The well-known and well-loved cat and mouse duo, Tom & Jerry, star in MGM's The Night Before Christmas, Tom & Jerry's third cartoon produced by animation legends Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. The Night Before Christmas was released in theatres December 6, 1941.
While the narrator does read the first few lines of the famous poem, the cartoon does not follow the poem's plot, but rather creates a touching tale of how even the most unlikely pair can resolve their differences during the holiday season.
Jerry pops out of his mouse hole to see the whole house decorated for Christmas. He has his fun with the ornaments and toys but soon ends up in being chased by his arch-rival, Tom the cat. Tom locks Jerry out in the snow but soon realizes, due to the Christmas spirit being in the air, that it was mean and selfish of him to treat Jerry that way. Tom brings him back in and the duo share a nice Christmas together.
Since the beginning, Jerry's design has pretty much stayed the same. But Tom went through a few transformations before looking like the modern Tom we see now. Back in this short Tom was more of a real cat than a cat taking on human characteristics. He had paws rather than hands and walked on all fours most of the time.
This design was much more complicated for the animators. Tom was very furry; he had claws and light patches of fur such as the grey spot between his eyes. All of these traits looked good but were a pain for animators to reproduce frame after frame. By the time Chuck Jones got his hands on the characters in the 60s, Tom had been streamlined to look the Tom everyone recognizes.
The Night Before Christmas contains some of the best animation of all the Tom & Jerry cartoons. Real emotion was captured during Jerry's playful romp through the Christmas presents, and when Tom feels sorry for Jerry it really gets you right there. Sadly, the animators were not given credit for their work on this short. Neither was credit given to the music composer, Scott Bradley, who really set the mood with his reworking of Christmas carols such as The First Noel.
If you are looking for this short, pick up a copy of Tom & Jerry Spotlight Collection, Volume Two. It is the only Tom & Jerry Christmas episode ever made so don't be suckered in by DVDs like Paws for the Holiday which contain a bunch of winter themed cartoons but nothing to do with Christmas.