Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy 93rd B-Day to America's first animated cartoon character and most wonderful, wonderful cat, Felix the Cat

"Cure for a red nose:   Keep on drinking, and it'll turn blue." ~~ Felix the Cat
From 1924 film release, “Felix Dopes It Out.” As 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 via this clever quote.


Today, Felix, the worlds first animated cartoon character to achieve popularity with full-house audiences at silent movie theatres, turns 93 years old. Happy B-Day to you!
On November 9, 1919, Master Tom, a prototype of Felix, debuted in a Paramount Pictures short entitled “Feline Follies.”


Felix is also world reknown as the hardest thinking, Chaplinesque-like pacing, and longest lasting cartoon character in history.

Produced by the New York City-based animation studio owned by 32-year-old Australian-born cartoonist, pioneer animator and film producer, 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 "The Musical Mews" (released 16 November 1919). It too proved to be successful with audiences and brought Felix greater popularity.



Many Felix silent short referenced alcoholism and Prohibition as commonplace and included dark humor particularly in “Felix Finds Out” (1924), “Whys and Other Whys” (1927), “Felix Woos Whoopee” (1930) to mention a few. Also 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 with social humor --"Keep drinking, and it'll turn blue."



Interesting Felix the Cat facts:
  • The question of how and who created Felix remains unclear. Sullivan once told The Argus newspaper in 1925 in Australia that "The idea was given to me by the sight of a cat which my wife brought to the studio one day." 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. Sullivan's claim is also supported by the Australian Cartoon Association confirmation that Sullivan's March 18, 1917, release of a cartoon short entitled "The Tail of Thomas Kat", more than two years prior to "Feline Follies" is authentic.
  • Felix is 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 the Cat was the first balloon ever made for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927
  • In 1928 Felix was one of the first images ever broadcast by television when RCA chose a papier-mâché Felix doll for an experiment via W2XBS New York in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx
  • Most of the early Felix cartoons mirrored American attitudes of the "Roaring Twenties.”
  • In 2002, Felix was voted in TV Guide's 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time, ranking #28.
  • In 2004, Felix was voted among the 100 Greatest Cartoons in a poll conducted by the British television channel Channel 4, ranking at #89
  • In 2004 Felix was named #36 in Animal Planet's 50 Greatest Movie Animals
  • Felix is also a cat food in Europe


By 1923, the character was at the peak of his film career. Felix in Hollywood, a short released during this 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, Christmas ornaments, and as the first giant balloon ever made for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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.

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, 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 and was subtitled "Pat Sullivan's Famous Creation in Song."

Most of the early Felix cartoons mirrored social activism and 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.

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.


Among these, Lend a Paw was the only film to actually win the award. Additionally, in 1932 Walt Disney received an honorary Academy Award in recognition of Mickey's creation and popularity.






Silent Short Filmography
Feline Follies (November 9, 1919)YouTube video
►The Musical Mews (November 16, 1919)
►The Adventures of Felix (December 14, 1919)
►Strikes It Rich (1923)
►Felix Revolts (1923)
►Felix Finds Out (1924)
►Felix Goes Hungry (1924
►Felix All Puzzled (1924)
Felix dopes It Out (1924)YouTube video
►Whys and Other Whys (1927)
Felix Woos Whoopee (1930)
April Maze (1930) YouTube video


Voice Actors for Sound Filmography
Felix was silent until 1936 when the sudden popularity of Mickey Mouse prompted the animators to put Felix cartoons in sound.
►Mae Questel (1936)
►Jack Mercer (1958–1961)
►Chris Phillips (1988)
►Thom Adcox-Hernandez/Charlie Adler (1995–1997)
►Fred Newman (2004)
►Dave Coulier (official)
►Carlos Alazraqui (current voice)


Felix's transition to sound was not smooth sailing. Sullivan was unprepared, and added sound effects into the sound cartoons as a post-animation process with disappointing results. Disney's mouse was drawing audiences away from Felix. Sullivan's plans to start a new studio in California never materialized. During this time, Sullivan's wife, Marjorie, was ill, and would die in March 1932 and Sullivan completely fell apart, slumping into an alcoholic depression, his health rapidly declining, and his memory fading. Sullivan passed away 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."

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 CG graphics

Resources

Felix the Cat on Wikipedia.org
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Mickey Mouse Discovers the Government Cartoon Conspiracy Against Glenn Beck
MickeyMouse.com Welcome!



Other Resources
Don Oriolo's Felix the Cat Blog on WordPress
Offical homepage of Felix the Cat
Feline Follies



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All photos courtesy of Wikimedia.org unless otherwise specified.

5 comments:

  1. I love Felix the Cat. My mom actually bought the wall clock. The eyes and tail would sway side by side. Enjoy the trivia on this post.

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  2. I have a friend names Felix and doesn't know any thing about Felix the cat but everytime I see him it makes me think of Felix the cat. They think I'm crazy sometimes when I can him that. lol

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  3. It's great to see how sometimes things like a cartoon can be used to sway public opinion. Such as with prohibition and such.

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  4. Such a long time since Felix the Cat. So glad I saw this.

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