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Western Animation: Felix the Cat

Felix the Cat,
The wonderful, wonderful cat.
Whenever he gets in a fix,
He reaches into his bag of tricks...
Felix the Cat,
The wonderful, wonderful cat.
You'll laugh so much, your sides will ache,
Your heart will go pitter pat,
Watching Felix, the wonderful cat!
Felix the Cat Theme Song, 1950s

One of the oldest and longest lasting animated cartoon characters, Felix the Cat, created by animator Otto Messmer note  made his 1919 theatrical debut as one of several cartoon components in Paramount Screen Magazine split-reels, then graduated to a standalone series in 1922. He was the star of an experimental TV broadcast in 1928, and the basis for a classic (but unauthorized!) wall-clock design. Felix's adorable appearance, witty personality, love of high living, and comically versatile tail helped him achieve a level of popularity that he maintained until 1929, when Mickey Mouse's sound cartoons started to grow in popularity and studio founder/CEO Pat Sullivan refused to produce sound films, not helped by his descent into heavy alcoholism due to his wife's apparent suicide, and his subsequent death.

After a short lived attempt at a Felix revival with sound and color during 1936 via Van Beuren Studios, the cats theatrical career was once again put on ice, although he remained a popular character in newspapers and comic books. Eventually migrated to a popular TV series in the very late 1950s and early 1960's, run by former Fleischer and Famous animator Joe Oriolo, who had served as an assistant for Messmer on his Felix comics. Despite having virtually nothing in common with the original cartoons, these TV shorts were a smash hit, and ultimately immortalized Felix as a pop-culture icon. Jack Mercer, better known as Popeye, did all the character voices in the Trans-Lux Felix series.

Pat Sullivan claimed during his lifetime to have invented Felix himself. This conventional wisdom lasted until the 1960s, at which time the Sullivan estate's controlling interest in Felix was bought out. With no more need to placate Sullivan's heirs, surviving staffers named longtime lead animator Otto Messmer as Felix's actual creator.

Apart from Messmer, the best-known Felix developer was Joe Oriolo, Messmer's assistant from the 1940s onward. Oriolo took over production of Felix comics and managed the Trans-Lux TV series himself, creating Felix's Magic Bag of Tricks and beloved bad guys such as The Professor, Rock Bottom and Master Cylinder.

During the mid-1980s, Felix co-starred with fellow cartoon icon Betty Boop in a short-lived comic strip written and drawn by Mort Walker (better known as the creator of Beetle Bailey) and his sons. Felix also starred with his friends and foes in cartoon creation software shipped with Apple Macintosh Performa computers. In 1991, he got his big screen break in Felix the Cat: The Movie, and in 1995, the Film Roman series The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat was shown on CBS Saturday mornings after Felix appeared in commercial bumpers on that network.

Since then, Felix has had on-and-off revivals, from Japanese/American-produced Baby Felix to the 2004 direct-to-video special Felix the Cat Saves Christmas. Don Oriolo, the current owner of the series, claims that a CGI cartoon series was in the works, but nothing has come of it yet.

In June 2014, the rights to Felix were bought by DreamWorks Animation, but Don Oriolo says he is still involved with what they do with the character. So far, Dreamworks is only using the character as a fashion brand, and there don't seem to be plans to make a new cartoon series with the character.

Absolutely no relation to Fritz the Cat, by the way.

Has a Character Sheet.
     Filmography 

1919

  • Feline Follies (nov. 9)
  • The Musical Mews (nov. 16)
  • The Adventures of Felix (Dec. 14)

1920

  • A Frolic With Felix
  • Felix the Big Game Hunter
  • Wrecking A Romeo
  • Felix the Food Controller
  • Felix the Pinch Hitter
  • Foxy Felix
  • A Hungry Hoodoo
  • The Great Cheese Robbery
  • Felix and the Feed Bag
  • Nifty Nurse
  • The Circus
  • My Hero
  • Felix the Landlord
  • Felix's Fish Story

1921

  • Felix the Gay Dog
  • Down on the Farm
  • Felix the Hypnotist
  • Free Lunch
  • Felix Goes On Strike
  • Felix Out of Luck
  • The Love Punch
  • Felix Left At Home

1922

1923

1924

1925

1926

  • Felix Spots the Spook
  • Felix Flirts With Fate
  • Felix in Blunderland
  • Felix Fans the Flames
  • Felix Laughs it Off
  • Felix Weathers the Weather
  • Felix Uses His Head
  • Felix Misses the Cue
  • Felix Braves the Briny
  • A Tale of Two Kitties
  • Felix Scoots Through Scotland
  • Felix Rings the Ringer
  • School Daze
  • Felix Seeks Solitude
  • Felix Misses His Swiss
  • Gym Gems
  • Two-lip Time
  • Scrambled Yeggs
  • Felix Shatters the Sheik
  • Felix Hunts the Hunter
  • Land O' Fancy
  • Felix Busts a Bubble
  • Reverse English
  • Felix Trumps the Ace
  • Felix Collars the Button
  • Zoo Logic

