UPDATE: Here is an exclusive clip from the first episode of The Tom & Jerry Show:
Jay Bastian, Warner Bros. Animation Vice President
of Series, whose projects include Scooby
Doo: Mystery Incorporated, Justice League and Courage the Cowardly Dog, is no stranger to new concepts or the
revival of classics. So he and the other people behind the The Tom and Jerry Show (premiering Wednesday, April 9th at 5:30 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network) are certainly
not approaching the source material with anything less than admiration.
GREG EHRBAR: Before we get to The Tom and Jerry Show, I have to tell you that those animated short versions of "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat" and "Daffy's Rhapsody" are very dear to me because I’m a cartoon record collector.
JAY BASTIAN: Those two were an absolute ball to work on. You know, they were made around the same time we were doing The Looney Tunes Show but this was the chance to go as classic as we possibly could even though we were doing CG. You can't get more classic than using Mel Blanc’s original voice—and on top of that trying to translate Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng into CG.
GREG: And those wonderful Capitol records.
JAY: They're fantastic, really great. I wish we could have made more and more of those! They were great. I can’t take all the credit, but I was there. (Laughter)
GREG: Let me make sure I’ve got this straight. You’ve got the suburban domestic story, you’ve got the scientist story, you’ve got the witch story and then you’ve got the detective story.
JAY: Right. So, there are four different stories that we kind of rotate through. I'm not sure what the ratio is…most of them feel like they are the classic scenarios but then we rotate the other three in here and there as well.
GREG: So it's a half-hour and you'll have two cartoons per show?
JAY: Two eleven-minute segments per show, 26 episodes.
GREG: So you've got the household scenario with the two human owners, one voiced by Jason Alexander, and you’re gonna see them from the knees down, like in the original cartoons?
JAY: Yeah, you'll see only torsos. We hardly ever show heads. We show one or two kids here and there, but for the most part it’s just the neck down.
GREG: And it’s all about domestic wackiness.
JAY: Right. And because Tom and Jerry aren't talking, we throw in Tuffy, Butch or Spike, somebody that can talk so we it’s easier to get the plot across.
GREG: What about that little duckie?
JAY: Oh, Little Quacker. He’s in there too.
GREG: Tell me more about the lab scenario.
JAY: Well, Jerry's in this lab. We paired him up with a rat named Napoleon who’s voiced by Simon Helberg from The Big Bang Theory. This puts them in a position to get into all kinds of experiments and things like that. Then when Tom shows up, they can use these new inventions against one another. Like the detectives and witches scenarios, we’re giving them more tools to fight with, basically.
GREG: Who voices the witches?
JAY: We have Cree Summer and Rachel McFarland. They’re both great. They play witch sisters that are kind of like the sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace. They are happy being witches. Tom and Jerry are in their house, getting into mischief, using magic spells and a magic wand so they can do magical things to each other.
GREG: Do the new cartoons ever venture out beyond the four basic scenarios?
JAY: You know, we had talked about it and because there are so many stories to tell with these four, we decided to stick to these four for now and see what happens down the road. There are a couple of stragglers, though... like one in which Tom and Jerry go camping. They’re not in the house and there’s a narrator a little bit like the Tex Avery travelogues. And we’re actually working on a Christmas special right now.
GREG: Every cartoon character has to save Christmas, it’s required.
JAY: (Laughing) Exactly!
GREG: So, will they save it?
JAY: They will and that’s pretty much the plot! (laughing)
GREG: It’s so great that this show is being produced with Darrell Van Citters and Ashley Postlewaite at Renegade. Darrell is committed to doing cartoons in the classic mode as much as he can, yet keep them contemporary. I mean, this is the guy who wrote books about Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and The Art of Jay Ward Productions.
JAY: It’s a perfect fit.
GREG: Now, Tom and Jerry are also known for their "riotous cartoon action." How violent are these cartoons going to get?
JAY: (laughter) I think Tom and Jerry are characters that are sort of "grandfathered in" with a certain degree of slap stick violence. We are trying to be as responsible as we can, though. We don’t want to do anything that will make a kid hit their brother with a frying pan, but at the same time these characters have to be able to do silly, cartoony, ridiculous things. Otherwise it’s not really Tom and Jerry.
GREG: What also made the classic Tom and Jerry cartoons especially funny was when they were "thinking." They would stop and make a face and that was half of the comedy and you can still do that without all the fluidity of ‘40s animation.
JAY: Absolutely, and I think you’ll recognize a lot of those same classic poses. Even though this is a brand new show, you can look for those classic Tom and Jerry classic models and designs throughout the series.
GREG: Okay, fine. That’s all great and this is very, very exciting. But... if you were addressing all these kids and fans that love Tom and Jerry, how would you sum up what we can expect?
JAY: I think it's very much the classic characters, very much the classic look, but it also has become its own thing with a little bit of its own sensibility, its own look and feel. But obviously it's all built on what we all love from classic Tom and Jerry. I certainly force feed my kids all the old cartoons...
GREG: Me too.