MGM Animation/Visual Arts was an American animation studio established in 1962 by animation director/producer Chuck Jones and producer Les Goldman as Sib Tower 12 Productions. It is noted for productions such as the last series of Tom and Jerry theatrical shorts, the TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and the feature film The Phanton Tollbooth, all released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
The studio began with the contracting of a small firm named "SIB Productions" which previously had subcontracted the Rod Rocket syndicated cartoon to Filmation. Producer Lou Scheimer and director Hal Sutherland left the studio to eventually build Filmation into its own independent production studio. (The logos of SIB Productions, Sib-Tower 12, Inc., and the pre-1982 logo of Filmation all bear a downwards pointing chevron).
When Chuck Jones was fired from Warner Bros. Cartoons, where he had served for over 30 years, directing the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, SIB Productions (renamed Sib Tower 12) received a contract from MGM to produce a new series of Tom and Jerry cartoons, with a number of animators who had worked under Jones during his Warner Bros. career following him to Sib Tower 12, notably Michael Maltese and Mel Blanc. These shorts proved successful, and MGM purchased the Sib Tower 12 studio and renamed it MGM Animation/Visual Arts in 1964. This studio continued with Jones' Tom and Jerry shorts until 1967, after a total of 34 cartoons.
In addition to the Tom and Jerry cartoons, Jones worked on two one-shot theatrical shorts. The first, The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathmatics (1965), was an abstract piece based upon a children's book by Norton Juster. It won the 1965 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. In 1967, Jones collaborated with fellow Warner Bros. alumnus Frank Tashlin on The Bear That Wasn't, an adaptation of Tashlin's 1943 children's book about a bear whom no one believes is actually a bear.
The studio also turned to television, producing three highly acclaimed TV specials. The first was a 1966 adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which has become a mainstay of the holiday season. In 1969, Jones became the first to adapt Walt Kelly's Pogo to animation, creating The Pogo Special Birthday Special. The third was another Seuss adaptation, Horton Hears a Who!, which first aired in 1970.
The studio's most ambitious work was its 1970 feature film The Phantom Tollbooth, adapted from another Norton Juster book.
MGM stopped releasing theatrical animated shorts in 1968. MGM closed the animation studio entirely in 1970, and virtually all of the staff followed Jones to his new ventures which were television programs for ABC, and TV specials under the name Chuck Jones Enterprises.
The MGM Animation/Visual Arts library, along with the rest of the pre-1986 MGM library, was bought by Turner Entertainment in 1986. Turner merged with Time Warner in 1996, so now Warner Bros. controls all distribution rights to the MGM Animation/Visual Arts library – an ironic twist, to say the least, given that WB's firing of Chuck Jones helped keep MGM in the animation business through 1970. All of the Tom and Jerry cartoons produced by MGM A/VA were released in a box set in June 2009. Moreover, The Dot and the Line and The Bear That Wasn't have been released as bonus features on other DVDs. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has also enjoyed many home video incarnations with DVDs containing Horton Hears a Who! as a bonus feature (in turn, it was released as a solo release with other Dr. Seuss specials in March 2008).
Theatrical cartoon shortsEdit
- Tom and Jerry series* (1963–1967)
- The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathmetics** (1965)
- The Bear That Wasn't** (1967)
(*) series of 34 shorts
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
- The Pogo Birthday Special (1969)
- Horton Hears a Who! (1970)
- The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)