The short three-minute fragment from series is a 1949 American one-reel animated cartoon and is the 40th released Tom and Jerry cartoon, released in theatres on April 30, 1949 by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. It was produced by Fred Quimby and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, with music by Scott Bradley. The cartoon was animated by Irven Spence, Kenneth Muse, Ed Barge and Ray Patterson.
“The Little Orphan” won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons, this being the fifth Oscar (of seven) given to the cat and mouse team. Though the cartoon was released in 1949, it won its Oscar the previous year. This may have been because it was given a short run at a cinema in 1948 to qualify it for that year’s Academy Award.
On Cartoon Network and other television broadcasts, the blackface gag that occurs after a lit candle lands on Tom’s tail is removed. The candle is launched on Tom’s tail but nothing happens, and the scene abruptly cuts to the champagne bottle being launched and taking off, then cuts to Jerry and Nibbles watching Tom’s crash offscreen. Also removed in this sequence is the bottle striking the blackfaced Tom, sending him into the glass case.
In the wrap-around short “Life with Tom” and the CinemaScope version “Feedin’ the Kiddie”, the scene is also cut in the same manner (although the “Life with Tom” version left the burning intact, but cuts to the scene where the champagne bottle is being launched by Nibbles before Tom can be seen in blackface). The censored version of “Life with Tom” may be available on iTunes Store.
A 1960s TV version of this cartoon by the Chuck Jones team that aired on CBS had the blackface scene redone, so that Tom’s Indian headdress would be intact (and not burned away into pickaninny braids) after getting burned by the candle. Also, before that, the scene where Tom throws a knife on the turkey to trap Jerry is reanimated to replace it with a fork.
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