Felix the Cat

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Felix the Cat
Felix the cat.svg
Felix in his current design
First appearance Feline Follies (1919)
Created by Pat Sullivan
Otto Messmer
Voiced by Walter Tetley (1936)
Jack Mercer (1958–1961)
David Kolin (1988)
Thom Adcox-Hernandez (1995–1996)
Charlie Adler (1996–1997)
Yumi Tōma (baby; Japanese)
Toshihiko Seki (Japanese)
Don Oriolo ( Baby Felix )
Denise Nejame (baby; Baby Felix)
Dave Coulier (2004)
FamilyInky and Winky (nephews)

Felix the Cat is a funny-animal cartoon character created in the silent film era. The anthropomorphic black cat with his black body, white eyes, and giant grin, coupled with the surrealism of the situations in which his cartoons place him, combine to make Felix one of the most recognized cartoon characters in film history. Felix was the first character from animation to attain a level of popularity sufficient to draw movie audiences. [1] [2]

Cartoon form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art

A cartoon is a type of illustration, possibly animated, typically in a non-realistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to either: an image or series of images intended for satire, caricature, or humor; or a motion picture that relies on a sequence of illustrations for its animation. Someone who creates cartoons in the first sense is called a cartoonist, and in the second sense they are usually called an animator.

A character is a person or other being in a narrative. The character may be entirely fictional or based on a real-life person, in which case the distinction of a "fictional" versus "real" character may be made. Derived from the ancient Greek word χαρακτήρ, the English word dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of "a part played by an actor" developed. Character, particularly when enacted by an actor in the theatre or cinema, involves "the illusion of being a human person". In literature, characters guide readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes. Since the end of the 18th century, the phrase "in character" has been used to describe an effective impersonation by an actor. Since the 19th century, the art of creating characters, as practiced by actors or writers, has been called characterisation.

Silent film film with no synchronized recorded dialogue

A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound. In silent films for entertainment, the plot may be conveyed by the use of title cards, written indications of the plot and key dialogue lines. The idea of combining motion pictures with recorded sound is nearly as old as film itself, but because of the technical challenges involved, the introduction of synchronized dialogue became practical only in the late 1920s with the perfection of the Audion amplifier tube and the advent of the Vitaphone system. During the silent-film era that existed from the mid-1890s to the late 1920s, a pianist, theater organist—or even, in large cities, a small orchestra—would often play music to accompany the films. Pianists and organists would play either from sheet music, or improvisation.


Felix's origins remain disputed. Australian cartoonist/film entrepreneur Pat Sullivan, owner of the Felix character, claimed during his lifetime to be its creator. American animator Otto Messmer, Sullivan's lead animator, has also been credited as such. [3] What is certain is that Felix emerged from Sullivan's studio, and cartoons featuring the character enjoyed success and popularity in the popular culture. Aside from the animated shorts, Felix starred in a comic strip (drawn by Sullivan, Messmer and later Joe Oriolo) beginning in 1923, [4] and his image soon adorned merchandise such as ceramics, toys and postcards. Several manufacturers made stuffed Felix toys. Jazz bands such as Paul Whiteman's played songs about him (1923's "Felix Kept On Walking" and others).

Cartoonist visual artist who makes cartoons

A cartoonist is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is often created for entertainment, political commentary, or advertising. Cartoonists may work in many formats, such as booklets, comic strips, comic books, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, manuals, gag cartoons, graphic design, illustrations, storyboards, posters, shirts, books, advertisements, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and video game packaging.

Film industry technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking

The film industry or motion picture industry, comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking, i.e., film production companies, film studios, cinematography, animation, film production, screenwriting, pre-production, post production, film festivals, distribution and actors, film directors and other film crew personnel. Though the expense involved in making films almost immediately led film production to concentrate under the auspices of standing production companies, advances in affordable film making equipment, and expansion of opportunities to acquire investment capital from outside the film industry itself, have allowed independent film production to evolve.

