers; both uncredited)
|Story by||William Hanna|
Gus Arriola (all three uncredited)
|Starring||Harry E. Lang|
Lillian Randolph (original)
June Foray (1966 edited)
Thea Vidale (1989 edited)
|Music by||Musical direction:|
Scott Bradley (uncredited)
|Animation by||Character animation:|
Lovell Norman (all uncredited)
Solo effects animation:
Al Grandmain (merely uncredited)
|Layouts by||Solo character and background layout:|
Harvey Eisenberg (merely uncredited)
|Backgrounds by||Solo background layout:|
Robert Gentle (solely uncredited)
Puss Gets the Boot is a 1940 American animated short film and is the first short in what would become the Tom and Jerry cartoon series, though neither were yet referred to by these names. It was directed by William Hanna, Joseph Barbera and Rudolf Ising, and produced by Rudolf Ising and Fred Quimby. It was based on the Aesop's Fable, The Cat and the Mice. As was the practice of MGM shorts at the time, only Rudolf Ising is credited. It was released to theaters on February 10, 1940 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
In this first short, the cat is named Jasper, and appears to be a mangy, battle-hardened street cat, more malicious than the character that Tom would develop into over time. The unnamed mouse (known as Jinx) was similar to the ultimate Jerry character, just a bit skinnier. The basic premise was the one that would become familiar to audiences; in The Art of Hanna-Barbera, Ted Sennett sums it up as "cat stalks and chases mouse in a frenzy of mayhem and slapstick violence. Though the studio executives were unimpressed, audiences loved the film and it was nominated for an Academy Award.
A cat named Jasper takes great pleasure in tormenting a mouse named Jinx (not referred to in name on-screen), who is trying to run away from Jasper while he keeps grabbing Jinx's tail to keep him from running anywhere. Eventually, Jinx breaks free but goes into Jasper's mouth, narrowly escaping. Jasper then draws a mouse hole on the wall to trick Jinx into entering it. Jinx bangs against the wall so hard that it knocks him silly. Jasper revives him using water from the fish tank and picks him up. Having slowly realized the situation, Jinx punches Jasper in the eye, causing him to yelp and screech in pain. The angered cat chases Jinx and accidentally bumps into a Greek pillar, where it breaks upon falling onto him along with the flowerpot that was standing on it. Mammy Two Shoes enters the room and scolds Jasper for his unacceptable behavior, issuing him an ultimatum that if she catches him making one more mess, he will get kicked out of the house. Jasper sulks off, Jinx chuckles at him and this causes Jasper to chase him, but when Jinx holds a glass over the edge of the table, Jasper backs off after seeing a furious Mammy walking away with the remains of the broken flowerpot, fearing that he will get himself into trouble again.
After Jinx puts the cup down, seeing his chance, Jasper rushes at him, but he holds back Jasper by threatening to drop the glass again. Then Jinx drops the cup and Jasper rushes to catch it. Jinx throws more cups, making it very hard for Jasper to catch them all. As Jinx walks away with the last cup, feeling pretty smug that he has the advantage, Jasper gets the idea: he drops a bunch of pillows on the ground. When Jinx tries to humiliate Jasper by dropping the cup, it stays intact when it lands on the soft surface of one of the pillows. Jinx tries to escape but Jasper catches him by the tail. Jasper inadvertently throws Jinx onto a shelf, where he escapes and begins pelting him with several dishes, making sure that in order to blackmail Jasper, he will force him to immediately "get the boot". Jasper begins to feel tired of holding all the dishes, after which, in humiliation, Jasper can only watch as Jinx drops one last dish on the ground, breaking it, and thus alerting Mammy to thinking Jasper violated her ultimatum.
Mammy once again enters the room in frustration just as Jinx swims in Jasper's milk bowl, uses his tail as a towel and finally kicks Jasper, causing Jasper to drop all of the dishes, creating a huge mess and forcing him to take the blame. Enraged, Mammy hits and throws Jasper out of the house and shuts the door. As soon as Jasper is kicked out from the house, Jinx waves to him, sticks his tongue out, puts a HOME SWEET HOME sign in front of his hole, and enters it.
In June 1937, animator and storyman Joseph Barbera began to work for the Ising animation unit at MGM, then the largest studio in Hollywood. He learned that co-owner Louis B. Mayer wished to boost the animation department by encouraging the artists to develop some new cartoon characters, following the lack of success with its earlier cartoon series based on the Captain and the Kids comic strip. Barbera then teamed with fellow Ising unit animator and director William Hanna and pitched new ideas, among them was the concept of two "equal characters who were always in conflict with each other". An early thought involved a fox and a dog before they settled on a cat and mouse. The pair discussed their ideas with producer Fred Quimby, then the head of the short film department who, despite a lack of interest in it, gave them the green-light to produce one cartoon short.
The short, Puss Gets the Boot, featured a cat named Jasper and an unnamed mouse, named Jinx in pre-production, and an African American housemaid named Mammy Two Shoes. Leonard Maltin described it as "very new and special [...] that was to change the course of MGM cartoon production" and established the successful Tom and Jerry formula of comical cat and mouse chases with slapstick gags. It was released onto the theatre circuit on February 10, 1940, and the pair, having been advised by management not to produce any more, focused on other cartoons including Gallopin' Gals (1940) and Officer Pooch (1941). Matters changed, however, when Texas businesswoman Bessa Short sent a letter to MGM asking whether more cat and mouse shorts would be produced, which helped convince management to commission a series. A studio contest held to rename both characters was won by animator John Carr, who suggested Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse after the popular Christmastime cocktail, itself derived from an 1821 stage play by William Moncrieff, itself an adaptation of 1821 Pierce Egan's book titled Life in London that originating those name, itself based on George Cruikshank's, Robert Cruikshank's, and Egan's true story. Carr was awarded a first place prize of $50. Puss Gets the Boot was a critical success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Subject: Cartoons in 1941 despite the credits listing Ising and omitting Hanna and Barbera.
After MGM gave the green-light for Hanna and Barbera to continue, the studio entered production on The Midnight Snack (1941). The pair would continue to work on Tom and Jerry cartoons for the next fifteen years of their career.
Motion Picture Exhibitor reviewed the short on March 6, 1940: "Puss teases the mouse but when the latter learns that breakage in the house will lead to Puss being thrown out, the fun begins. Windup has the crockery crashing, the mouse victorious, Puss getting the boot."