In its original run, Hanna and Barbera produced 114 Tom and Jerry shorts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1940 to 1958. During this time, they won seven Academy Awards for Animated Short Film, tying for first place with Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies with the most awards in the category. After the MGM cartoon studio closed in 1957, MGM revived the series with Gene Deitch directing an additional 13 Tom and Jerry shorts for Rembrandt Films from 1961 to 1962. Tom and Jerry then became the highest-grossing animated short film series of that time, overtaking Looney Tunes. Chuck Jones then produced another 34 shorts with Sib Tower 12 Productions between 1963 and 1967. Three more shorts were produced, The Mansion Cat in 2001, The Karate Guard in 2005, and A Fundraising Adventure in 2014, making a total of 164 shorts. Various shorts have been released for home media since the 1990s.
A number of spin-offs have been made, including the television series The Tom and Jerry Show (1975), The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show (1980–82), Tom and Jerry Kids (1990–93), Tom and Jerry Tales (2006–08), and The Tom and Jerry Show (2014–present). The first feature-length film based on the series, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, was released in 1992, and 13 direct-to-video films have been produced since 2002.
The series features comic fights between an iconic set of adversaries, a house cat (Tom) and a mouse (Jerry). The plots of each short usually center on Tom's numerous attempts to capture Jerry and the mayhem and destruction that follows. Tom rarely succeeds in catching Jerry, mainly because of Jerry's cleverness, cunning abilities, and luck. However, there are also several instances within the cartoons where they display genuine friendship and concern for each other's well-being. At other times, the pair set aside their rivalry in order to pursue a common goal, such as when a baby escaped the watch of a negligent babysitter, causing Tom and Jerry to pursue the baby and keep it away from danger.
The cartoons are known for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised in theatrical animation such as Tom using everything from axes, hammers, firearms, firecrackers, explosives, traps and poison to kill Jerry. On the other hand, Jerry's methods of retaliation are far more violent due to their frequent success, including slicing Tom in half, decapitating him, shutting his head or fingers in a window or a door, stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron or a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, getting him electrocuted, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, letting a tree or electric pole drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, tying him to a firework and setting it off, and so on. Because of this, Tom and Jerry has often been criticized as excessively violent. Despite the frequent violence, there is no blood or gore in any scene.:42:134
Music plays a very important part in the shorts, emphasizing the action, filling in for traditional sound effects, and lending emotion to the scenes. Musical director Scott Bradley created complex scores that combined elements of jazz, classical, and pop music; Bradley often reprised contemporary pop songs, as well as songs from MGM films, including The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St. Louis, which both starred Judy Garland in a leading role.