Series remains a happy classic

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chances are you spend your evening hours worrying about the lingering heat wave, the challenges we face when the legislature is in session or who might be our next president.

Maybe you work on balancing your checkbook, completing household chores, studying the possibilities of your favorite team's unbeaten season.

Our family has taken a different tact. We've invested in the classics, have decided to allocate time each night to not only studying and enjoying them, but sharing them with Grant, our four-year-old son, in hopes he will benefit from the experience as much as we.

So far, the experiment is working. Working well, I might add.

Julie, the lady of our house, made the initial investment. While I never asked how much time she spent in the research and selection process, I was curious and did inquire about the financial commitment.

Five ninety-nine, she said.

A real bargain, I admitted. It's rare when you can purchase anything for $10, much less a fraction of that amount, and even more impressive when the collection might be so limited in its availability.

These are classics, you understand.

I praised her work and promptly launched into the project with the undivided attention of a man eager get started, sensing the benefits and knowledge about to engulf our entire family.

Tom and Jerry cartoons can do that, you know.

They're good for what ails you. They cause you to laugh and giggle. They allow you to immerse yourself in a make-believe world of quick action and mischievous plots. They help you escape from the pressures of a busy workday. And for some of us, they take us back to a time when troubles were few, when life was simple.

And did I tell you they're classics?

The Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM, for short) Lion still roars through our television sets to introduce each of the six-to-seven-minute features, sparking immediate memories of the past. Names like animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and producer Fred Quimby are familiar, too, largely because they were considered legendary even in their own time as artists.

More than 100 Tom and Jerry cartoons - 114 to be exact — were produced and released between 1940 and 1957. Seven won Academy Awards for Best Short Subjects, an honor based on subject matter and content, not the size of our on-screen friends.

While I suppose today's silly censors might object to portions of that content - violence and explosions do occur - it is presented in a carefree, slapstick manner that doesn't offend and seems almost natural in its own unrealistic manner.

But I digress.

Tom, these many years later, is still Tom, a cat's cat out to keep order in his master's home, no matter what the price. Still a big milk drinker, he can be suave and determined or simply annoying. But his high level of energy still translates into races and chases dotted with crashes and smashes.

That's because Jerry is also still Jerry, the speedy and smart little mouse who sleeps in a sardine can and whose crafty ability to outwit and out-maneuver his furry — and sometimes friendly -nemesis remains a common theme of each delightful episode.

We're into the series of &#8220Greatest Chases” where Tom tears up a golf course, serenades a sweetheart and plays piano while Jerry enlists the help of Killer the bulldog and solos as a mouse in Manhattan as the stars keep the pace brisk and the attention fixed with screeching slides, near misses, painful slaps, artful dodges, zigs and zags.

Smiles break into chuckles that quickly become laughs. Laughs erupt into cackles and soon the room is full of happy, animated action of our own.

Grant likes them, too.

That would suggest the audience of today's youth might also appreciate the simplicity of those ageless features, inspiring others you would hope, to make available similar stories targeted for a new generation.

But that, like the search for a president or an unbeaten season, is another story for another day.

My hunch is we'll watch our series until we commit each step and each gag to memory. Then we'll begin anew our search for another disk of additional favorites as we continue our march to blend the past with our future.

It's a classic idea, one you might consider in your own home.

Ed Darling is president and publisher of Greenville Newspapers LLC. You can contact him at 382-3111 or ed.darling@greenvilleadvocate.com. Read his previous columns at www.greenvilleadvocate.com.