Pat Sullivan (film producer) Australian-American cartoonist, pioneer animator, and film producer

Patrick Peter "Pat" Sullivan was an Australian-American cartoonist, pioneer animator, and film producer best known for producing the first Felix the Cat silent cartoons.

By the late 1920s, with the arrival of sound cartoons, Felix's success was fading. The new Disney shorts of Mickey Mouse made the silent offerings of Sullivan and Messmer, who were then unwilling to move to sound production, seem outdated. In 1929, Sullivan decided to make the transition and began distributing Felix sound cartoons through Copley Pictures. The sound Felix shorts proved to be a failure and the operation ended in 1932. Felix saw a brief three-cartoon resurrection in 1936 by the Van Beuren Studios.

Sound film motion picture with synchronized sound

A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of projected sound films took place in Paris in 1900, but decades passed before sound motion pictures were made commercially practical. Reliable synchronization was difficult to achieve with the early sound-on-disc systems, and amplification and recording quality were also inadequate. Innovations in sound-on-film led to the first commercial screening of short motion pictures using the technology, which took place in 1923.

Mickey Mouse Disney cartoon character

Mickey Mouse is a funny animal cartoon character and the mascot of The Walt Disney Company. He was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at the Walt Disney Studios in 1928. An anthropomorphic mouse who typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves, Mickey is one of the world's most recognizable characters.

Van Beuren Studios was a New York City-based animation studio that produced theatrical cartoons from the 1920s to 1937.

Felix cartoons began airing on American TV in 1953. Joe Oriolo introduced a redesigned, "long-legged" Felix, added new characters, and gave Felix a "Magic Bag of Tricks" that could assume an infinite variety of shapes at Felix's behest. The cat has since starred in other television programs and in two feature films. As of the 2010s, Felix is featured on a variety of merchandise from clothing to toys. Joe's son Don later assumed creative control of Felix.

Joseph "Joe" Oriolo was an American cartoon animator, writer, director and producer, known as the co-creator of Casper the Friendly Ghost and the creator of the Felix the Cat TV series.

A feature film or theatrical film is a film with a running time long enough to be considered the principal or sole film to fill a program. The term feature film originally referred to the main, full-length film in a cinema program that also included a short film and often a newsreel. The notion of how long a feature film should be has varied according to time and place. According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute, a feature film runs for at least 45 minutes, while the Screen Actors Guild asserts that a feature's running time is 75 minutes or longer.

In 2002, TV Guide ranked Felix the Cat number 28 on its "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time" list. [5]

<i>TV Guide</i> American bi-weekly magazine

TV Guide is a bi-weekly American magazine that provides television program listings information as well as television-related news, celebrity interviews and gossip, film reviews, crossword puzzles, and, in some issues, horoscopes. The print magazine is owned by NTVB Media, while its digital properties are controlled by the CBS Interactive division of CBS Corporation; the TV Guide name and associated editorial content from the publication are licensed by CBS Interactive for use on the website and mobile app through an agreement with the magazine's parent subsidiary TVGM Holdings, Inc.

In 2014, the rights to the character belonged to Joe Oriolo's son Don Oriolo. They were acquired by DreamWorks Animation, which is now part of Comcast's NBCUniversal division. [6]

Don Oriolo is an artist, musician, and writer best known for his work in the music publishing industry and for overseeing the Felix the Cat cartoon franchise after his father, Felix co-creator Joe Oriolo, died in 1985. Don Oriolo also owns and operates the Oriolo Guitar Company, a guitar, bass, and ukulele manufacture company whose products often feature Felix and other Oriolo-designed artwork. Oriolo has also authored a number of books featuring his paintings of Felix the Cat, whom he describes as his creative muse. Some of his music publishing credentials include writing Jon Bon Jovi's first charted track, as well as signing Meat Loaf and Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam.

