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Herman and Katnip

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Herman and Katnip
Herman-and-Katnip logo.jpg
Famous Studios' darker rip-off of Tom and Jerry, except with more brutal violence, sadism, and with none of the likeability at all.
Genre: Dark comedy
Dark slapstick
Surreal comedy
Running Time: 6 minutes
Country: United States
Release Date: February 18, 1944 – October 30, 1959
Created by: Famous Studios
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Starring: Arnold Stang
Sid Raymond (1944-58)
Jack Mercer (1958-59)
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 34


Herman and Katnip is a cartoon series that starred in theatrical animated shorts produced by Famous Studios (Paramount Cartoon Studios).

Synopsis

The Herman and Katnip cartoons are very similar to that of Tom and Jerry which was produced at the same time, except that unlike Tom and Jerry where both the cat and mouse duo had their fair shares of wins and losses, over here, Herman always wins over Katnip in the end.

The violence in this series, while intended for comedic effect, appears to reach a level of brutality that surpassed every other slapstick-driven Golden Age-era theatrical cartoon series of the 1940s-1950s such as Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, the Tex Avery-directed MGM cartoons, Woody Woodpecker, Donald Duck, Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle and even Famous Studios' Popeye the Sailor. Herman's battles with Katnip always ended with him victorious over Katnip, and frequently Herman and his mouse companions would sing a victory song as they observed Katnip being brutally punished or even tortured (e.g. being eaten by sharks, killed in a rockslide while mountain climbing, strung up with Christmas lights and plugged into an electric socket, or even dying and his ghost being sent to "the fiery furnace".)

While both Herman and Katnip are paired together beginning with 1950's "Mice Meeting You", in addition to that both Herman and Katnip respectively starred separately with different co-stars as well; from 1944-1949 Herman paired with Henry the henpecked rooster and his abusive wife Bertha (a.k.a. Chickenpie), while from 1950-1954 Katnip paired with Buzzy the black crow.

In the Herman and Henry cartoons, Henry teams up with Herman to stand up against his tyrannical wife Bertha because of her musophobia (fear of mice).

While in the Katnip and Buzzy cartoons, Katnip would have an ailment or a problem as he would read in a book that would give him advice and instructions to cure him with crow meat. Buzzy would talk his way out of getting killed and used as a cure by claiming he was an expert on this particular ailment, and spend most of the cartoon subjecting Katnip to "alternative" cures — most of which involved a generous dose of pain and torment in the process.

Shorts

Noveltoons

  1. Naughty But Mice (October 10, 1947)
  2. Saved By the Bell (September 15, 1950)
  3. Mice Meeting You (November 10, 1950)
  4. Mice Paradise (March 9, 1951)
  5. Cat Tamale (November 9, 1951)
  6. Cat Carson Rides Again (April 4, 1952)

Herman and Katnip

Famous Studios (1942-mid 1955)

  1. Mice-Capades (October 3, 1952)
  2. Of Mice and Magic (February 20, 1953)
  3. Herman The Catoonist (May 15, 1953)
  4. Drinks On the Mouse (August 28, 1953)
  5. Northwest Mousie (December 28, 1953)
  6. Surf and Sound (March 5, 1954)
  7. Of Mice and Menace (June 25, 1954)
  8. Ship A-Hooey (August 20, 1954)
  9. Rail Rodents (November 26, 1954)
  10. Robin Rodenthood (February 25, 1955)
  11. A Bicep Built for Two (April 8, 1955)
  12. Mouse Trapeze (August 5, 1955)

Famous Studios (late 1955-56)

  1. Mousieur Herman (Tendlar/Hudson; November 25, 1955)
  2. Mouseum (Knietel/Eugster; February 24, 1956)
  3. Will Do Mousework (Knietel/Golden; June 29, 1956)
  4. Mousetro Herman (Sparber/Eugster; August 10, 1956)
  5. Hide and Peak (Tendlar/Reden; December 10, 1956; last cartoon to bear the "Famous Studios" name in the credits)

Paramount Cartoon Studios

  1. Cat in the Act (Tendlar/Reden; February 22, 1957; first short that used early 1957-1966 "A Paramount Picture" Mountain logo.)
  2. Sky Scrappers (Tendler/Reden; June 14, 1957)
  3. From Mad to Worse (Kneitel/Johnson; August 16, 1957)
  4. One Funny Knight (Tendlar/Pattengill; November 22, 1957)
  5. Frighty Cat (Sparber/Johnson; March 14, 1958)
  6. You Said a Mouseful (Kneitel/Johnson; August 29, 1958)
  7. Owly to Bed (Kneitel/Johnson; January 2, 1959)
  8. Felineous Assault (Kneitel/Johnson; February 20, 1959)
  9. Fun on Furlough (Kneitel/Endres; April 3, 1959)
  10. Katnip's Big Day (Kneitel/Pattengill/Ehret; October 30, 1959; final short that used "In TECHNICOLOR" logo; last Paramount Cartoon Studios short to use Technicolor; last cartoon in original 1950-59 Harvey Comics package)

