|Director William HannaJoseph Barbera|
Release date April 26, 1947
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The Cat Concerto is a 1947 American one-reel animated cartoon and is the 29th Tom and Jerry short, released to theatres on April 26, 1947. It was produced by Fred Quimby and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, with musical supervision by Scott Bradley, and animation by Kenneth Muse, Ed Barge and Irven Spence and additional animation by Richard Bickenbach (uncredited).
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- Critical response
Following its release, it was met with critical acclaim, and is considered one of the best Tom and Jerry cartoons ever. It won the 1946 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. In 1994 it was voted #42 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. The short won the duo their fourth consecutive Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The short also appears in Empire Magazine's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time list as the number 434.
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A stage is set in an auditorium. In a formal concert, Tom in a tuxedo, a piano virtuoso, is giving a piano recital of "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" by Franz Liszt. Jerry, who is sleeping inside the piano, is rudely awakened by the felts, then sits on top of the piano to mock the cat by "conducting" him. Tom flicks Jerry off the piano and continues playing.
Jerry arises from under one of the keys. Tom plays tremolo on this key, hammering Jerry's head with it, and then unsuccessfully tries to smash the mouse beneath the keys. As the main theme of the rhapsody sets in, and when Tom lifts his two fingers from playing a trill, the piano continues playing by itself, with Jerry manipulating the felts from inside. To quiet him, Tom whacks Jerry with a tuning tool. In retaliation, Jerry slams the piano lid onto Tom's fingers and then pops out on the far right of the piano to attempt to cut Tom's finger with a pair of scissors as he plays a note from the very highest minor third of the piano. After six misses, Jerry substitutes a mousetrap for the white keys just below it. Tom plays the keys on either side for a few seconds, but eventually his finger gets caught in the trap.
Jerry prances up and down on the piano, upon which Tom climbs onto the piano in pursuit, continuing to play with his feet. As Tom gets back down on his seat, Jerry dances around on the felts, momentarily changing the tune from the rhapsody to "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe". Tom then plays a chord where the mouse is bounced repeatedly, eventually catches Jerry and stows him into the piano stool. Jerry then crawls out of an opening and manipulates the seat's controls, cranking it up and sending it crashing down, causing Tom to land on the keys.
Tom stuffs Jerry into the felts and then, continuing with the rhapsody, goes crazy on the piano. The felts start bashing Jerry about, spanking him, and squashing him to and fro. Eventually, Jerry emerges in a very angry mood, breaks off some felts and, using them as drumsticks, plays the finale of the rhapsody in one last retaliation. Jerry constantly increases the speed of his playing and plays two false endings, such that Tom collapses in exhaustion at the end of the tune. The audience then applauds for the performance, and Jerry takes the praise for himself as a spotlight shines on him.
Film critic the Chiel of Australian newspaper The Age declared The Cat Concerto to be the best film of 1947, above Odd Man Out and Brief Encounter, stating that "[i]n conception and animation I think that short reaches the highest level of screen fantasy and humor."
The same year MGM produced The Cat Concerto, Warner Bros. released a very similar Bugs Bunny cartoon called Rhapsody Rabbit, directed by Friz Freleng, with Bugs against an unnamed mouse. Both shorts used near identical gags, the same piece by Franz Liszt, and had similar endings. Both MGM and Warner Bros. accused each other of plagiarism, after both films were submitted for the 1947 Academy Awards ceremony. Technicolor was accused of sending a print of either cartoon to the competing studio, who then allegedly plagiarized their rival's work. This remains uncertain even today, though Rhapsody Rabbit has an earlier MPAA copyright number and release date while The Cat Concerto had a more advanced production number at #165 while all the other shorts released near the same period had a lower production number in the 150's range. By pure coincidence, as of 1997 both shorts are now under ownership of Turner Entertainment and Warner Bros., following a series of mergers and acquisitions. The controversy was made into an episode of the Cartoon Network anthology series ToonHeads.