DreamWorks Animation American animation studio

DreamWorks Animation LLC is an American animation studio that is a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of Comcast through its wholly owned subsidiary NBCUniversal. It is based in Glendale, California and produces animated feature films, television programs and online virtual games. The studio has currently released a total of 36 feature films, including ones from the Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, The Croods, Trolls and The Boss Baby franchises. Originally formed under the banner of its main DreamWorks studio in 1994 by some of Amblin Entertainment's former animation branch Amblimation alumni, it was spun off into a separate public company in 2004. DreamWorks Animation currently maintains its Glendale campus, as well as satellite studios in India and China. On August 22, 2016, NBCUniversal acquired DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion, making it a division of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group as an acquisition for the animation studio.

Comcast American mass media company

Comcast Corporation is an American telecommunications conglomerate headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the second-largest broadcasting and cable television company in the world by revenue and the largest pay-TV company, the largest cable TV company and largest home Internet service provider in the United States, and the nation's third-largest home telephone service provider. Comcast services U.S. residential and commercial customers in 40 states and in the District of Columbia. As the owner of the international media company NBCUniversal since 2011, Comcast is a producer of feature films and television programs intended for theatrical exhibition and over-the-air and cable television broadcast, respectively.


Feline Follies by Pat Sullivan, silent, 1919. Length 4min44s, 501 kbit/s
A scene of Felix "laughing" from Felix in Hollywood (1923) Felix-laff.jpg
A scene of Felix "laughing" from Felix in Hollywood (1923)
Pat Sullivan's work Felix-sullivan.jpg
Pat Sullivan's work
Felix and Charlie Chaplin share the screen in a memorable moment from Felix in Hollywood (1923). Felix-chaplin.jpg
Felix and Charlie Chaplin share the screen in a memorable moment from Felix in Hollywood (1923).
The famous "Felix pace" as seen in Oceantics (1930) Felix-pace.jpg
The famous "Felix pace" as seen in Oceantics (1930)
Felix in the color cartoon Felix the Cat and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg (1936) Felix tgtltge 01.jpg
Felix in the color cartoon Felix the Cat and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg (1936)

On November 9, 1919, Master Tom, a prototype of Felix, debuted in a Paramount Pictures short entitled Feline Follies. [7] Produced by the New York City-based animation studio owned by Pat Sullivan, the cartoon was directed by cartoonist and animator Otto Messmer. It was a success, and the Sullivan studio quickly set to work on producing another film featuring Master Tom, the Felix the Cat prototype in Musical Mews (released November 16, 1919). It too proved to be successful with audiences. Otto Messmer claimed that John King of Paramount Magazine suggested the name "Felix", after the Latin words felis (cat) and felix (happy). The name was first used for the third film starring the character, The Adventures of Felix (released on December 14, 1919). Pat Sullivan claimed he named Felix after Australia Felix from Australian history and literature. In 1924, animator Bill Nolan redesigned the character, making him both rounder and cuter. Felix's new looks, coupled with Messmer's character animation, brought Felix to gain a higher profile. [8]

The question of who created Felix remains a matter of dispute. Sullivan stated in numerous newspaper interviews that he created Felix and did the key drawings for the character. On a visit to Australia in 1925, Sullivan told The Argus newspaper that "[t]he idea was given to me by the sight of a cat which my wife brought to the studio one day". [9] On other occasions, he claimed that Felix had been inspired by Rudyard Kipling's "The Cat that Walked by Himself" or by his wife's love for strays. [8] Members of the Australian Cartoonist Association have claimed that lettering used in Feline Follies matches Sullivan's handwriting [10] and that Sullivan lettered within his drawings. [10] In addition in the cartoon 'Feline Follies' at roughly the 4:00 mark of the cartoon the words 'Lo Mum' are used in a speech bubble by one of the kittens. A term for mother not used by Americans but certainly by Australians. Yet Messmer claimed to have singlehandly drawn Feline Follies from home raising questions as to why Messmer, an American would use the term 'Mum' in a cartoon he solely drew himself. Sullivan's supporters also say the case is supported by his March 18, 1917, release of a cartoon short entitled The Tail of Thomas Kat more than two years prior to Feline Follies. Both an Australian ABC-TV documentary screened in 2004 [11] and the curators of an exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales in 2005 suggested that Thomas Kat was a prototype or precursor of Felix. However, few details of Thomas have survived. His fur color has not been definitively established, and the surviving copyright synopsis[ citation needed ] for the short suggests significant differences between Thomas and the later Felix. For example, whereas the later Felix magically transforms his tail into tools and other objects, Thomas is a non-anthropomorphized cat who loses his tail in a fight with a rooster, never to recover it.