Miscellaneous shorts

Herman

  1. The Henpecked Rooster (February 18, 1944; Herman's debut; first appearances of Henry and Bertha)
  2. Scrappily Married (March 30, 1945; with Henry and Bertha)
  3. Cheese Burglar (February 22, 1946)
  4. Sudden Fried Chicken (October 18, 1946; final appearances of Henry and Bertha)
  5. Campus Capers (July 1, 1949)

Katnip

  1. Hep Cat Symphony (February 4; 1949)
  2. Sock-a-Bye Kitty (December 22, 1950; with Buzzy the Crow)
  3. As the Crow Lies (June 1, 1951; with Buzzy the Crow)
  4. Cat-Choo (October 12, 1951; with Buzzy the Crow)
  5. The Awful Tooth (May 2, 1952; with Buzzy the Crow)
  6. City Kitty (July 18, 1952)
  7. Feast and Furious (December 26, 1952)
  8. Better Bait than Never (June 5, 1953; with Buzzy the Crow)
  9. Hair Today Gone Tomorrow (April 16, 1954; with Buzzy the Crow)

Why It Katnips in Quality

  1. The main criticism is that this show is a blatant rip-off of Tom and Jerry, to the point that it is unoriginal and not even a decent rip-off of said show.
    • The Buzzy and Katnip cartoons are also an indirect rip-offs of the Sylvester and Tweety shorts of Looney Tunes as well.
  2. The character's personalities are extremely bland and somewhat irredeemable.
    • Herman the Mouse is a completely unlikeable and sadistic freak who always gives the dim-witted Katnip no mercy.
    • Katnip the Cat is just generic and he feels like more or less of a dumber & slow-witted version of Sylvester from Looney Tunes, which is an unintentionally hilarious failed attempt at even ripping off Tom and his personality.
    • Bertha (a.k.a. Chickenpie) is an extremely unlikeable character, as she always abuses her timid husband Henry in extremely violent ways that cross over into spousal abuse territory. For example, in "Sudden Fried Chicken", she beats up Henry so badly that he gets hospitalized.
    • Buzzy the Crow, while okay, for the most part, is a rip-off of Tweety from Looney Tunes and can come across as a one-dimensional stereotype of African Americans.
  3. The characters' character designs are uninspired, lazy & unimaginative. Examples of this include the titular characters themselves, along with Herman's cousins looking the same to the point that it is very hard to tell apart which one is Zeek, Louie, and Hector. Just look at their designs.
  4. It relies more on gratuitous over-the-top violence instead of slapstick.
    • In fact, the show is extremely mean-spirited and hurtful, enough to make Tom and Jerry (even the Gene Deitch era) look tame by comparison.
  5. Most of the shorts are pretty much the same, only with some minor differences each time, making them predictable and formulaic.
    • Katnip is terrorizing the mice while Herman is away.
    • Fade to Herman, who's on his way home and singing (tone-deafly) to himself.
    • When Herman arrives, he's greeted with a gloom and doom report by the spokesman of the other mice, who are all completely demoralized and at wits end on what to do about Katnip.
    • Herman becomes enraged and vows to destroy Katnip.
    • Herman effortlessly destroys Katnip (usually KILLING him) and all the mice celebrate.
  6. The setups are very bland and dull and often have been overdone by 1940s and 1950s standards.
  7. The physical humor is extremely obnoxious, gruesome, ugly, clumsy, awkward, and disturbing, even more so than any other cartoon series produced during Hollywood's Golden Age from the 1940s-1950s, due to the brutality and amount of crass it contains or by how pointless it was. It's very reminiscent of an incoherent snuff film, where it's the anthropomorphic category of animal abuse. Examples of such brutality displayed in the show include (but are not limited to):
    • Katnip getting his head chopped off by Herman with long scissors in a non-bloody way in “Herman the Cat-toonist” (1953).
    • Buzzy smashing through Katnip's eye with a hammer after getting eaten alive.
    • in "Mouseum" (1956), Katnip is thrown against a stuffed animal exhibit and the artificial eyes pop out of the creature’s head. Katnip thinks they’re his OWN eyes and shoves them into his eye sockets. He then runs around hysterically screaming “I can’t see!” as well as the "wheel of knives" gag
  8. The characters' voices are either uncomfortable, awkward, and very cringeworthy, like Katnip's yelling (literally or his dialogue, such as his catchphrase "That sounds logical" in all Buzzy shorts) and the annoyingly stupid dialect to his voice, or are just plain weird like Herman sounding like an oddball prototype of Super Mario in Hotel Mario due to his Brooklyn accent being present.
  9. Many of the shorts end with Katnip being brutally killed and the mice playing around with his dead body. For example, they use Katnip's corpse as a Christmas tree in "Mice Meeting You".
    • Consequently, this results many shorts' endings to be downright horrible and very unsatisfying and mean-spirited.
    • Worse, each of those endings are apparently supposed to be happy endings, suggested by the joyous music playing in the back. They instead come off as sickening.
  10. It is incredibly one-sided and one-dimensional, similar to the Gene Deitch era of Tom and Jerry, as Herman always wins over Katnip at the end of every short, but instead with sloppy and creepy slapstick.
  11. Some of the shorts rip-off Tom and Jerry shorts.
