Tom and Jerry are coming back to TV. The Tom and Jerry Show premieres Wednesday, April 9, on Cartoon Network at 5:30/4:30 CST. Everyone knows the cat and mouse. The idea of a new show is exciting but of course there would be some concern over the spirit of a new series.
We had the chance to talk to the Warner Bros Animation creative executive in charge of the series, Jay Bastian, to find out what exactly we can expect from the new show. Check out the first clip at the top of the page.
COMIC VINE: Why is now the right time for a new Tom & Jerry series?
JAY BASTIAN: I think the honest answer is there’s never a wrong time for a Tom and Jerry series. I think people love these characters and they never seem to go away. As long as you’re being true to what they are and doing something…cool with them, I think they’re as evergreen as they come.
CV: How will it compare to past incarnations? We’ve seen versions where they’re fighting and where they get along…
JB: This is very classic. There’s something about the sensibility of Tom and Jerry that has enabled them to stay around for so long. They don’t, at the end of the day, really despise each other. Tom doesn’t really want to eat Jerry. Sylvester really wants to eat Tweety. Wile E. Coyote obviously really wants to eat Road Runner. I don’t think Tom really wants to eat Jerry. I think they’re more like brothers who tend to beat the snot out of each other on a regular basis. At the end of the day, they get along. They sometimes have to work together, even though they’d much rather one-up the other. There’s a strong sibling rivalry there.
We have four different scenarios in the new show. One of which they have to work together as detectives. They’re called Cat and Mouse Detectives where they solve other problems for pets and other animals. The other three, it’s mainly just them, knocking the stuffing out of each other on a regular basis.
CV: They won’t be talking, will they?
JB: Nope. We’re doing ‘elevens’ which is longer than the classic ‘sevens.’ But even the original ‘sevens’ they always surrounded them with other characters that could talk. We’ve kind of done that same thing. In telling longer stories, we have to have someone talking. Whether it’s the owners or other characters that are talking directly to Tom and Jerry. Tom and Jerry are still the classic characters. Everybody talks but them.
CV: What roles will Simon Helberg and Jason Alexander play?
JB: Jason Alexander and Grey DeLisle play the owners. We have a recurring scenario, we call it a classic scenario, where Tom and Jerry are in a specific house. They’re owned by Rick and Ginger who are Jason Alexander and Grey DeLisle. They’re in multiple episodes where Jason’s character loves Spike, who is his dog in the backyard. Where as his wife, Ginger, is more partial to Tom. She’s more of a cat person. They sort of defend their somewhat kids. Jason Alexander has to be the sort of lovable bad guy sometimes, which is very difficult to pull off. He does it well. He’s been doing it well for decades.
There’s another scenario where we have Jerry in a lab. He’s not being experimented on but he’s sort of a pet in a lab with a rat named Napoleon, who’s played by Simon Helberg. Again, we wanted to have someone else that could talk to help move the monologue. In that scenario, Tom’s always trying to break into the lab because he sees these mice and rats. The lab also enables us to have all kinds of crazy inventions and super-abilities through all sorts of things the scientists are able to come up with. And Tom and Jerry will be able to use them against each other.
CV: Having an eleven-minute format seems ideal. What’s the advantage for you compared to the seven-minute or 20-something format?
JB: Eleven is great because it enables you to tell a little bit of a longer story. With seven, you have to get in and out and maybe get in three big gag-scenarios. Then you’re done. With eleven, you are allowed to tell more of a story. Especially with things like the detectives stories, or our other scenario, where Tom is a witch’s cat, it enables us to tell more of a story. It’s not just seven minutes of them knocking each other on the head. But trust me, they still knock each other on the head a lot, but there’s also some story in there. Otherwise, why would you keep coming back?
CV: So the violence isn’t going to be toned down much?
JB: No. No, we are…the thing about Tom and Jerry is a lot of that slapstick gag-y violence. It’s kind of in their DNA. We’re obviously not doing anything irresponsible. They’re not shoving their fingers into sockets or anything imitatable that kids hopefully won’t do. We are staying true to who Tom and Jerry are, which is a lot of slapstick violence.
CV: There’s a nice mix of the classic look combined with a modern spin. What was the process like in determining the final look?
JB: We wanted to do something that…you know, there’s so much out there. Old Tom and Jerry, new Tom and Jerry, new shows, old shows…you want something that people are going to look at and go, “Oh, that’s new.”
You also don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. These characters have such great designs. The team has done such a great job blending new with old. Darrel Van Citters is our supervising director and producer who’s one of these people who’s amazing at doing classic characters. He’s able to make it look new and fresh but also still feel like comfort food. You’ll go, “Oh yeah, that’s the Tom and Jerry I know.”
CV: Can you tell us how many episodes will be in the first season?
JB: We’ve got twenty-six half hours, which is obviously fifty-two eleven-minute shorts. And then we have a Christmas special as well, which is another half hour.
CV: Both have been known to start trouble. Who’s the bigger victim, Tom or Jerry?
JB: [laughs] I think Tom usually ends up being the bigger victim. I think Jerry, and trust me, we’ve had plenty of arguments about who you root for, whether it’s Tom or Jerry over the years and at Cartoon Network or here. Some people side with Tom and some people side with Jerry. Tom, at the end of the day, is just doing his job, which is to remove vermin from the house. But Jerry is always going to be the underdog. I think, at the end of the day, Tom usually gets the worst of it. But then there are also shows where Spike gets the worst of it. Other characters also suffer at their hands as well.
Make sure you check out the first episode this week on Cartoon Network, Wednesday, April 9 at 5:30/4:30 CST. Here's some more images from "Spike Gets Skooled" and "Cats Ruffled Furniture."