MGM Studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was born in April of 1924 when three production companies, Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and Mayer Productions, made the decision to become the largest conglomeration of movie makers in the industry. Although MGM was an immmediate success in the film industry, they were reluctant to venture into the animation sector until Walt Disney made his splash. Even then, they entered the animation realm through the side door by agreeing to distribute a series entitled "Flip the Frog" by Ub Iwerks, an animator who worked for Disney at the time. Then, in 1934, MGM signed Hugh Harmon, Rudolf Ising, Carmen Maxwell, Rollin Hamilton, Norm Blackburn, Larry Martin, Robert Stokes and Robert and Tom McKimson, to form the Happy Harmonies team. Creating Happy Harmonies allowed MGM to gain a foothold in the animation field, without actually having to risk the potential failure of creating their own in-house animtion studio. The intent behind the formation of this team was to follow closely in Disney's footsteps. Harman and Ising, the leaders of the Happy Harmonies team, decided to produce one- shot stories about cute, innocent animals that would personify a particular theme. Early endeavours produced animations like "Poor Little Me", a story about a skunk that partly followed the 'ugly little duckling' story and the "Calico Dragon", an adventure story about a toy horse and a rag doll. Both series were immensely popular as well as overnight successes. As a result, Harman and Ising directed their focus to developing endearing characters with lovable personalities. In pursuit of this goal, the next two series involved two playful puppies and an adorable mouse. Unfortunately, as good as the initial series were, Happy Harmonies sooned earned a reputation for polished, yet repitious work, due to their limited variation in themes. This and the rather high costs Happy Harmonies was charging, led MGM to decide to create their own in-house animation department. MGM launched themselves full force into their latest endeavour and hired a slew of people. Among the force they hired were: Bill Hanna, Max Maxwell, Bob Allen, Emery Hawkins, Jack Zander, Joe Barbera and Friz Freleng. To lead all of these animators, MGM chose Fred Quimby, a man who was reputed to have little or no sense of humor. Then, against the opinion of their animators, the MGM honchos bought the rights to a popular comic strip called "The Captain and the Kids." This series, the newly formed studio's first project, was a failure. Disappointed with the results, MGM decided to hire Milt Gross, a popular comic artist of the time. Gross led the staff to produce an animation about two characters, Count Screwloose and his Wonder Dog. Quimby balked at releasing them, but release them they did. The animations were huge successes, but MGM decided to replace Gross with Harry Hershfield, which only turned out to be a huge mistake. Fred Quimby, at wits end with a failing animation department on his hands, turned to Harman and Ising for help. In the process of getting the studio back on it's feet, Friz Feeling went back to his old job at Warner Brothers. The new cartoons produced by the studio under Harman and Ising were similar to their old projects. However, the revamped team put out two animations during this time that are of particluar note. The first was "The Bear That Couldn't Sleep", which introduced the character of Barney Bear, a huge, lovable bear with a very tangible personality. For the next couple of years, Barney Bear starred in a slew of engaging cartoons, but they seemed to lack a certain sense of story necessary to keep the animations in the limelight. The second animation of note, "Peace on Earth", was about animals living on the earth after humans have annihilated themselves with numerous wars. "Peace on Earth" was nominated for an Academy Award and was acknowledged as a work of art with a powerful theme and entertaining characters. Following these successes, MGM's animation studio produced many more animations, one such entitled "The Milky Way", won an Academy Award, thus breaking Disney's seven year winnning streak. Finally, in the early 1940s, the studio created an animation that literally defined the future of MGM animation. This cartoon, "Puss Gets the Boot", directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, was about a cat and a mouse, who eventually became Tom and Jerry. In addition to solidifying MGM's place in animation, Tom and Jerry brought together Hanna and Barbera, who became an extremely powerful team. For the next sixteen years, the duo worked on producing Tom and Jerry cartoons exclusively, of which an average Tom and Jerry cartoon took over a year and a half to complete. Over the years, Tom and Jerry garnered seven Oscars and seven Academy Awards. Tom and Jerry's fame can be attributed to great stories, hilarious gags and an overwhelming existence of personality. In 1944, MGM introduced the concept of human and cartoon character interaction with a scene where Gene Kelly is dancing with Jerry. This led to many other Tom and Jerry episodes with actors like Esther Williams and Dave O'Brien. Soon after the advent of Tom and Jerry, Harlan and Ising, both of whom originally frowned upon the Tom and Jerry cartoons, left MGM as Tex Avery arrived. MGM was fertile ground for Avery, and as a result, the studio soared to new heights. Avery, a master of the visual pun, added the certain zest the studio needed to create its future master- pieces. Avery also brought with him the idea of charcters interacting with their world as if they truly existed. For example, characters would walk out of the frame or talk to the artists drawing them. Many of Avery's creations were simply vehicles for his jokes, like Droopy, a dog that existed only to foil evil-doers plots, and lacked sufficient personality. The Wolf, Droopy's main adversary existed as a display of excess libido, he was constantly chasing women and drooling. In fact, the Wolf's libido is the driving force behind Avery's "Red Riding Hood" creations, the first to give an almost tangible sexuality to a female character. This series also brought the drawing artistry of a man named Preston Blair to the force. Avery's next pet project was about a goofy squirrel named Screwy, a take-off on the recent hits, Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker, of other studios. However, Screwy was so extremely brash and obnoxious that he died after four episodes. In 1950, Avery took a breather but returned a year later, just in time for the advent of CinemaScope which changed cartoons to the wide screen. This led to the develpoment of simpler character design and smoother backgrounds. In 1954 Avery left MGM and Micahel Lah took over. Avery's legacy for MGM was the effective use of visual impact, a sense of the absurd and the idea of comic timing. Fred Quimby retired in 1955 and Hanna and Barbera took over. 1956 saw the last of the Tom and Jerry cartoons by Hanna and Barbera. In 1957, MGM closed its animation studio, ending over twenty years of animation and retiring Tom and Jerry. However, in the early 1960s, MGM decided to produce cartoons for the theater and hired Gene Deitch who produced 13 new Tom and Jerry cartoons. It is generally considered that these productions fell way short of the earlier renditions, but they served to demonstrate that money could be made in cartoons for the theater. MGM then signed on Chuck Jones and Les Goldman (of the company Tower 12 Productions) to produce more Tom and Jerry cartoons, which resulted in some of the best animations in the 60s. Unfortunately, these productions are generally considered not very funny, but beautifully done. MGM brought Tower 12 Productions under their wing and renamed it MGM Animation/Visual Arts. At this point, MGM chose to end the production of Tom and Jerry cartoons and instead produced some Dr. Suess shorts and some other cartoons. Again, MGM decided to close their animation department, but this time it was for good. MGM Studios This website was created by Sandra Singler (email@example.com).
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