Thanksgiving is almost here! Today, we give thanks for all of the glorious classic cartoon bounty there is to enjoy this season by highlighting a great Turkey Day ‘toon, the 1949 Tom and Jerry short The Little Orphan.
Though The Little Orphan is Thanksgiving-themed, it was actually released in April of 1949. However, in order to qualify for the Academy Awards, it was given a brief theatrical run in the fall of 1948.
The Little Orphan marks the second appearance of the voracious yet cute little mouse Nibbles, after 1946′s The Milky Waif. The character would become interchangeable in later years with a similar-looking rodent named Tuffy.
Like many Tom and Jerry shorts, The Little Orphan has been subjected to censorship over the years due to racial stereotype and insensitivity. In this instance–as seen in the version embedded above–there is an abrupt cut in the middle of the big climactic fight, which eliminates a brief scene with Tom appearing in blackface. (The censors seem to have no issue with the cartoon’s appropriation of Native American imagery, nor the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it presence of the Mammy Two Shoes character, however.)
This short won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons for 1948 (an honor that is highlighted on the short’s title card). Its competition that year? Disney’s Mickey and the Seal and a Donald Duck short, Tea for Two Hundred; Warner Bros.’ Hubie and Bertie short Mouse Wreckers; and UPA’s Robin Hoodlum (that studio’s first-ever nomination).
This marked the fifth time that a Tom and Jerry cartoon had nabbed the prize in six years; the MGM duo were wildly popular in the 1940s, giving animation stalwarts Disney and Warner Bros. a serious run for their money. By the time the Tom and Jerry series’ original run ended in 1957, they would rack up two more Oscars.
The Little Orphan appears on DVD–in its edited form–in the first volume of the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection.