Theyyyyyy’re back: Warner Bros. Animation’s Jay Bastian on bringing back a classic to Cartoon Net

Bring on the slapstick. Again. Cartoon Network is gearing up to debut The Tom and Jerry Show on Wednesday, and I got the inside scoop from Warner Bros. Animation’s Jay Bastian, the creative exec in charge of the series.

Will you be revisiting any classic episodes?
Most of the shorts are perfect as they are. If we tried to recreate them, it wouldn’t seem as good. So we stay close to their classic dynamic so the show will be as evergreen as the shorts have always been. We’ve been tapping into recurring scenarios. We always point out Tom doesn’t actually want to eat Jerry. He may knock him over the head a few times, but they aren’t trying to kill each other. They’re to one-up each other. It’s more about sibling rivalry.

Do Tom and Jerry still look the same?
The look and feel is a very Hanna Barbera-MGM 1950s, but at the same time the way we’re approaching them does look a little flatter and more modern.

Toughest thing about bringing back a classic?
The biggest challenge we have is we are telling 11-minute stories, whereas the classic shorts are only 7 minutes. So the stories now are a little more involved. And there’s been a learning curve to figure out the best way to tell 11-minute stories with two main characters that don’t talk. That gets fleshed out into scripts; we have to write scripts for them even though Tom and Jerry don’t talk. We have one character in every short that does talk. Someone needs to talk to move the story along.

What’s your favorite T and J episode?
One of my favorites is when Spike has a birthday party for Tike, and Tom and Jerry come along and mess everything up…. Cartoon Network always says, Complex characters in simple situations. That’s where Tom and Jerry really shine. On the surface it feels like they are just doing ridiculous things, but they really are smart, developed, interesting characters. Put them into a simple situation, and see them thrive. I’m always impressed that writers and directors can still make Tom and Jerry running around a house feel new and fresh. Sometimes it’s just lightening in a bottle.

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