Tom's expert piano playing was based on the animators studying the fingers of great cartoon composer Scott Bradley playing Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody #2."
Although the pianist who actually recorded the music is uncredited, it has been surmised the piano part was played by Shura Cherkassky. Some also attribute the piano to Jakob Gimpel (who did, in fact, play the same piece in Warner Bros. Rhapsody Rabbit), but his son does not believe it possible to be his father.
There was- and is, to this day- a mysterious and unresolved controversy regarding this cartoon, and Warner Bros' Rhapsody Rabbit. Both shorts were released in 1946, both used the same music, many of the same gags, and both had nearly identical plots. Even the stage in both cartoons looks strikingly similar. And when two studios release nearly identical films within months of each other, both studios instantly and loudly began accusing the other of plagiarism.
One theory for how both studios fell upon the same story was the possibility that Technicolor accidentally (or mischievously!) sent a print of one film to the rival studio, where the plot was copied. It has also been theorized that one of the studios was involved in some serious espionage. Or the simplest of all theories: that both studios just came up with a good idea at the same time. It has happened since; Pixars' A Bugs Life and DreamWorks' Antz from 1998 are a good example of similar themes from competing studios.
Of all the theories, the one that seems to make the most sense is the one put forth by the son of the pianist of the Warner Bros. cartoon. According to Peter Gimpel, his father may have mentioned in passing to rival pianist Shura Cherkassky that he was working on a cartoon at Warner Bros. involving Franz Lizst's 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody. Cherkassky, a consummate practical joker, may have just mentioned using the same song as a possible Tom And Jerry plot to his friends at MGM, and angled himself in to the job as pianist for the cartoon. Certainly, both Cherkassky and Gimpel knew each other well during this period, and they are the only concrete link at the rival studios between people who would have known the details- and could have told each other.
We will never know the true story of how the same story, with the same gags, and the same score was procuced by two rival studios in 1947. Oh, and for what its worth, MGM ended up winning that year... Bugs Bunny would wait another ten years for his gold statue.
Songs: "Credits" (Frédéric Chopin-arr. Scott Bradley), "The Cat's Concerto" (Franz Liszt (arr. Scott Bradley), "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe" (Harry Warren-Johnny Mercer)
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