The Midnight Snack is a 1941 one-reel animated cartoon and is the 2nd Tom and Jerry short, produced in Technicolor and released to theatres on July 19, 1941 by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. It was produced by Fred Quimby and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, with musical supervision by Scott Bradley. This cartoon featured the second appearance of Tom and Jerry, and was the first in which the characters were named. The first cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot had the cat named Jasper, and a mouse named Jinx. The Midnight Snack also features the black housemaid Mammy Two-Shoes, voiced by Lillian Randolph, and typically ends in destruction and Tom being kicked out of the house.
The cartoon takes place in a kitchen. The clock on the wall is blurred, but it can be seen that it is midnight. Jerry pokes his head out of the refrigerator door and steals some cheese, using a celery stick to bridge back to the countertop. Jerry looks out through the holes in the cheese and then begins carrying it across the counter as Tom pokes his head up with a malevolent grin.
The camera cuts to Jerry carrying the cheese (which weighs several times as much as he does) and then we see Tom strolling along behind him. Jerry senses someone behind him, but Tom grabs a lampshade and disguises himself as a lamp; Jerry, unable to see the exposed lightbulb because of the girth of the cheese, shrugs it off and continues carrying the cheese. Jerry soon begins struggling with the cheese and Tom, lampshade on his head as a precaution, soon begins to make it tougher: He piles dishes of all sorts on top of the cheese and finally tops it off with an egg. Jerry can no longer see in front of him, so he does not notice that Tom has stacked bread slices into stairs and baited the end of it with a rolling pin. Jerry walks up the stairs and soon steps on the rolling pin, which causes him to fall within a few seconds; the dishes scatter while he pokes his head out of the cheese and promptly gets pelted with the falling egg. Jerry shadow-punches to get the egg off, and Tom emerges from his hiding place with a smug face. Jerry "salutes" the cat and returns the slice of cheese to the refrigerator, breaking the celery stick on the way. He then proceeds to steal just a tiny bit of cheese, but Tom stomps on his tail with one of his hind paws and replaces the cheese. However, the cat gets a finger in a bowl and realizes that he has the free run of the refrigerator, so he places an iron on top of Jerry's tail and raids the refrigerator. Jerry frees himself, but is soon caught by Tom and returns himself to his prison. Tom then spoons out some jiggling Jell-O and eats it, causing his entire body to shake and Jerry to snigger. Tom then presents Jerry with the wedge of cheese and Jerry attempts to run at it, but is repeatedly restricted by the iron on his tail. Tom then proceeds to allow Jerry to lick some cream off a few donuts, and then the mouse gets sprayed with the rest of it, plus a cherry for good measure. Tom then smells the food in his hand and prepares to eat it, but soon sees that it is the wedge of cheese to his nose's displeasure and tosses it away. Unfortunately, the cheese smashes some crockery. Mammy Two Shoes hears this, and charges downstairs to confront the cat. Tom acts quickly, and shoves Jerry into the refrigerator and hides, effectively framing Jerry.
The housemaid screams in fright, and calls for Tom, who emerges from his hiding place to pursue Jerry. In the midst of the chase, he gets tied up around the stool that Mammy is standing on to escape the mouse, knocking the stool over in the process. Mammy exits the room because "this is no place for a lady!"
Tom surprises Jerry behind a pedal bin, but Jerry tricks Tom into looking over the bin and jumps on the pedal, sending the bin crashing into Tom's face. Jerry accidentally jumps into the toaster and Tom calmly pushes down the lever. Jerry pops up, his bottom smoking, and places his rear end in a sinkful of water, only to be chased again by Tom. He climbs up a blind and onto a high-rise counter, but soon stops when he runs out of room, with Tom just below him, ready to pounce. Tom obliges, but loses his grip and gets his tail caught up in an ironing board, facing the refrigerator. Jerry climbs down the blind, picks up a fork with his tail, and strolls confidently towards the cat. Tom looks at the open refrigerator and gulps with dread as Jerry stabs him in the rear. The cat meows in pain, then is sent down the ironing board, into the sink, breaking the clean/dirty dishes, onto a grater, and straight into the fridge, just as Jerry had planned. Mammy re-enters the room, on the mistaken assumption that Tom has caught and disposed of Jerry. She opens the refrigerator door to get Tom a nice big bowl of delicious cream, only to find Tom in the refrigerator, covered in food. We cut to Jerry overhearing Mammy screaming at Tom and kicking the cat out of the house (again), meanwhile devouring his wedge of cheese.
The Midnight Snack was the second Tom and Jerry cartoon to be released, after Puss Gets The Boot in 1940. Puss Gets The Boot was released to relatively little fanfare and William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were not given the go-ahead to create any more cat and mouse cartoons. However, the owner of the Loew's theater chain in Dallas, Texas inquired as to whether there would be any more cat and mouse cartoons, having greatly enjoyed Puss Gets The Boot. This, together with the cartoon getting an Oscar nomination, resulted in MGM giving Hanna and Barbera the green light to create a further two Tom and Jerry cartoons. The Midnight Snack became the second Tom and Jerry cartoon, with The Night Before Christmas later that year. The latter received another Academy Award nomination, and it would not be until 1943 with The Yankee Doodle Mouse that the dueling duo would win their first of seven Oscars.