Sullivan was the studio proprietor andas is the case with almost all film entrepreneurshe owned the copyright to any creative work by his employees. In common with many animators at the time, Messmer was not credited. After Sullivan's death in 1933, his estate in Australia took ownership of the character.

It was not until after Sullivan's death that Sullivan staffers such as Hal Walker, Al Eugster, Gerry Geronimi, Rudy Zamora, George Cannata, and Sullivan's own lawyer, Harry Kopp, credited Messmer with Felix's creation. They claimed that Felix was based on an animated Charlie Chaplin that Messmer had animated for Sullivan's studio earlier on. The down-and-out personality and movements of the cat in Feline Follies reflect key attributes of Chaplin's, and, although blockier than the later Felix, the familiar black body is already there (Messmer found solid shapes easier to animate). Messmer himself recalled his version of the cat's creation in an interview with animation historian John Canemaker:

Sullivan's studio was very busy, and Paramount, they were falling behind their schedule and they needed one extra to fill in. And Sullivan, being very busy, said, "If you want to do it on the side, you can do any little thing to satisfy them." So I figured a cat would be about the simplest. Make him all black, you knowyou wouldn't need to worry about outlines. And one gag after the other, you know? Cute. And they all got laughs. So Paramount liked it so they ordered a series.

Animation historians back Messmer's claims. Among them are Michael Barrier, Jerry Beck, Colin and Timothy Cowles, Donald Crafton, David Gerstein, Milt Gray, Mark Kausler, Leonard Maltin, and Charles Solomon. [12] No animation historians outside of Australia have argued on behalf of Sullivan.

Sullivan marketed the cat relentlessly while Messmer continued to produce a prodigious volume of Felix cartoons. Messmer did the animation directly on white paper with inkers tracing the drawings directly. The animators drew backgrounds onto pieces of celluloid, which were then laid atop the drawings to be photographed. Any perspective work had to be animated by hand, as the studio cameras were unable to perform pans or trucks.

Popularity and distribution

Paramount Pictures distributed the earliest films from 1919 to 1921. Margaret J. Winkler distributed the shorts from 1922 to 1925, the year when Educational Pictures took over the distribution of the shorts. Sullivan promised them one new Felix short every two weeks. [13] The combination of solid animation, skillful promotion, and widespread distribution brought Felix's popularity to new heights. [14]

References to alcoholism and Prohibition were also commonplace in many of the Felix shorts, particularly Felix Finds Out (1924), Whys and Other Whys (1927), and Felix Woos Whoopee (1930), to name a few. In Felix Dopes It Out (1924), Felix tries to help his hobo friend who is plagued with a red nose. By the end of the short, the cat finds the cure for the condition: "Keep drinking, and it'll turn blue".

In addition, the cat was one of the first images ever broadcast by television when RCA chose a Felix doll for a 1928 NBC experiment in New York's Van Cortlandt Park. The papier-mâché (later Bakelite) doll was chosen for its tonal contrast and its ability to withstand the intense lights needed. It was placed on a rotating phonograph turntable and photographed for approximately two hours each day; as a result, Felix is considered by some to be the world's first TV star. After a one-time payoff to Sullivan, the doll remained on the turntable for nearly a decade as RCA fine-tuned the picture's definition. [15]

Felix's great success also spawned a host of imitators. The appearances and personalities of other 1920s feline stars such as Julius of Walt Disney's Alice Comedies , Waffles of Paul Terry's Aesop's Film Fables , and especially Bill Nolan's 1925 adaptation of Krazy Kat (distributed by the eschewed Winkler) all seem to have been directly patterned after Felix. [16] This influence also extended outside the United States, serving as inspiration for Suihō Tagawa in the creation of his character Norakuro, a dog with black fur.

