Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer cartoon studio
The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio was the in-house animation division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) motion picture studio in Hollywood, responsible for producing animated short subjects to accompany MGM feature films in Loew's Theaters from 1937 until 1957.
Why It Roars The Screen
- During the Golden age of American animation, the cartoon studio produced some of the most popular cartoon series and characters in the world, including the famous cartoons Barney Bear, Droopy, Screwy Squirrel and George and Junior, but particularly its most important creation, Tom and Jerry.
- It was founded by the people William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Tex Avery and Fred Quimby, who are all important figures in animation history.
- Good animation and colorful visuals for its time by several top-notch animators such as Kenneth Muse, Preston Blair, Michael Lah, Pete Burness, Ray Patterson and many others.
- It has some heartwarming moments like in the Happy Harmonies cartoons, as well as some hilarious moments, like Tom's iconic screaming by William Hanna.
- Good use of slapstick humor with excellent timings, especially in the Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery cartoons.
- The voice acting is great, especially from Tex Avery, William Hanna, Harry E. Lang, Don Messick and Sara Berner.
- Amazing musical scores unique to each short by Scott Bradley.
- It's iconic and memorable "A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" opening logos with Tanner the Lion's ferocious lion roar (which was arguably the loudest and most ferocious lion roars of all the pre-Leo MGM lions MGM logos had from at the time, at least until the mid-1980s) and Scott Bradley's musical fanfares playing over it over colorful backgrounds, especially during the 1942-1958 cartoons.
- Memorable characters like Tom Cat, Jerry Mouse, Droopy, Red, Barney Bear, Screwy Squirrel, the bear duo of George and Junior, and Spike and Tyke.
- Most of the short films won an Academy Awards for Best Animated Short Film, such as The Milky Way, The Cat Concerto, Mouse Trouble, The Yankee Doodle Mouse, The Little Orphan and The Two Mouseketeers.
- The studio was a successor to Harman-Ising Productions, where it works for both Warner Bros. and MGM, before they closed down in 1958 and were replaced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and MGM Animation/Visual Arts (which has been founded by Chuck Jones). Despite this, some of the MGM characters has been later appeared in Tom and Jerry for direct-to-video films or shows as cameos.
- When former Warner Bros. Cartoons director Tex Avery of the Looney Tunes fame came into MGM in 1942, he directed most of the funniest and wackiest cartoons ever produced by the studio with the wildest and zaniest slapstick comedy gags, sheer lunacy, breakneck pace, clever use of squash and stretch to create exaggerated wild double takes, and a penchant for playing with the medium of animation and film in general that few other directors dared to approach, almost rivaling those of Looney Tunes, hence enabling the MGM cartoon studio to break away from the Disney-esque sentimentality that plagued the studio's previous animated output in previous years during Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising's tenure.
- Compared to the Disney cartoons, there's only one word that Tex Avery brings it to the all-American movie audiences: LAUGHS.
- Tex Avery has his very own animation style, to make the squash and stretch even more comedic. The Tex Avery-esque was later used for Hanna-Barbera's later Tom and Jerry cartoons, including Mouse Cleaning.
- Director Tex Avery had a much better advantage in producing his cartoons here compared to when at the Warners studio back from 1935-1941, not only because of his creativity having reached his peak by this time, yet he is also supplied with higher production budgets and better quality production values than at the Warners studio, not to mention that his unit consisted of highly talented ex-Disney animators such as Preston Blair and Ed Love.
- The cartoons that Tex Avery directed, became a lot funnier, than his Warner Bros. cartoons from 1935 to 1941.
- Tex Avery does a good job pitch shifting Scott Bradley's musical score for his some cartoons.
- Tex Avery's extreme hilarious style of humor with excellent timings was very influential throughout the entire studio; by the mid-1940s even Hanna and Barbera adapted their Tom and Jerry shorts to match the levels of madcap humor and slapstick violence in Avery's films, which made the series even more popular. The same can be said with the Barney Bear shorts when directors George Gordon (1945), Preston Blair and Michael Lah (1948-1949), and Dick Lundy (1952-1953) took over said series after his original creator Rudolf Ising (1939-1943) left MGM in 1943.
- While Tex Avery created a handful of popular characters which are beloved by fans such as Droopy, Screwy Squirrel, George and Junior, Red and Butch the Irish Dog, Droopy became Avery's most iconic character, and also became the studio's second-most popular cartoon series just behind Tom and Jerry.