    • "A Bicep Built for Two" rips off both "Springtime for Thomas" and "Casanova Cat".
    • "Felineous Assault" rips off "Professor Tom".
    • "Mice Capades" rips off "Heavenly Puss".
    • "Katnip's Big Day" rips off "Life With Tom". Likewise, the aforementioned short ended the series on a horrible note (though this short also has a half-good ending for Katnip).
  12. The soundtrack is either obnoxious, irritating, forgettable, or lousy.
  13. Some animation errors or poorly directed animation can be found at times.
    • Due to budget limitations with all of the Harveytoons, the shorts from mid-1957 onwards degraded in animation quality and looks very similar to UPA and Hanna-Barbera television animation at that point.
  14. The mice didn't get hurt by Katnip, but seem to get injured during the next scene, making them seem like whiny brats.
  15. Buzzy the Crow can be considered offensive due to being a Rochester caricature who torments Katnip to no end as well; in fact, he is so racially offensive that he even makes Mammy Two-Shoes from Tom and Jerry (who co-incidentally is also an African-American caricature from the "source material" this show tries to rip-off) look like a more flattering representation of African-Americans in comparison. As a result, his shorts with Katnip have been banned from syndication, and The Harveytoons Show had to redub Buzzy's voice for all of their shorts.
  16. "Mice Meeting You" started the decline of both Famous Studios and Harveytoons, as by that time Famous Studios started moving away from the artistic ambition and sophistication its predecessor Fleischer Studios strove for in favor of churning out cartoon series that are mostly formulaic, brutally violent, and largely oriented toward a children's audience, though toned-down during Howard Post and Ralph Bakshi-directed cartoons.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The animation is great for its time, at least until mid-1957 but looks okay until 1959.
  2. There are some good shorts, like;
    • "Cheese Burglar"
    • "Hep Cat Symphony"
    • "Saved By The Bell"
    • "Sock-a-Bye Kitty"
    • "Herman the Catoonist"
    • "Mousetro Herman"
    • "Cat in the Act"
    • "Frighty Cat"
    • "You Said a Mouseful".
  3. The music can be nice or just ok to listen to at times. The series also has a catchy theme song.
  4. While many endings in these shorts are mean-spirited, some of the endings are okay like Katnip's Big Day (which has a half-good ending, despite the half-bad ending) and You Said a Mouseful (which has a good ending where Katnip wins along with Herman)
  5. "You Said a Mouseful" and "Katnip's Big Day" are the only episodes in which Katnip wins alongside Herman in the end.
  6. Sometimes the humor can be done solidly because of how it's actually similar to Tom and Jerry or Looney Tunes, along with some funny moments here and there.
    • There are also moments depending on your view on how Katnip, with his bumbling buffoonery, brings in some extremely funny and entertaining moments.
      • Also, Katnip seems to be more enjoyable and tends to be funnier when he's paired with Buzzy the Crow in Buzzy shorts (even if Katnip's punching-bag status is still present and the subseries is considered a Sylvester and Tweety rip-off, it's more reasonable this time for Buzzy outsmarting Katnip since Buzzy is actually innocent & it's slightly less creepy than the Herman & Katnip ones).
  7. Herman was shown to be a likable character in his appearances by helping out Henry the Rooster. He was also tolerable in "Cheese Burglar" and "Campus Capers".
    • Katnip himself may be a generic underdog who is chronically unlucky as an antagonist and is a ludicrous clone of Tom from Tom & Jerry. But he's somewhat sympathetic because of his continual failures (and sometimes being rather kind-hearted at times because of Katnip's stupidity), especially when he is made out to be evil but isn't all that unlikable or hateable per se when antagonizing Herman is rather understandable for how hateable he is.
    • Henry can be considered a likable character as well, despite his Butt-Monkey status.
    • Buzzy the Crow, while he can come across as a one-dimensional stereotype of African Americans, is rather very likable and sometimes entertaining in comparison to Herman.
  8. While they have more limited animation compared to the earlier ones, some of the later cartoons (as well as Dave Tendler-directed shorts) start coming up with stories that aren't just completely rehashing an earlier plot with a few changes, somewhat like most Famous Studios cartoons during the 40s-50s.

Videos

Trivia

  • This series spawned the inspiration of The Simpsons's Itchy and Scratchy Show by portraying the brutality used for pointless violence as a "cheap ultra-violent knockoff of Tom and Jerry".
  • In the first two shorts, Katnip was originally depicted as a black cat. From "Mice Meeting You" onwards, his more well-known appearance as an orange cat emerged.
  • Despite the hatred it had been represented for, there was a bit of a cult following that had come from some viewers merely because of nostalgia for the most part. It has also gained a small bit of attention following the series being aired on The Harveytoons Show.

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