Felix's cartoons were also popular among critics. They have been cited as imaginative examples of surrealism in filmmaking. Felix has been said to represent a child's sense of wonder, creating the fantastic when it is not there, and taking it in stride when it is. His famous pacehands behind his back, head down, deep in thoughtbecame a trademark that has been analyzed by critics around the world. [17] Felix's expressive tail, which could be a shovel one moment, an exclamation mark or pencil the next, serves to emphasize that anything can happen in his world. [18] Aldous Huxley wrote that the Felix shorts proved that "[w]hat the cinema can do better than literature or the spoken drama is to be fantastic". [14]

By 1923, the character was at the peak of his film career. Felix in Hollywood , a short released during that year, plays upon Felix's popularity, as he becomes acquainted with such fellow celebrities as Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, and even censor Will H. Hays. His image could be seen on clocks (not to be confused with the Kit-Cat Klock) and Christmas ornaments. Felix also became the subject of several popular songs of the day, such as "Felix Kept Walking" by Paul Whiteman. Sullivan made an estimated $100,000 a year from toy licensing alone. [14] With the character's success also emerged a handful of new costars. These included Felix's master Willie Jones, a mouse named Skiddoo, Felix's nephews Inky, Dinky, and Winky, and his girlfriend Kitty. Felix the Cat sheet music, with music by Pete Wendling and Max Kortlander and featuring lyrics by Alfred Bryan, was published in 1928 by Sam Fox Publishing Company. The cover art of Felix playing a banjo was done by Otto Messmer [19]

Most of the early Felix cartoons mirrored American attitudes of the "Roaring Twenties". Ethnic stereotypes appeared in such shorts as Felix Goes Hungry (1924). Recent events such as the Russian Civil War were depicted in shorts like Felix All Puzzled (1924). Flappers were caricatured in Felix Strikes It Rich (1923). He also became involved in union organizing with Felix Revolts (also 1923). In some shorts, Felix even performed a rendition of the Charleston.

In 1928, Educational ceased releasing the Felix cartoons, and several were reissued by First National Pictures. Copley Pictures distributed them from 1929 to 1930. There was a brief three-cartoon resurrection in 1936 by the Van Beuren Studios (Felix the Cat and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg, Neptune Nonsense, and Bold King Cole). Sullivan did most of the marketing for the character in the 1920s. In these Van Beuren Studios shorts, Felix spoke and sang in a high-pitched, childlike voice provided by Walter Tetley, a popular radio actor in the 1930s and 1940s ("Julius" on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show , and "Leroy" on The Great Gildersleeve , but best known later in the 1960s as the voice of Sherman on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show 's Mister Peabody segments.[ citation needed ]

Felix as mascot and pop culture icon

The U.S. Navy insignia for the VF-31 squadron from 1948 Felix VF-31 logo.svg
The U.S. Navy insignia for the VF-31 squadron from 1948

Given the character's unprecedented popularity and the fact that his name was partially derived from the Latin word for "happy", some rather notable individuals and organizations adopted Felix as a mascot. The first of these was a Los Angeles Chevrolet dealer and friend of Pat Sullivan named Winslow B. Felix, who first opened his showroom in 1921. The three-sided neon sign of Felix Chevrolet, [20] [21] with its giant, smiling images of the character, is today one of LA's better-known landmarks, standing watch over both Figueroa Street and the Harbor Freeway. Others who adopted Felix included the 1922 New York Yankees and pilot and actress Ruth Elder, who took a Felix doll with her in an attempt to become the first woman to duplicate Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic crossing to Paris. [22]

Felix on the tail of an airplane now at the Evergreen Aviation Museum Airplane Tail Cartoon (Yamhill County, Oregon scenic images) (yamDA0030).jpg
Felix on the tail of an airplane now at the Evergreen Aviation Museum