- Each of his cartoons are filled to the brim with non-stop laugh-out-loud funny gags from start to finish, even when the jokes are also found in the background (like the signboard gags used in Lonesome Lenny and The Hick Chick) or even in the opening and/or closing title sequences (like in the opening title gags used in Batty Baseball and Swing Shift Cinderella and even the ending title gags used in Happy-Go-Nutty, The Screwy Truant, Half-Pint Pygmy and Magical Maestro), as well as numerous fourth wall jokes seen within the cartoon itself (such as Red, the Wolf and Grandma protesting that the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" was repeating, derivative approach at the beginning of Red Hot Riding Hood, both Red and the Wolf realizing that they're in the wrong cartoon in both Swing Shift Cinderella and The Screwy Truant, obvious in-joke references to the cartoons themselves such as in The Early Bird Dood It!, Who Killed Who, King-Size Canary and The Screwy Truant, and the very hilarious twisted "Technicolor Ends Here" gag from Lucky Ducky when the George and Junior-esque hunter dogs chase a Daffy Duck-esque little duckling into a black-and-white forest) and literal interpretations of various clever wordplays and figure-of-speech (like in the cartoons The Cuckoo Clock, Field and Scream and the entirety of Symphony in Slang).
- Like his Warner Bros. cartoons from 1935 to 1941, the gags are extremely astonishing.
- His cartoons have clever adult jokes hidden within, mainly in the cartoons featuring Red.
- Tex Avery produced several great and memorable shorts while at the studio, such as:
- Blitz Wolf (WWII short film; his directorial debut at MGM, Academy Award nominee)
- Red Hot Riding Hood (Red and the Wolf's debut)
- Screwball Squirrel (Screwy Squirrel's debut)
- Dumb-Hounded (Droopy's debut)
- Swing Shift Cinderella
- Red Hot Rangers
- King-Size Canary
- Slap-Happy Lion
- Bad Luck Blackie (Butch the Irish Dog's debut)
- Little 'Tinker
- Wags to Riches
- Senor Droopy
- Ventriloquist Cat
- Magical Maestro
- Symphony in Slang
- Little Johnny Jet (Academy Award nominee)
- Rock-a-Bye Bear
- Much like Looney Tunes, Tex Avery's shorts gone on to inspire many other TV shows, such as Heckle and Jeckle, The Angry Beavers, Little Audrey (along with its sequel series Harvey Girls Forever!), Animaniacs, Bonkers, Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Cow and Chicken, Chowder, Dave the Barbarian, Ed, Edd n Eddy, Freakazoid!, Disney's House of Mouse, Phineas and Ferb,The Ren and Stimpy Show, Rocko's Modern Life, The Cuphead Show!, and even some characters, such as the Genie from Aladdin and Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
- The infamous Captain and the Kids series, which is the studio's weakest cartoon series, mainly due to its poor grasp of the original source material. It also somewhat briefly affected the quality of the Warner Bros. cartoons, since Friz Freleng directed them and his replacements at Warner (Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton) had a hit-and-miss track record.
- The 1955-1958 shorts produced in CinemaScope (specifically the Tom and Jerry and Droopy series), while not terrible, weren't that great due to budget cuts and Fred Quimby stepping down as producer. Speaking of which, "Tot Watchers" and "Droopy Leprechaun" were respectively the final Tom and Jerry and Droopy cartoons to be produced by the studio, before it got closed down in 1958.
- Regarding about the 1955-1958 Droopy shorts, in 1955 Tex Avery left the studio for a brief return stint at Walter Lantz Productions, and his fellow animator Michael Lah took over his unit to direct the remainder CinemaScope Droopy cartoons. While Lah tried his best to recapture the magic and humor of Avery's works in his Droopy cartoons, he just wasn't as funny as Avery, not helping were the budget cuts he faced in his Droopy cartoons at the time.
- Like many other American cartoons from the '40s-'50s, some shorts have racist stereotypes (with Blitz Wolf, Swing Social, His Mouse Friday, Uncle Tom's Cabana and Half-Pint Pygmy being the worst offenders), the most notable being the African-American maid Mammy Two-Shoes in Tom and Jerry, and the frequent use of blackface gags from TNT explosions as comedic effect which is seen frequently in both the Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery cartoons. These are often removed when they are shown on TV after segregation against black people in America had come to an end in 1965 with the help of Martin Luther King Jr. in the time.
