Warner Bros. Animation continues to breathe new life into beloved carton classics with their new series The Tom and Jerry Show, which premieres April 9 @5:30pm on Cartoon Network. We spoke to WBA’s vice-president, series, Jay Bastian, regarding Tom and Jerry's return – as well as a few other things.
While speaking with us, Bastian breaks down Tom and Jerry, as well as what all went in to making The Tom and Jerry Show; he reveals the challenges of telling a story in elven minutes; explains why it’s not so easy to, say, make a Tiny Toon Adventures sequel; and gives an update on Warner Bros. Animation’s relationship with DC Comics, now that a DC Cinematic Universe is on the horizon.
Everyone remembers Hanna-Barbera’s classic characters Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse from the many cartoons and films that have been produced since Tom and Jerry’s creation in 1940s, and The Tom and Jerry Show is hoping to give an updated look at the iconic rivalry, while at the same time maintaining the core elements which caused fans to first fall in love with the duo.
An updated look, yes, but not necessarily new one:
Jay Bastian: I think a series allows you to try new things with it. I don’t think you ever set out to make the definitive look. It’s just like, ‘No, no, no – this is the style we’re trying for this series.’ It’s not like, ‘Oh, they have to stick with this going forward.’
We still are making Tom and Jerry direct-to-video movies where they still look more classic. There’s so much out there; there’s so many great old Tom and Jerry cartoons and other things out there that you want it to be noticeable when you see it.
Tom and Jerry - 1940
Additionally, the series will extend the familiar 7-minute shorts (sevens) to 11 minutes (elevens), which are then paired up for each of the 26 episodes ordered. Now that every adventure is over 50% longer than the classic shorts, The Tom and Jerry Show is able to tell more engaging tales:
When Cartoon Network first started they were doing nothing but sevens, and then elevens allowed us to tell a bit of a richer, longer story. With sevens you have to get your gags in and get out. With elevens you can tell a little bit longer story, but you don’t have to worry about a B-plot, or other things that might get in the way of just telling a quick, fun story.
To be honest, they were a little challenging, at first, with Tom and Jerry, just because you have two characters that don’t talk, but the more we got into it, the more we were able to flesh it out and tell some fun stories.
In order to tell these extended stories, The Tom and Jerry Show has spread the focus of the shorts across multiple themes and settings, in order to allow for more unique adventures, which gives the producers access to more elements to work with than what the typical household setting provides:
What we’ve done for series is that we’ve split it up into 4 different story groups:
1) Is just classic, where they’re in same house with Spike and Tyke, in the backyard, and Butch, Little Quacker and the other different characters drop by.
2) Jerry is a mouse in a lab, but he’s not experimented on; it more just enables us to have a scientist who comes with up crazy formulas and inventions and things that Tom and Jerry and can use against each other.
3) Tom is a witch’s cat. He belongs to two sister witches, which are kind of like the old creepy sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace. They are witches, but they delight in being witches. They love it. That allows us to get into magic and magic wands and spells and all kinds of things – new ways to hurt each other.
4) Cat and mouse detective, where Tom and Jerry sort of work together. They still one-up each other whenever they can, but along the way they’re helping other animals solve different mysteries with their detective agency.
Tom and Jerry - 1980
Of course, Tom and Jerry are just two of the many characters that Warner Bros. Animation has at their disposal - and with a surprisingly high success rate in terms of programming, one begins to wonder how, when positioned as an a executive, one is able to retain themselves from indulging in their own hopes and dreams and bringing back one of the many beloved properties which are under the WBA umbrella. For instance, say, Tiny Toon Adventures:
I think, at the end of the day, we have to make shows that we know the audience will want. We certainly all worked on shows that didn’t as well as we all hoped they would. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on shows that did better than we thought.
At the end of the day there’s a lot of money on the line to make animation, so you have to go with what you think is going to work with the audience. As I say, we don’t always know; we just make our best bet. At the end of the day we’re trying to make something that’s going click with audiences - so they bring in the ratings.
With Warner Bros. Studios looking establish a cinematic universe with Batman vs. Superman, one begins to wonder how it may impact the WBA’s DC animation branch, now and in the future. After all, Disney wasted no time replacing Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with Avengers Assemble following the release of The Avengers:
To be honest, we have a great relationship with DC. DC likes what we do, and they’ve been a great creative partner with us. We love it that they are excited about something like Teen Titans Go!, which is not a normal superhero show; it’s obviously much more comedy first. We obviously couldn’t do that with every DC character but it works with Teen Titans.
We’re really very lucky to have such a good relationship with DC, where they like what we do and we like what they do, and we can kind of feed off each other.
“That sounds like a political answer but it’s really not,” said Bastian, laughing.
The Tom and Jerry Show airs Wednesday @5:30pm on Cartoon Network. You can check out a preview of the new series below:
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