1927

1928

1929

1930

1936


This series provides examples of:

  • Animated Series: The Trans-Lux TV series and the Twisted Tales.
  • Animation Bump: The three Van Beuren Studios Felix shorts, in spite of their flaws, are fairly well animated and feature lavish color and backgrounds, and as such are a considerable animation upgrade from the original cartoons.
    • For a more specific example, "Bold King Cole" has an impressively animated staircase sequence that moves in perspective.
  • Anthropomorphic Shift: In his very earliest incarnation (as "Master Tom," in 1919's "Feline Follies"), Felix is shown as being a regular housecat. By the 1920s, he walks upright and talks, even though he's still the pet of humans. In the handful of Felix cartoons made in the 1930s, he's shown living in a society of anthropomorphic animals, and actually keeps pets.
  • Bag of Holding: The "bag of tricks", introduced in the 50's series and later incorporated into Twisted Tales.
  • Bankruptcy Barrel: In "Felix in the Swim", after Felix and the kid's clothes get eaten by a goat, they go home in barrels. It's pretty odd, since they had both been in swim trunks when their clothes got eaten, and Felix hadn't been wearing clothing to begin with.
  • Baseball Episode: "Felix Saves The Day", which has the bulk of the cartoon centered on a baseball game.
  • Big Bad: The Professor and Master Cylinder
  • Brain in a Jar: Master Cylinder.
  • Captain Ersatz: Felix probably has the most ersatzes of any fictional character, including Bosko The Talk Ink Kid, Oswaldthe Lucky Rabbit and Lady Play Your Mandolin. Ironically, one of them (i.e. Mickey Mouse) would totally dethrone Felix in popularity.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Professor and Rock Bottom in the Trans-Lux cartoons.
    • Also Peking Duck in Twisted Tales.
  • Cat Concerto: In "Forty Winks", Felix conducts his friends in a chorus outside a guy's house.
  • Chaste Toons: Perhaps the earliest example, as the kittens Inky, Dinky and Winky were introduced as Felix's sons in 1926, then suddenly retconned as nephews in 1930. A few pre-1930 comics were even reprinted with the familial relationship changed.
    • Later still (1950s) only two kittens were used at a time, with Inky and Winky appearing in cartoons while Inky and Dinky appeared in comics.
  • Child Prodigy: The Professor's nephew Poindexter, who is friends with Felix.
  • Continuity Nod: In Baby Felix, Master Cylinder is a goon of the Professor's — in the Trans-Lux series, he was a former student of the Professor's who left to become King of the Moon.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Vavoom the Eskimo, from the Trans-Lux TV series.
  • Cute Little Fangs
  • Deranged Animation: One of the oldest examples.
  • Downer Ending: Felix's first theatrical short ends with him sucking on a gas pipe(!?) after he gets kicked out of his home and finds out his girlfriend already has kittens.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The ending of "Felix Doubles For Darwin".
  • Expository Theme Tune
  • Fat Girl: Felix helps one lose weight in "Felix Wins Out".
  • Felix Impersonators: Felix have been impersonated twice. The first time was in the old black-and-white Felix the Cat comic strips, where Felix's look-alike white-furred cousin, Alex who dyed his fur black to impersonated as Felix to sreal Kitty from him. The second time was in an episode of The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, "Phoney Phelix" where a cat named Oscar kidnapped Felix and goes around impersonated as him to steal his life, career and friends, but Oscar's diabolical plans have been foiled by Felix in the end.
  • Furry Confusion: From 1919 through the mid-1950s, stories alternated between showing Felix as either a Talking Animal pet in a human home or a Funny Animal master of his own house. Only with the Trans-Lux TV series was Felix established as a Funny Animal for good.
  • The Gambling Addict: Felix meets one named Billy in the Twisted Tales. Billy lost his luck because of this, since Felix is a black cat that crossed his path. Billy even begged Felix to "uncross" his path. Which Felix did. Felix, however, kept crossing Billy's path, eventually sending him to the poorhouse. Later on, Billy steals Felix's magic bag, hoping it'll restore his luck. Billy has been winning bets since then, which made him the (probably) only person who managed to steal the bag and use it. Felix eventually confronted Billy, who had a security guard throw Felix away. Felix then challenged Billy for a bet with the bag at stake. Felix then picked two dice and told Billy he could get any number he wants from them. Billy then called "13". Felix protested the biggest number he could get was "12" but Billy insisted with "13". Felix soon had an idea: he got the dot from the exclamation mark that came with the idea and added it to the six-dot face of one of the die, turning it into a seven-dot face and then threw the dice, obtaining "13". As soon as Billy lost the bag, he lost his new fortune.
  • Go Karting with Bowser: There are episodes (usually without the Magic Bag) that have the Professor employing Felix as a babysitter for Poindexter.
  • Haunted Castle: The castle in "Bold King Cole".
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Trans-Lux series, particularly the early episodes.
  • Idea Bulb: Quite often seen.
  • Impact Silhouette: In "Felix Goes West", this happens when Felix is thrown through a door by an angry house owner.
  • In Name Only: The Trans-Lux TV series has literally nothing in common with the original Felix shorts aside from the character. And this also applies to the three Van Beuren Felix shorts from the mid-30's, which were equally as unrelated to the source material.