- While again not terrible, almost all the Harman-Ising cartoons before (and to some extent, after) "Puss Gets the Boot" (the first Tom and Jerry cartoon) until at least early-1942 were a little too much like that of Disney's fare (not unlike Chuck Jones’s early cartoons), though there were some rare non-Tom and Jerry cartoons at the time that did tried to move out of it's old Disney-esque direction here and there such as Hugh Harman's "The Lonesome Stranger" and "The Alley Cat" and Hanna-Barbera's "The Goose Goes South" and "Officer Pooch". Thankfully, their shorts would become funnier at this point when "Puss Gets the Boot" received an Academy Award nomination, and the shorts would finally move out of it's Disney-esque phase entirely once director Tex Avery arrived at the studio in mid-1942.
Many MGM cartoons have become fan favorites throughout the years due to their animation style, plot, humor, cartoon violence (specifically the Tom and Jerry shorts), Scott Bradley's music score, and at times, sexual innuendos (with regards to Tex Avery shorts starring Red). Individual shorts such as "To Spring" (1936) and The Dot and the Line (1965) have been acclaimed for their artistic designs while others such as "Screwball Squirrel" (1944) and "King-Size Canary" (1947) are celebrated for their sheer lunacy. Though not as popular with the general public as the Disney or Warner Bros. cartoons, MGM cartoons are heavily studied and praised by film historians and members of the animation industry.
- Originally when the MGM cartoon started cartoon production in the mid-1930s, the earliest color cartoons made as part of the Happy Harmonies series were all originally produced in the two-color Technicolor process with a limited color palette of red and green hues, since back then Walt Disney had exclusive rights to the more superior three-strip Technicolor color process, complete with the blue hues which many other animation studios such as Warner Bros. and Fleischer Studios didn't have access to at the time. Although, by late-1935, Disney's exclusive contract with Technicolor later expired, hence allowing all the other animation studios of the time including MGM to have access to the entirety of the Technicolor color process, complete with all three main color hues (red, green and blue) available and more vibrant and colorful visuals, with "The Old Plantation" being the first MGM cartoon produced in three-strip Technicolor. Despite this, some MGM cartoons were still produced in black-and-white, such as the short-lived The Captain and the Kids (1938-1939) and Count Screwloose (1939) cartoons, presumably to save money. All subsequent MGM cartoons would eventually be produced in three-strip Technicolor by at least 1940.
- By 1965, about eight years after the MGM cartoon studio closed it's doors, most of MGM's animated output which were sold for television (with the notable exceptions of the Tex Avery MGM cartoons starring Red, as her cartoons in general were banned by the Television Code censors of the time until at least the mid-1980s due to the cartoons' overall risque nature) are re-processed in this Metrocolor color process (a less expensive color process used from a selection of Kodak's film products and color processes in contrast to the more lavish three-strip Technicolor color process), hence explaining these cartoons' more poorly-faded, washed-out color quality when they first aired on television at the time. Thankfully as of the mid-1980s when 16mm film was phased out in favor of analog tape and better quality film remasters are made, the cartoons were then rebroadcast on television (including Tex Avery's Red cartoons which were previously withheld from television airings several prior due to the Television Code) in their original three-strip Technicolor glory since then, including their 1995 Turner television broadcast remasters seen on the Turner-owned cable networks such as Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
- Turner Broadcasting System (via Turner Entertainment Co.) once took over the MGM library in 1986, which includes the MGM Cartoons. When it sold back the MGM/UA production unit, they kept the pre-1986 MGM library, until Turner Broadcasting System merged with Time Warner (now Warner Bros. Discovery) in 1996, with Warner Bros. now currently owns (and handling distribution) the rights to the MGM Cartoons.
- Most of the MGM Cartoon library currently airs on Boomerang, Tooncast (in Latin America) and MeTV and also streaming on the Boomerang app and HBO Max.
- While Tex Avery directed mostly one-shot cartoons, his most well-known cartoon character he produced for the studio was Droopy, given that he made more appearances than any of the cartoon characters Tex Avery created such as Red, Screwy Squirrel, George and Junior and Butch the Irish Dog, even appearing in several more theatrical cartoons following his departure from the studio.
- Tex Avery absolutely hated Screwy Squirrel, going so far as to kill him off in the short "Lonesome Lenny". Supposedly, he threw away any fan-mail that had Screwy's face on it.