|The Little Orphan|
The title card of The Little Orphan, featuring the Oscar
|Directed by||William Hanna|
|Produced by||Fred Quimby|
|Story by||William Hanna|
|Music by||Scott Bradley|
|Animation by||Irven Spence|
|April 30, 1949|
|Language||none (text in English)|
The Little Orphan is a 1949 American one-reel animated cartoon and the 40th Tom and Jerry cartoon, released in theaters 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, the fifth Oscar (of seven) given to Tom and Jerry. Though the cartoon was released in 1949, it won its Oscar the previous year, tying them with Disney's Silly Symphonies with the record of the most Oscars.
Jerry is sitting in a mouse-sized chaise lounge reading Good Mousekeeping and eating cheese he is pulling off a mousetrap that has been set just in front of his mousehole. When his doorbell rings, he opens the door but does not see anyone; Nibbles zips through the door under his nose. Jerry shrugs in confusion, but then turns to see Nibbles pulling on the cheese in the mousetrap. He whisks him away just before it springs. Jerry then finds a note pinned to Nibbles red scarf (which matches his cap, both trimmed with white fur). Nibbles is the orphan who Jerry had agreed to host for Thanksgiving. A postscript on the note warns: "He's always hungry".
Jerry's cupboards are empty, so he carefully leads Nibbles to a big bowl of milk in front of where Tom is sleeping peacefully. Jerry warns him to be quiet, and holds him over the bowl. Nibbles takes a nice loud slurp, awaking Tom just as Jerry pulls Nibbles back into hiding. Tom does not see anyone, so he slurps his milk and goes back to sleep. Jerry holds Nibbles out to catch the last big drop that falls from Tom's whisker, but the bowl is now empty.
Then Nibbles sees Mammy Two Shoes place a large turkey on the already laden table. Jerry climbs up to the table, and drops a long piece of spaghetti, which Nibbles slurps his way up. Nibbles begins to eat three bites of all kinds of food (and a candle), but Jerry again saves him from disaster when, bouncing off a gelatin or Jello, he almost lands in piping hot soup. Jerry takes decorations from the table and dresses himself as a pilgrim with a hat and blunderbuss, and Nibbles follows his example. Nibbles then takes a whole orange in his mouth, swelling his head, but Jerry hits Nibbles on the back of the head, causing the orange to fly out of Nibbles, and into a sleeping Tom's mouth, then rebounding back and forth in his guts, thoroughly waking him up.
Tom, seeing the mice getting into the Thanksgiving dinner, puts on a feather duster, first as a general camouflage, but then as a Native American headdress. Tom approaches Nibbles, who points his toy blunderbuss at Tom. Tom points to his chin, implying Nibbles should go ahead and shoot. Jerry obliges by popping a champagne cork, which shoots out to give Tom a sharp womp in the face. Tom then grabs Jerry, but Nibbles, purposefully this time and carrying a fork, ricochets off the jello and stabs Tom in the hind end. Tom howls in pain and then uses the fork to catch Nibbles, and Jerry, perched on a candelabra, whacks Tom in the face with a large spoon, knocking him back.
Sneaking back to the table, Tom sets a bowl of cattails on fire one at a time, throwing them like spears. The cattails burn or melt the various hiding places Jerry and Nibbles find. With the third one, Jerry lifts a hemispherical lid and the cattail reverses back toward Tom. Then Tom throws a knife into the turkey and Jerry runs into it, at his throat, and falls unconscious.
Nibbles now launches an all-out attack: he bends back a knife handle to launch a pie; using the string between the turkey legs he slingshots a candle; and cutting a cork off a champagne bottle, it begins to rocket at Tom, ultimately making Tom and the room into a terrible mess. A white surrender flag comes up from the pile of dishes Tom has fallen under.
Finally, all three, with Tom bandaged, and order on the table restored, sit down to dinner. All bow their heads while Jerry says grace. But just as Tom and Jerry pick up their cutlery, Nibbles goes through the entire turkey like a buzz saw, and the bones clatter to the plate. Nibbles, now finally full, pats his huge stomach in delight.
As per every short of Tom and Jerry during its first two decades, Tee for Two was directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, with its score composed by Scott Bradley. The short is produced by Fred Quimby and animated by Irven Spence, Kenneth Muse, Ed Barge, Ray Patterson, with layouts done by Richard Bickenbach.
Ben Simon of Animated Views considered the short as "a great example of a cat and mouse cartoon working well on all levels". For writer and historian Michael Samerdyke, The Little Orphan is "[o]ne of the most fondly remembered" Tom and Jerry cartoons, noting that the short "added some priceless images" to the cartoon series. He surmised that the short "unlocked something in Hanna and Barbera's imaginations. In the Fifties, instead of having their characters pretend they were in a different historical era, they would place the rivalry of Tom & Jerry in other times and places."
Animation historian Michael Barrier saw the character of Nibbles in The Little Orphan as an example of the growing sentimentality seen in Tom and Jerry in the late 1940s, manifested in the "formulaic adorability of characters like Nibbles".