  • Licensed Game: There is a Felix The Cat game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which is a fairly good platformer with enjoyable music and crisp graphics. It was also remade for Game Boy.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Among these things, it can slice through a cloud like a knife, turn Felix's head into a lightbulb, and even destroy ghosts!
  • Long Runner: Felix has been around since 1919, making him the oldest surviving animated cartoon star, and he's done a lot to earn that reputation; are talking about a character who has starred in over 200 theatrical cartoons (most of which have not survived), well over 200 episodes during the Trans Lux era, two modern TV revivals (with a third one on the way), a feature length movie and a direct-to-video film, decades worth of newspaper and magazine comics, and an absolutely monstrous amount of merchandise.
  • Magic Hat: Felix's iconic Magic Bag of Tricks, which is an actual bag.
    • In the 1995 series, some episodes didn't feature the Bag of Tricks at all, presumably so more challenging plots could be used. Lampshaded in one episode.
      • The Magic Bag wasn't in all the 1950s episodes either; it featured in about thirty percent of the episodes. Oriolo was wise not to overuse it; it made for some funny situations, but it also made Felix borderline infallible. Even in episodes where it does appear, it's often used as a last resort or Mundane Utility, with Felix using his wits to address the bulk of his problems.
  • Medium Blending: "Felix Saves The Day" has still photographs for backgrounds in some shots, and it even has live action footage at some parts (but the animation and live action do not interact).
  • Mood Whiplash: The opening of "Bold King Cole", where after the first few seconds of Felix singing a very upbeat song, backed up by some very colorful scenery, suddenly cuts straight into a nasty storm scene.
  • The Movie: Felix the Cat: The Movie
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Felix is heavily based off of Charlie Chaplin, and The Tramp himself appears in Felix In Hollywood.
  • No Indoor Voice: Vavoom in the Trans-Lux cartoons. He was a pint-sized eskimo who's shout of "VAVOOM!!!!" could cause an avalanche.
  • Overly Prepared Gag: Punch line from Felix The Cat- Felix Doubles For Darwin takes several minutes to set up.
  • Painting the Medium: A few of the old strips had gags involving Felix's speech balloon, be it him literally eating his own words or using his speech balloon for a...well, literal balloon.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Contrary to popular belief, the Bag of Tricks wasn't with the character from the start.
  • Public Domain Animation: Many of the silent cartoons are public domain.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Felix's simple, round design set the standard for cute cartoon animals ever since.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Although no-one speaks in rhyme constantly, in the Trans-Lux series characters spontaneously burst into rhyme the way characters in other cartoons might burst into song.
  • Running Gag: The Trans-Lux series had The Professor literally beating himself up over his failures, often using contraptions solely designed for the purpose of self-flagellation.
  • Spinoff Babies: "Baby Felix".
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Happens to King Cole in Bold King Cole
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Felix is apparently able to breathe underwater in "Neptune Nonsense".
  • Talking Animal
  • Tank Goodness: In the NES game, one of Felix's power-ups is being able to ride a tank!
  • Tin-Can Robot: The Master Cylinder, a recurring villain in the Trans-Lux shorts who is the self-proclaimed "King of the Moon" and the Professor's former pupil before an accident destroyed his original body.
  • Traveling-Pipe Bulge: The "Felix Doubles for Darwin" short has a whole scene of Felix traveling through the entire transatlantic cable and then back again, pursued by apes.
  • Villain Song: "You Talk Too Much, You Never Shut Up" from "Bold King Cole".
    • Captain Kidd and the rest of the pirates in "The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs" get a particularly good one:
      Oh, we take what we want and we want what we take
      For we’re pirates out hunting for treasure!
      If we need any gold, we steal it away,
      Robbing widows and orphans of pleasure!
      We fight with our hands, we cuss and shoot,
      We’re mean and we’re bad from our hats to our boots.
      We take what we want and we want what we take
      For we’re pirates out hunting for treasure!
  • Volumetric Mouth: Vavoom is the Ur Example.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Bold King Cole", whatever happened to those guests that the King was boasting to?

The FalconAnimal Title IndexFlip The Frog
Family GuyThe Renaissance Age of AnimationThe Flintstone Kids
The Skeleton DanceFilms of the 1920sLaurel and Hardy
Firing RangeAnimated FilmsFelix In Hollywood
Fat Albert and the Cosby KidsThe Dark Age of AnimationThe Flintstones
Screen SongsThe Roaring TwentiesFelix In Hollywood
Role ReprisalThe Golden Age of AnimationName's the Same
Father of the PrideWestern AnimationFelix In Hollywood
TrollkinsSaturday Morning CartoonWacky Races
Van Beuren StudiosImageSource/Western AnimationThe Flintstones
Fat Albert and the Cosby KidsCreator/HuluFilmation's Ghostbusters

alternative title(s): Felix The Cat
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