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|Tom and Jerry series|
The title card of Switchin' Kitten
|Directed by||Gene Deitch|
|Produced by||William L. Snyder|
|Story by||Gene Deitch
|Music by||Štěpán Koníczek|
|Animation by||Wáclaw Bedřicz
|Release date(s)||September 7, 1961|
|Preceded by||Tot Watchers|
|Followed by||Down and Outing|
Switchin' Kitten is the first of thirteen Tom and Jerry cartoons that were directed by Gene Deitch and his team of animators in Czechoslovakia. It was created in 1960, and released on September 7, 1961.
During a storm, Tom is trying to find a place to stay after being thrown out of a horse-drawn wagon. In the meantime, Jerry is assisting a mad scientist in a castle. They take an orange cat and strap him to a table next to a dog that is strapped to another table. The mad scientist and Jerry push a number of buttons and controls to switch the brains of the cat and the dog, that is. The cat now has a dog's brain and vice versa. The mad scientist gives the "cat" to Jerry as a companion. While they are sleeping, Tom approaches the castle, noticing Jerry. The cat (with a dog brain) growls and threatens Tom. Tom tries to convince the cat that he is a cat, but fails.
Over the next few minutes, Tom's efforts to catch Jerry are thwarted by the cat. As Tom runs off in fright, he comes into contact with other animals that the mad scientist has experimented on, including a chirping elephant, a chicken that baas like a lamb, a mooing cuckoo-bird, the blue dog whose brain was switched with the cat, and Jerry, who roars rather like Leo the Lion, complete with the trademark ribbon that reads "Ars Gratia Artis" (Latin for "Art for Art's Sake"), the official motto for the company. Tom then blasts off like a rocket, out of the castle, while Jerry winks at the camera as the cartoon closes.
In 1960, MGM revived the Tom and Jerry franchise, and contacted European animation output Rembrandt Films to produce thirteen Tom and Jerry shorts overseas. All thirteen shorts were directed by Prague-based animator Gene Deitch and produced by company owner William L. Snyder in Czechoslovakia. Štěpán Koníček, a student of Karel Ančerl and conductor of the Film Symphony Orchestra, and Václav Lídl provided the musical score for the Deitch short, while Larz Bourne, Chris Jenkyns, and Eli Bauer wrote the cartoons. The majority of vocal effects and voices in Deitch's films were provided by Allen Swift.
For the purposes of avoiding being linked to Communism, Deitch altered the names for his crew in the opening credits of the shorts (e.g., Štěpán Koníček became "Steven Konichek", Václav Lídl became "Victor Little"). These shorts are among the few Tom and Jerry cartoons not to carry the "Made In Hollywood, U.S.A." phrase at the end. Due to Deitch's studio being behind the Iron Curtain, the production studio's location is omitted entirely on it. In the midst of production, Joe Vogel, the head of production, was fired from MGM, who ordered Deitch and his team to finish the shorts and rush them out to release, producing the quality effect demonstrated in the shorts themselves. By contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had expired, and the final of the thirteen shorts, Carmen Get It!, was released on December 1, 1962.
Since the Deitch/Snyder team had seen only a handful of the original Tom and Jerry shorts, and since Deitch and Snyder produced their cartoons on a tighter budget of $10,000, the resulting films were considered unusual, and, in many ways, bizarre. The characters' gestures were often performed at high speed, frequently causing heavy motion blur. As a result, the animation of the characters looked choppy and sickly. The soundtracks featured sparse music, futuristic sound effects, dialogue that was mumbled rather than spoken, and heavy use of reverb. Fans that typically rooted for Tom criticized Deitch's cartoons for never having Tom become a threat to Jerry. Tom's new owner, a corpulent and grumpy middle-aged white man (with serious temper problems, often going red in the face similar to Deitch's earlier "Clint Clobber" character at Terrytoons), was also more graphically brutal in punishing Tom's mistakes as compared to Mammy Two-Shoes, such as beating and thrashing Tom repeatedly, searing his face with a grill and forcing Tom to drink an entire carbonated beverage. However, despite these criticisms, the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons are still rerun today on Boomerang on a semi-regular basis.
Switchin' Kitten was the first cartoon to be filmed in Metrocolor as opposed to Technicolor; all future Tom and Jerry cartoons from this point on would be done in Metrocolor. It is also the first Tom and Jerry cartoon made and released in the 1960s
Switchin' Kitten, along with the rest of the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons, are available on Tom and Jerry Classic Collection Vol. 5.
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- Grimes, William (2010-04-27). "Allen Swift, Voice Actor for Radio and TV, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
- Deitch, Gene (2001). "Tom & Jerry: The First Reincarnation". Animation World Network. Retrieved 2009-09-27.