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Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare

Tommy Tortoise & Moe Hare
Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare are quite simply Famous/Paramount's answer to Disney's Toby Tortoise and Max Hare and Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny cartoons with Cecil Turtle, and basically Bugs Bunny in general, though Moe is brown instead of grey. Strangely enough, though they only made four cartoons, they are remembered, and even inspired a few bits of Harvey merchandise such as a coloring book in 1961. This is perhaps due to Tommy and Moe's appearance on the opening titles of every Harveytoon short in syndication. Tommy and Moe even appeared on the remake of those titles when The Harveytoon Show aired on the Fox Family Channel recently!

Tommy and Moe didn't appear in comic books and actually made their first comic book appearance in Harvey, the Magazine for Kids #2, published just last year! Why they didn't appear is not known, except that one could guess that by the time of their final cartoon (1957), Baby Huey, Casper, Herman and Katnip, Little Audrey and Buzzy were all firmly established and that Tommy and Moe weren't in the same class. By the time Matty's Funday Funnies (1959) appeared and Harvey produced another comic book title to cash in (Famous TV Funday Funnies and later, TV Casper and Company), the stories that appeared inside were all reprints, so it would be pointless to produce new comic book stories featuring them (despite their weekly appearance in the animated titles).

The cartoons themselves are a mixed bag. I personally own two of them, but I will at least describe the action of the other two. It would be interesting if a choice was made to produce more, but this is highly unlikely.

1. Winner by a Hare - April 17, 1953. Direction: Isadore Sparber. Animation: Myron Waldman, Tom Golden. Story: Irving Spector. Scenics: John Zago. Music: Winston Sharples. Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare star in a jet age version of the legendary race. This is the first of the two cartoons that I own in this series. Jackson Beck is the voice of Moe, which Syd Raymond voices Tommy. The script seems to be a heavy reworking of the Bugs Bunny-Cecil Turtle cartoons with mixed results. Paramount's cartoons are always competent and vastly superior than what animation produced during the 60's to early 80's, but it still is no classic. Plagiarism definitely dominates the proceedings. I own the uncut version where Moe literally commits suicide with a gun at the end of the picture! Sore loser!

2. Rabbit Punch - September 30, 1955. Directed by Dave Tendlar. Cocky Moe Hare challenges slow-footed Tommy Tortoise to a boxing match. The overconfident hare gets the surprise of his life when they meet up in the ring.

3. Sleuth but Sure - March 23, 1956. Directed by Dave Tendlar. Moe Hare escapes from jail and finds lawman Tommy Tortoise in hot pursuit. After many narrow escapes from Tommy, Moe's undoing comes in the form of a desert mirage. This is the other of the two cartoons I own. Strangely, enough, my copy has the production credits from Mr. Money Gags attached at the beginning. I know Jackson Beck still does the voice of Moe, but I'm not sure of Tommy's voice in this cartoon or the voice of Moe's girlfriend. This is basically standard cartoon fare, but it is fairly amusing. Tommy comes off as extremely serious in this cartoon and wears a deerslayer, instead of his usual straw hat.

4. Mr. Money Gags - June 7, 1957. Direction: Isadore Sparber. Animation: Al Eugster, William H. Pattengill. Story: Carl Meyer. Scenics: Robert Owen. Music: Winston Sharples. Tommy, a tiny tortoise from the country, outwits Moe Hare, a con artist from the city. Despite Moe's efforts to take the tortoise's money away from him, the hare succeeds only in making the tortoise richer and himself poorer. This cartoon has the more limited and stylized (read: budget-cutting) animation released by the studio at this time and after. Apart from an appearance in Harveytoon opening credits, this is the duo's final appearance in animation.

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