Felix the Cat

Felix the Cat

Felix the Cat is an animal cartoon character developed in the silent film era. The anthropomorphic black cat had a black body, white eyes, and giant grin. These features coupled with the surrealism of the scenarios in which his cartoons place him, combine to make Felix one of the most famous cartoon characters in the history of film. Felix was the first character from animation to obtain a level of popularity sufficient to intrigue movie audiences. Felix’s basis remains disputed. Australian cartoonist/film entrepreneur Pat Sullivan, owner of the Felix character, declared during his lifetime to be the shows creator. American animator Otto Messmer, Sullivan’s lead animator, has been credited as such as well. What is certain is that Felix emerged from Sullivan’s studio, and cartoons featuring the character experienced success and popularity in the 1920s popular culture. Aside from the animated shorts, Felix starred in a comic strip developed by Sullivan, Messmer and later Joe Oriolo beginning in 1923. His image soon could be identified upon merchandise such as ceramics, toys, and postcards. Several manufacturers made stuffed Felix toys. Jazz bands such as Paul Whiteman’s played songs about him for example, the year 1923’s “Felix Kept On Walking” and others. By the late 1920s, with the arrival of cartoons with sound, Felix’s achievement 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the silent offerings of Sullivan and Messmer, who were then unwilling to move to sound production, seem unequipped and outdated. In 1929, Sullivan concluded to make the transition and started distributing Felix sound cartoons through Copley Pictures. The sound Felix shorts revealed to be a failure and the operation came to a stop in 1932. Felix saw a brief three cartoon resurrection in 1936 by the Van Beuren Studios. Felix cartoons began being aired on American TV in 1953. Joe Oriolo publicized a redesigned, “long-legged” Felix, added new characters, and gave Felix a “Magic Bag of Tricks” that could provide an infinite variety of shapes at Felix’s behest. The cat has since starred in other various television programs and in two other feature films. As of the 2010s, Felix is featured on a variety of merchandise from clothing to toys. Oriolo’s son, Don Oriolo, later possessed creative control of Felix. In 1954 Otto Messmer retired from the Felix daily newspaper strips, and his assistant Joe Oriolo, the co-creator of Casper the Friendly Ghost, took control. Oriolo found an opportunity with Felix’s new owner to start a new series of Felix cartoons on television. Oriolo went on to star Felix in 260 television cartoons distributed by Trans-Lux. Like the Van Beuren studio before, Oriolo provided Felix a more domesticated and pedestrian personality, geared more towards children, and introduced current familiar elements such as Felix’s “Magic Bag of Tricks”, a satchel that could possess the shape and characteristics of really anything Felix wanted. Those cartoons were divided amongst two parts, because when Felix was facing restraints, the announcer would intone prior to concluding episode: “What will happen to Felix , in the next exciting episode, in the “Adventures of Felix the Cat?”One will have to wait and see.

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