399. The Year of the Mouse – Chuck Jones

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SUMMARY: Jerry and a grey mouse antagonise Tom by convincing the cat that he is self-harming in his sleep.

WHY IT’S HERE: The idea of Chuck Jones taking over the Tom and Jerry series seemed a lot more promising that the reluctant Gene Deitch’s attempts to do the same. However, Jones never really caught the feel of the original classic Hanna-Barbera series and his shorts emerged as a serviceable but largely unremarkable series which just confirmed that rekindling the magic of these classic characters in their heyday was impossible. That said, with ‘The Year of the Mouse’ Jones made one of the most memorably dark Tom and Jerry shorts ever and it emerged as a superb cartoon. ‘The Year of the Mouse’ is actually a remake of Jones’s Hubie and Bertie short ‘Mouse Wreckers from 1949 but surprisingly it improves on the original. While that short had seen two mice convincing a cat that he is going crazy by brutalising him in his sleep, only to have disappeared when he wakes up, ‘The Year of the Mouse’ sees Jerry and his unnamed friend convincing Tom that he is inflicting harm on himself in his sleep. So after having fired a gun, Jerry places it in Tom’s hand so the cat awakes to find himself pointing a firearm at his own head. The pranks continue and get crueller, worsened by the fact that there is no opening provocation on Tom’s part. This could be seen as a structural weakness had ‘The Year of the Mouse’ ended with the mice victorious, as ‘Mouse Wreckers’ had done. But instead Jones offers us a more satisfyingly just denouement in which Tom turns the tables.

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