Released theatrically January 1, 1955.
Director: Friz Freleng
Music: Milt Franklyn
Story: Warren Foster
Voices: Mel Blanc (Mr. Jones), Marian Richman (Mrs. Jones), Norman Nesbitt (Narrator).
The story is a charming twist on the cat and mouse story. The narrator explains that there is a mouse about the Jones' house that loves to play the piano - jazz, as it were. However, he is always being stalked by the house cat and never can enjoy his playing - that is, until the Joneses overhear the music and decide to investigate. The mouse agrees to play inside the piano and make it look like the cat is playing, and soon the cat becomes a huge sensation.
"Incredible!" "Colossal!" "Magnificent!" the newspapers cry. The cat is even invited to play the celebrated Carnegie Hall. He brings along his stooge mouse, but just before the curtains draw, the mouse breaks his glasses, rendering him unable to perform. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and he returns to a life of ignominy, mouse in tow.
But! The cat instead learns to play the drums and the duo become a lovely combo, content to remain anonymous stars in the Jones house.
Odds And Ends
- Though most of the short numbers and riffs played within the short are originals by Milt Franklyn and the Warner Bros. orchestra, the most famous piece within it is Chopin's Minute Waltz.
- Shorts such as The Pizzicato Pussycat, with very little talking and mostly physical and musical humor, were created for a particular reason - Mel Blanc had demanded and gotten a one-month extended vacation every December. This also explains why Nesbitt was hired to narrate the short.
By 1955, Hanna-Barbera, Walt Disney, and Warner Bros. were in direct competition with each other on an almost daily basis. The highlight of Hanna-Barbera was, of course, Tom and Jerry, and this cartoon is no doubt in some way a gentle nudge at that franchise. In fact, the general idea of the cat and mouse and their musical entanglement had already been covered with much success by the masters themselves, in the 1946 Oscar-winning short The Cat Concerto. (See also Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl and Johann Mouse.)
By far the best scenes are watching the unnamed cat pantomime to the complicated tunes the mouse conjures up inside the piano. He hams it up to the fullest extent, and never misses a beat in the tightly-directed film.
The film fails, however, at eliciting any real side-splitting laughs from the audience, choosing to let the high concept of the bait-and-switch serve as a 7-minute punchline all to itself. This is one of those shorts that truly emphasizes the differences between the restrained master Freleng and his screwy co-worker Chuck Jones. None of the lunacy and absurdity that has come to personify the Looney Tunes franchise exists here; instead, we get an elegant but muted short, low on laughs but high on flavor.