This popularity persisted. In the late 1920s, the U.S. Navy's Bombing Squadron Two (VB-2B) adopted a unit insignia consisting of Felix happily carrying a bomb with a burning fuse. They retained the insignia through the 1930s, when they became a fighter squadron under the designations VF-6B and, later, VF-3, whose members Edward O'Hare and John Thach became famous naval aviators in World War II. After the world war a U.S. Navy fighter squadron currently designated VFA-31 replaced its winged meat-cleaver logo with the same insignia after the original Felix squadron had been disbanded. The carrier-based night-fighter squadron, nicknamed the "Tomcatters", remained active under various designations continuing to the present day, and Felix still appears on both the squadron's cloth jacket patches and aircraft, carrying his bomb with its fuse burning.

Felix is also the oldest high school mascot in the state of Indiana, chosen in 1926 after a Logansport High School player brought his plush Felix to a basketball game. When the team came from behind and won that night, Felix became the mascot of all the Logansport High School sports teams.

Felix as a giant puppet at the 2015 Treefort Music Fest FelixTheGiantPuppetTreefort2015.jpg
Felix as a giant puppet at the 2015 Treefort Music Fest

Nearly a century after his first debut on screen in 1919, he still makes occasional appearances in pop culture. The pop punk band The Queers also use Felix as a mascot, often drawn to reflect punk sensibilities and attributes such as scowling, smoking, or playing the guitar. Felix adorns the covers of both the Surf Goddess EP and the Move Back Home album. Felix also appears in the music video for the single "Don't Back Down". Besides appearing on the covers and liner notes of various albums, the iconic cat also appears in merchandise such as T-shirts and buttons. (In an interview with bassist B-Face, he asserts that Lookout! Records is responsible for the use of Felix as a mascot.) [23] Felix has cameos in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit [24] and (as a giant puppet) at the 2015 Treefort Music Fest.


Felix the Cat
Felix for Judy.png
An ink drawing of Felix by Otto Messmer dating from around 1975.
Author(s) Pat Sullivan
Otto Messmer (1927–1954)
Jack Mendelsohn (1948–1952)
Joe Oriolo (1955–1966) [25]
Current status/scheduleDaily & Sunday, concluded
Launch date1923;96 years ago (1923)
End date1966;53 years ago (1966)
Syndicate(s) King Features Syndicate
Publisher(s) Dell Comics
Genre(s)Humor, Funny Animal

Pat Sullivan began a syndicated comic strip in 1923 distributed by King Features Syndicate. [8] In 1927 Messmer took over drawing duties of the strip. [26] (The first The Felix Annual from 1924 issued in Great Britain shows the last two stories are not the usual Otto Messmer style, so a difference in Pat Sullivan-drawn cartoons can be noted.)

Messmer himself pursued the Sunday Felix comic strips until their discontinuance in 1943, when he began eleven years of writing and drawing Felix comic books for Dell Comics that were released every other month. Jack Mendelsohn was the ghostwriter of the Felix strip from 1948 to 1952. [27] In 1954, Messmer retired from the Felix daily newspaper strips, and his assistant Joe Oriolo (the creator of Casper the Friendly Ghost) took over. The strip concluded in 1966.

Felix co-starred with Betty Boop in the Betty Boop and Felix comic strip (1984–1987).

From silent to sound

Felix and Inky and Winky in April Maze (1930) April-maze-copley.jpg
Felix and Inky and Winky in April Maze (1930)

With the advent of synchronized sound in The Jazz Singer in 1927, Educational Pictures, who distributed the Felix shorts at the time, urged Pat Sullivan to make the leap to "talkie" cartoons, but Sullivan refused. Further disputes led to a break between Educational and Sullivan. Only after competing studios released the first synchronized-sound animated films, such as Fleischer's My Old Kentucky Home , Van Beuren's Dinner Time and Disney's Steamboat Willie , did Sullivan see the possibilities of sound. He managed to secure a contract with First National Pictures in 1928. However, for reasons unknown, this did not last, so Sullivan sought out Jacques Kopfstein and Copley Pictures to distribute his new sound Felix cartoons. On 16 October 1929, an advertisement appeared in Film Daily with Felix announcing, Jolson-like, "You ain't heard nothin' yet!"[ citation needed ]

