Puss Gets the Boot is a one-reel animated cartoon short subject, produced in Technicolor and released to theatres on February 10, 1940 by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. It was produced by Rudolph Ising and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, with musical supervision by Scott Bradley. The cartoon was animated by Carl Urbano, Tony Pabian, Jack Zander, Pete Burness and Bob Allen. The short is notable for featuring the first appearances of the characters who would later be christened Tom and Jerry, who would go on to appear in over 110 more short cartoons, seven of which won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. As such, Puss Gets the Boot gave the animated duo their first Oscar nomination, though the short lost out to another MGM cartoon, The Milky Way.
In Puss Gets the Boot, we see an unnamed mouse constantly being tormented by the smug, superior cat. As soon as the mouse escapes from the cat's clutches, he is caught again. The cat tricks the mouse by dipping his finger in a jar of ink, and drawing a mousehole on the skirting board. The confused mouse tries to run into the 'hole,' but keeps banging into the skirting board until he is knocked out and sees stars. As the rodent comes to, he pokes the cat in the eye and runs off, and so begins the chase. However, the cat, (here named "Jasper") runs into a houseplant and breaks it. His mistress, Mammy Two-Shoes, a Black maid (voiced by Lillian Randolph) quickly arrives and chastises the cat. "Jasper! Jasper! That no-good cat! Just a minute, you good-for-nothin', cheap fur-coat! Just look, just look at this mess you made."
The housemaid gives Tom an ultimatum: "Now, understand this, Jasper. If you break one more thing, you is goin' out - O-W-T, out." The mouse now has the upper hand, and uses this to his advantage, attempting to break the fine china, wine glasses, plates, and other fragile items he can find. Jasper craftily places some cushions on the floor to prevent the delicate items breaking, but the mouse soon increases the pressure, and the cat ends up stacking a huge and heavy pile of crockery against the wall. At the top of the pile, the mouse waves cheekily and hurls a plate down, that it smashes. While waiting for the housemaid to arrive, the mouse jumps into Jasper's milk bowl and continually tries to coerce the cat into dropping the crockery, eventually kicking him in the rear, so that every fragile item falls down and smashes. Jasper is thrown out of the house, and the triumphant mouse decorates his mousehole with a sign that reads "home sweet home".
Release and reactionEdit
Though Puss Gets The Boot was popular on its initial release, no follow-up cartoons were originally scheduled. MGM saw Puss Gets the Boot as a "flash in the pan", and assigned Hanna and Barbera to several musical cartoons. Not entirely satisfied with their new output, Hanna and Barbera decided to get started on another Tom and Jerry short.
A studio-wide contest took place to christen the cat and mouse with names; the winning combination of "Tom and Jerry" was suggested by animator John Carr. However, despite coming up with a new name for the cat and mouse team, Hanna and Barbera were rejected from making another Tom and Jerry cartoon. MGM's animation department head, Fred Quimby, had assumed there were already enough cat and mouse cartoons in existence, and therefore Tom and Jerry could not possibly bring anything new.
Besa Short, a manager of the Loew's theater chain in Dallas, Texas, sent MGM a letter enquiring as to whether new cat and mouse cartoons would be made, after thoroughly enjoying Puss Gets The Boot. At the same time, the cartoon had been given an Academy Award nomination, strengthening Hanna and Barbera's request to create another cartoon. From there, Hanna and Barbera were given permission to create two new Tom and Jerry shorts, and in 1941, The Midnight Snack and The Night Before Christmas were created, with the later cartoon getting another Academy Award nomination.