You can always depend on classic cartoons to provide some good Halloween appropriate material. All the great animated characters have had to deal with their fair share of ghosts and goblins at some point. In our film today, Tom and Jerry have to contend with a nasty witch in 1956’s The Flying Sorceress.
As usual, everyone’s favorite cat and mouse are chasing each other around the house as this short begins. When Tom ends up breaking something, the woman of the house (no longer Mammy Two Shoes) tosses him a broom and insists he clean it up. While sweeping, though, he catches sight of a listing in the want ads looking for a cat to be a traveling companion for an old woman. Tom decides that this looks like a good gig, so he heads off to apply for the job.
Turns out the old woman is a witch who lives in a haunted house complete with it’s own private thunderstorm. After a wild test flight on her broom, the witch ends up giving Tom the job. Well, you know how they say curiosity killed the cat – well, while the witch is sleeping, Tom decides to take the broom out for a spin. He ends up flying over to the old house to give Jerry a hard time. He orders the broom, which marches around in a quasi-Fantasia style, to smack the mouse around a bit. However, when Tom returns to the witch’s home, he ends up getting a taste of his own medicine.
Like so many who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, I watched Tom and Jerry shorts on TV every day. This is one I remember seeing many times, though in a slightly different form. The Flying Sorceress was actually made in CinemaScope. Of course, nobody was letterboxing kids afternoon cartoons on UHF TV back then. So it’s great to finally get to see the whole picture on DVD. It looks great and really makes me wonder why MGM didn’t do more shorts in the widescreen format. Even with the dark atmosphere of this short, the artists make great use of color which would’ve been quite brilliant on the big screen.
Tom and Jerry shorts are very interesting to watch now, through adult eyes. They really were some of the most violent of the classic cartoons. It is a bit strange considering that the series’ creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, would go on to create so many tv cartoons that, while classic in their own right, are downright bland when it comes to the level of violence. I’ve certainly seen harsher Tom and Jerry shorts than this one, but many of the physical gags in this one are still very painful looking.
An added treat for this short is the voice of the great June Foray portraying both the witch and Tom’s owner. Foray essentially does the same witch voice she would do for the character of Witch Hazel at Warner Brothers, but don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with that. Foray is one of the greatest voice talents in the history of animation and her work is always a joy to hear. She manages to inject the witch’s voice with both playful and sinister qualities that are the perfect mix for a cartoon that is supposed to be a bit spooky but still make you laugh.
Any celebration of Halloween movies needs to have some representation from the world of cartoons. The Flying Sorceress offers solid laughs, great animation, and masterful voice work from one of the all-time greats – not to mention plenty of cat and mouse beat down action.