Unfortunately, Felix's transition to sound was not a smooth one. Sullivan did not carefully prepare for Felix's transition to sound and added sound effects into the sound cartoons as a post-animation process. [28] The results were disastrous. More than ever, it seemed as though Disney's mouse was drawing audiences away from Sullivan's silent star. Not even entries such as the Fleischer-style off-beat Felix Woos Whoopee (1931) or the Silly Symphony-esque April Maze (both 1930) could regain the franchise's audience. Kopfstein finally canceled Sullivan's contract. Subsequently, he announced plans to start a new studio in California, but such ideas never materialized. Things went from bad to worse when Sullivan's wife, Marjorie, died in March 1932. After this, Sullivan completely fell apart. He slumped into an alcoholic depression, his health rapidly declined, and his memory began to fade. He could not even cash checks to Messmer because his signature was reduced to a mere scribble. He died in 1933. Messmer recalled, "He left everything a mess, no books, no nothing. So when he died the place had to close down, at the height of popularity, when everybody, RKO and all of them, for years they tried to get hold of Felix... I didn't have that permission [to continue the character] 'cause I didn't have legal ownership of it". [29]

In 1935, Amadee J. Van Beuren of the Van Beuren Studios called Messmer and asked him if he could return Felix to the screen. Van Beuren even stated that Messmer would be provided with a full staff and all of the necessary utilities. However, Messmer declined his offer and instead recommended Burt Gillett, a former Sullivan staffer who was now heading the Van Beuren staff. So, in 1936, Van Beuren obtained approval from Sullivan's brother to license Felix to his studio with the intention of producing new shorts both in color and with sound. With Gillett at the helm, now with a heavy Disney influence, he did away with Felix's established personality, rendering him a stock funny-animal character of the type popular in the day. The new shorts were unsuccessful, and after only three outings Van Beuren discontinued the series, leaving a fourth in the storyboard stages. [16]


In 1953, Official Films purchased the Sullivan–Messmer shorts, added soundtracks to them, and distributed them to the home movie and television markets.

Otto Messmer's assistant Joe Oriolo, who had taken over the Felix comic strip, struck a deal with Felix's new owner, Pat Sullivan's nephew, to begin a new series of Felix cartoons on television. Oriolo went on to star Felix in 260 television cartoons produced by Famous Studios which was renamed to Paramount Cartoon Studios, and distributed by Trans-Lux beginning in 1958. Like the Van Beuren studio before, Oriolo gave Felix a more domesticated and pedestrian personality geared more toward children and introduced now-familiar elements such as Felix's Magic Bag of Tricks, a satchel that could assume the shape and characteristics of anything Felix wanted. The show did away with Felix's previous supporting cast and introduced many new characters, all of which were performed by voice actor Jack Mercer.

Oriolo's plots revolve around the unsuccessful attempts of the antagonists to steal Felix's Magic Bag, though in an unusual twist, these antagonists are occasionally depicted as Felix's friends as well. The cartoons proved popular, but critics have dismissed them as paling in comparison to the earlier Sullivan–Messmer works, especially since Oriolo aimed the cartoons at children. Limited animation (required due to budgetary restraints) and simplistic storylines did nothing to diminish the series' popularity. [16]

In 1970, Oriolo gained complete control of the Felix character and continues to promote the character to this day.

