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The Man Behind the First Tom & Jerry

A decade before Van Beuren’s Mutt & Jeff-like rubber-hose human pair, and many decades before Hanna-Barbera’s Oscar-winning cat and mouse, a comical duo named Tom and Jerry created mischief on movie screens in animated theatrical short subjects that have long been forgotten—and are perhaps lost for all time.

In the image above, Tom is the man and Jerry is the mule. This was a stop-motion Tom and Jerry series, filmed in Los Angeles in the 1920’s, modeled and animated by Joseph Leeland Roop, a stop-motion pioneer who today is just as forgotten as the films themselves. Lee Roop, his grandson, is presently preparing a book about the animator and provided Cartoon Brew with tantalizing information about the original Tom & Jerry films.

Lee says J.L. Roop worked on twelve shorts for producer Lloyd C. Haynes, released between 1923-1924. All are (as of this writing) lost films. If anyone has any clues to their whereabouts, please contact us. The titles are:

The Incomparable Aerial Comedians in Fly-Time by H. C. Matthews
The Amiable Comedians in Throbs and Thrills (“A Snappy Railroad Comedy Drama”) by H. C. Matthews
Gasoline Trail by Bumps Adams
Tom’s First Fliver by Bumps Adams
Tom Turns Sleuth by Doris E. Kemper
Tom Turns Farmer by Doris E. Kemper
Tom’s Charm by Marshall Roop
Moonshine Frolic by Glen Lambert
Tom Turns Hero by Doris E. Kemper
The Jungle of Prehistoric Animals by G. E. Baily Ph. D.
The Hypnotist
Tom Goes on Vacation

Lee Roop provided this biographical information:

Joseph Leeland Roop was born in Kentucky on December 22, 1869 and died on December 22, 1932 in Glendale California. He was a sculptor most of his life and his work can be found in Indiana, Kentucky, and California.

When he died he was working for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and made most of the Early California History miniature dioramas which most are still on display. He also started and almost finished some of the statues at the Page Museum in Los Angeles (The La Brea Tar Pits) but died before he finished them and Herman Beck finished them and got the credit. You can find the picture of the saber tooth tiger on the internet.

He worked on the 1925 version of The Lost World making and animating some of the dinosaur scenes. His picture is on the Ray Harryhausen website as a early pioneer. He worked on the 1926 version The Gorilla Hunt, making the gorilla model and animating the scenes. He carved a fourteen foot wooden indian which is still in San Bernardino.

Lee sent three images (thumbnails below – click to see larger image). 1. a trade advertisement for the Tom & Jerry series, 2. An article from the May 1924 Popular Mechanics magazine, 3. Second page of P.M. article:

This is the kind of stuff I crave, new information on the unsung pioneers of animation history. Mr. Roop will keep me informed on the progress of his book – and I thank him for sending us this little preview.