Herman and Katnip are a duo of cartoon characters (Herman the mouse and Katnip the cat). From 1944 to September 1950, Herman appeared without Katnip, who made his first appearance in November 1949 with Mice Meeting You. The two characters continued to star in animated cartoons by Famous Studios until 1959. Their cartoon series, which was distributed by Paramount Pictures, together is essentially a clone of MGM's Tom and Jerry. The key difference is that, regardless of who personified good or evil (with Katnip being the latter on almost all occasions), Herman always came out on top against Katnip, while Tom won his fair share of comic battles against Jerry. However, Katnip rarely had trouble forcing Herman to pay in some manner for his victories. Arnold Stang voiced Herman while Sid Raymond voiced Katnip.
Leonard Maltin's published history of Hollywood cartoons Of Mice and Magic described the Herman and Katnip series as a prime stereotype of the "violent cat versus mouse" battles that were commonplace among Hollywood cartoons of the 1920s through the 1960s. The violence in this series, while intended for comedic effect, often reached a level of brutality that surpassed both Tom and Jerry, Mighty Mouse, and Warner Bros.' Sylvester the Cat. Herman's battles with Katnip always ended with Herman victorious over Katnip, and frequently Herman and his mouse companions would sing a victory song as they observed Katnip being brutally punished or even tortured (e.g. being eaten by sharks, killed in a rockslide while mountain climbing, strung up with Christmas lights and plugged into an electric socket, getting electrocuted by a "shock tester" machine then was flattened by it only to become "Shooting Gallery " game piece of himself after getting blasted in the face with one of the Shooting Gallery's guns already mounted into a Mutoscope (which the mutoscope itself is showcasing a "Hawaiian Girl" hula-dancing) while chasing Herman (nor Herman's three Nephews) at a "Penny Arcade", fooled with a "near-death experience" of his kid brother named "Kit-nip" whom the kitten actually "faked his death" after a misfire with his gun after trying to shoot at Herman, or even dying and his ghost being warned about "the fiery furnace".)
Herman and Katnip and the other original Famous characters were purchased by Harvey Comics in 1958, who continued to promote the characters under the name Harveytoons. The 1944-50 Herman the Mouse cartoons (originally released as part of the Noveltoon series) were sold by Paramount in 1955 to U.M.&M. T.V. Corp. for television distribution.
|This article's factual accuracy is disputed. (March 2008)|
Prior to his battles with Katnip, Herman teamed up in several cartoons with the henpecked rooster Henry. Henry's nemesis is his domineering wife, Bertha (aka "Chicken Pie"), who makes him do all the work around the house, even saying that if she catches Henry loafing again, "I'll clip your wings and chop you down to a croquette!" Bertha is deathly afraid of mice, however: always "bawking" in shock every time Herman scares her. With Herman's help, Henry tries to manipulate Bertha into treating him more fairly ("Hey! Listen, you old hen! From now on, I'll do no more work!"). The title cards for the team-up shorts read "Featuring Herman and Henry"; the first such short was Henpecked Rooster (1944), and the last Sudden Fried Chicken (1946), in which Bertha beats the rooster hard enough to hospitalize him.
Under the new name "Hector," the rooster was featured in Dell Publishing's Animal Comics 7-17 (1944–45), with Herman as ongoing co-star and artist Walt Kelly (Pogo) drawing several of the later stories. Interestingly, in Sudden Fried Chicken the cartoons also adopted the name Hector, though the "Henry" title card accidentally (?) remained unchanged.
In Buzzy and Katnip, Katnip also had his share of running battles with Buzzy, a singing black crow in a flat straw hat, who spoke in stereotypical "black dialect" and had a voice reminiscent of Eddie Anderson, who played Rochester the valet on Jack Benny's program. Katnip's battle with Buzzy was usually based on Katnip trying to kick an ailment. He would read a rhyming verse from a medical book that suggested crow meat as the sure cure. Once confronted by Katnip, however, Buzzy would propose another solution, to which the cat usually replied, "Hmmmm, that sounds logical," but these solutions usually "failed" at the expense of Katnip, who would finally lose his patience and say, "This time, I'm doing what the book says!"
Buzzy the Crow was introduced in the 1946 Paramount cartoon, produced by Famous Studios, The Stupidstitious Cat. Buzzy's mannerisms and voice were based on what are now considered the offensive stereotypes of African-Americans of the time. Jackson Beck voiced Buzzy.
There were censorship issues related to Buzzy as a black stereotype with the same idea as Dumbo's Jim Crow. On Casper and Friends, Buzzy's voice is redubbed, similar that of Mammy Two-Shoes on their better-known MGM counterpart, Tom and Jerry.
Buzzy also frequently appeared in Harvey Comics' Baby Huey comic books in the 1960s and 1970s, in a rivalry with a cat resembling Katnip but of a different color. Sometimes this cat was named Katsy Cat.
Many "Herman and Henry" and Herman solo shorts are released on public domain videocassettes and DVDs. Some prints have the U.M.&.M or NTA logo at the start and end, masking the old Paramount titles. However the UCLA Film and TV archive restored these shorts to their original Paramount titles.
In 2011, Classic Media issued Herman and Katnip: The Complete Series, a DVD collecting all of Herman and Katnip's appearances together. Also included were two Katnip solo shorts, Feast and Furious and City Kitty. The cartoons were presented in shortened TV prints, with abbreviated opening titles, no end titles, and (in the case of Drinks in the Mouse) some censorship.
Prints of Mice Meeting You and Mice Paradise bear the "Featuring Herman" card as seen on Herman's solo shorts.
Herman and Katnip received bad criticism because of violence and racism (worse than Tom and Jerry standards). Sometimes Katnip is in Blackface after being exploded in such shorts as Better Bait Then Never, Of Mice and Menace, and Sky Skrappers but is left alone on TV.
- List of Herman and Katnip cartoons
- Tom and Jerry
- List of Tom and Jerry cartoons
- Itchy and Scratchy
- Squeak the Mouse
- Sylvester the Cat
- The Ant and the Aardvark
- Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks
- Motormouse and Autocat
- Mighty Mouse/Supermouse
- Punkin' Puss and Mushmouse
- Sampson, Henry T. (1998). That's enough, folks: Black images in animated cartoons, 1900-1960. Scarecrow Press. p. 72 ff. ISBN 978-0-8108-3250-3.
- Cohen, Karl F. (2004). Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons And Blacklisted Animators in America. McFarland & Company. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7864-2032-2.