A Year in Shorts Day 194: "Hatch Up Your Troubles"
It’s been nearly one month since we last talked about a Tom and Jerry short, which just feels wrong to me. Although I suppose it’s not surprising; with thirteen nominations in the series, it’d only make sense if we only covered one a month. It doesn’t quite work out that way thanks to me frontloading our Year in Shorts, but that’s neither here nor there! So let’s quit stalling and dive into our next film, Hatch Up Your Troubles.
Released in 1949, Hatch Up Your Troubles doesn't deviate too far from your typical Tom and Jerry formula. A woodpecker egg falls from its nest and winds up hatching in Jerry's mousehole, causing the baby to imprint on Jerry. Boy, Jerry winds up in charge of a lot of cute baby animals, doesn't he? Nibbles, Quacker, now this? I suppose Hanna and Barbera knew that Jerry was too much of a dick, so they had to give him some softer edges. Well, it doesn't take too long for Jerry to get tired of living with a baby woodpecker (the little guy destroys all his furniture), and he promptly sends him packing. Of course, a baby bird living on its own is a prime target for a hungry cat like Tom, and soon Jerry has to step in to save him.
Except not really, as it turns out the woodpecker is more than capable of taking on Tom, even while in the process of being eaten! (Maybe Jerry should be taking lessons from this guy.) As you can imagine, Hatch Up Your Troubles contains all the usual Tom and Jerry hijinks you'd expect, and when it gets going, it's a lot of fun. Admittedly I have to dock some points for the scene where the woodpecker drills through Tom's teeth (there is a line, Hanna-Barbera!), but for the most part it's all good fun.
(via The Internet Animation Database)
Unfortunately, it's the rest of the stuff surrounding the hijinks that doesn't work so well. For one thing, it takes way too long for Tom to show up in this short. It's not as bad here as it is in other shorts, but still. I suppose they needed to set up the plot before Tom could really get involved, but surely they could have given us something. Admittedly, all the stuff with the woodpecker destroying Jerry's stuff is decently funny, but it's hardly the appeal of these shorts, you know? Maybe if he'd cause Jerry some sort of physical pain, that'd be great.
But the woodpecker is indicative of a larger issue in both this short and a lot of Tom and Jerry shorts from this period onwards, which is the increasing reliance on cute sidekicks for Jerry. I will grant that the woodpecker is less annoying than Nibbles or Quacker, but that's besides the point. The problem with these characters isn't so much that they're bad in it of themselves as it is the fact that they bring a certain level of sentimentality to these shorts which is really out of place. Hatch Up Your Troubles is particularly bad in this regard, especially with its ending. I don't watch these cartoons to feel things, I come to laugh!
I suppose this might not seem like that big a deal to normal people. But normal people certainly don't write multi-paragraph reviews on individual Tom and Jerry shorts (or read them, for that matter), and I do think it's worth noting. Is it really any surprise that Tom and Jerry: The Movie felt the need to make Tom and Jerry heroes and have them look after a precocious orphan (who wasn't actually an orphan)? Granted, comparing any classic Tom and Jerry short to the movie is like comparing The Chronicles of Prydain to Disney's Black Cauldron (pointless and vaguely insulting), but still. The seeds were there is all I'm saying.
I don't want to give off the wrong impression- Hatch Up Your Troubles is certainly not a BAD short. Like I said, the gags are all quite funny, and the music and animation are all up to the series' usual standard. As always, writing about individual Tom and Jerry shorts requires a lot of nitpicking on my part, if only because the bar is set so high. Whatever the case may be, Hatch Up Your Troubles is a perfectly fun cartoon. It's CERTAINLY a lot better than the thing that actually won, that's for sure.
Keep up with the Oscar Baiting here on Letterboxd!
"Hatch Up Your Troubles" is available to watch on HBO Max.