In the late 1980s, after his father's death, Don Oriolo teamed up with European animators to work on the character's first feature film, Felix the Cat: The Movie . [30] In the film, Felix visits an alternate reality along with the Professor and Poindexter. New World Pictures planned a 1987 Thanksgiving release for U.S. theaters, which did not happen; [30] the movie went direct-to-video in August 1991. [31] In 1994, Felix appeared on television again, to replace the popular Fido Dido bumpers on CBS, and then one year later in the series The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat . Baby Felix followed in 2000 for the Japanese market, and also the direct-to-video Felix the Cat Saves Christmas. Oriolo has also brought about a new wave of Felix merchandising, including Wendy's Kids Meal toys and a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

A Felix prototype in Feline Follies (1919) Felix 1919.jpg
A Felix prototype in Feline Follies (1919)

According to Don Oriolo's Felix the Cat blog, as of September 2008 there were plans in development for a new television series. Oriolo's biography page also mentions a 52-episode cartoon series then in the works titled The Felix the Cat Show, which was slated to use computer graphics. [32]

Home video

DVD releases include Presenting Felix the Cat from Bosko Video; Felix! from Lumivision; Felix the Cat: The Collector's Edition from Delta Entertainment; and Before Mickey from Inkwell Images Ink. Some of the TV series cartoons (from 1958 to 1959) were released on DVD by Classic Media. Some of the 1990s series has also been released.



When television was in the experimental stages in 1928, the very first image to ever be seen was a toy Felix the Cat mounted to a revolving phonograph turntable. It remained on screen for hours while engineers used it as a test pattern. [33] [34]

Felix was voted in 2004 among the 100 Greatest Cartoons in a poll conducted by the British television channel Channel 4, ranking at No. 89. [35]

See also


  1. Cart, Michael (31 March 1991). "The Cat With the Killer Personality". The New York Times . Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  2. Mendoza, N.F. (27 August 1995). "For fall, a classically restyled puddy tat and Felix the Cat". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2010-08-24.
  3. Barrier, Michael (2003). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-516729-0.
  4. "Goldenagecartoons.com". Felix.goldenagecartoons.com. Archived from the original on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  5. TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 158. ISBN   0-7624-3007-9.
  6. McNary, Dave (17 June 2014). "DreamWorks Animation Buys Felix the Cat". Variety . Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  7. Solomon, 34, says that the character was "the as yet unnamed Felix".
  8. 1 2 3 Solomon 34.
  9. "Felix exhibition guide (archived)" (PDF). Pandora.nla.gov.au. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  10. 1 2 "All Media and legends...A thumbnail dipped in tar". Vixenmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  11. "Rewind (ABC TV): Felix the Cat". Abc.net.au. 3 March 1917. Archived from the original on 23 January 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  12. Barrier 29 and Solomon 34.
  13. Barrier 1999, p. 30.
  14. 1 2 3 Solomon 1994, p. 34.
  15. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:First_television_broadcast_NBC.JPG
  16. 1 2 3 Solomon 37.
  17. For example, Solomon, 34, quotes Marcel Brion on these points.
  18. Solomon 1994, p. 36.
  19. Heritage Auctions: completed auctions, 9 August 2009 and was subtitled "Pat Sullivan's Famous Creation in Song."
  20. "Laokay.com" . Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  21. Los Angeles, CA (1970-01-01). "maps.google.com". Goo.gl. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  22. Canemaker, John. (1991). Felix: the twisted tale of the world's most famous cat. Pantheon Books. p. 118. ISBN   067940127X.
  23. "The Queers – Interviews". Thequeersrock.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  24. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  25. Oriolo entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed Nov. 18, 2018.
  26. Messmer entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed Nov. 18, 2018.
  27. Mendelsohn entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999. Accessed Nov. 18, 2018.
  28. Gordon, Ian (2002). "Felix the Cat". St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009.
  29. Quoted in Solomon 37.
  30. 1 2 Cawley, John; Korkis, Jim (1990). Cartoon Superstars. Pioneer Books. pp. 88–89. ISBN   1-55698-269-0 . Retrieved 2010-06-14.
  31. "New on Video". Beacon Journal . 23 August 1991. p. D21. Retrieved 2010-06-14.
  32. "Donsfelixblog.com". Donsfelixblog.com. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  33. "The First Star of Television". Museum of Television. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  34. Shedden, David (2014-11-07). "Today in Media History: In 1928 Felix the Cat began testing a new tech called television". Poynter. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  35. "The 100 Greatest Cartoons". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 6 March 2005. Retrieved 20 February 2013.

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Further reading