YMMV / Felix the Cat

YMMV Tropes for the Whole Franchise

  • Archive Panic: The series has been around for 97 years, so there's a lot of ground to cover if you want to experience the whole series. For animation, you have the original silent theatrical cartoons and the three Van Beuren era shorts (while many of the silent shorts are lost, quite a few survive and it can take a while to sit through the surviving ones), the 260 made-for-TV cartoons by Joe Oriolo (which run six to seven minutes each), a theatrical movie, the mid 90's revival cartoon series The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat (which ran for 21 episodes, with three shorts in each one), the toddler aimed spinoff Baby Felix & Friends (which ran for 65 five minute episodes), and a 2004 direct to video Christmas special Felix the Cat Saves Christmas. The comics are where one will really start running into trouble—the Felix comics started in 1923, with the newspaper comics and comic books running a solid 40 year run up to the 1960's. And then you have the 80's newspaper comic crossover with Betty Boop to look out for (which has never been reprinted), and a short lived early 90's comic book revival. After that, you have a history book and some comic compilations, three video game tie-ins, the very obscure live action TV series Felix the Cat Live, and a monstrous amount of toys and merchandise to wrap it all up. Good luck!
  • Big Name Fan: Surprisingly, Charlie Chaplin himself, who Felix was patterned after, loved the original Felix the Cat cartoons and envied the amount of control of timing animation allowed over live action. Fitting, since Otto Messmer had previously worked on a series of silent Charlie Chaplin cartoons in the past (which Chaplin also liked) and had studied Chaplin's films for reference, which proved as a ground zero of sorts for his Felix cartoons.
    Otto Messmer: "I patterned him after Charlie Chaplin. The audience loved him. And so did Chaplin. The cartoon format let Felix do things that Chaplin couldn't do on film..."
  • Broken Base: The reception of the post-silent era Felix cartoons are contested among the fanbase, particularly in regards to the TV-era Felix cartoons and the movie adaptation based on it. Some fans champion the Silent cartoons as untouchable masterpieces and consider the Trans-Lux Felix (and, to a lesser degree, the very short lived Van Beuren Felix) to be where the series entered a Dork Age, while some nostalgic fans unapologetically love the Van Beuren and TV Felix cartoons and consider the silent shorts to be mostly dated and boring. Twisted Tales of Felix, for better or worse, tends to land somewhere in the middle in reception.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While Felix is still modestly popular in the US, he is very popular in Japan to this day, to the point that an entire spinoff, Baby Felix, was made just for that country.
  • Mainstream Obscurity: Felix is far from a forgotten character today, but not that many people have seen his cartoons or read his comics outside of baby boomers and animation buffs, not helping that he hasn't starred in any major new works in decades. He remains known simply by the power of inertia, since the series is so firmly rooted in the public consciousness and animation culture.
  • My Real Daddy: While the bulk of the franchise up to the TV shorts attributes Felix as a creation of cartoonist Pat Sullivan, almost everybody today recognizes Otto Messmer as the real person behind Felix's creation and success, especially once information came to light that Sullivan had virtually nothing to do with creating Felix, or making the Felix cartoons (according to Hal Walker, one of the original artists on the silent cartoons, he was barely ever present at his own studio). The credits for The Twisted Tales of Felix go as far as to credit both Otto Messmer and Joe Oriolo as the creators of Felix, but completely leaves out mentioning Pat Sullivan.
  • Signature Scene: Felix's "Thinking Walk", which is frequently used throughout his cartoons, is the most iconic piece of animation from the series. It has appeared in virtually all of the incarnations of the series.

YMMV Tropes for the Silent and Golden Age Felix Cartoons and Comics

  • Awesome Art: The silent cartoons were some of the earliest rubberhose cartoons ever made, and they still hold up as appealing to look at and smoothly animated. Later shorts like "Felix Woos Whoopee" are just as great as anything Fleischer Studios ever did.
    • The three Van Beuren Felix the Cat cartoons have some splendid cartoon animation and downright gorgeous background art and colors. Makes sense, considering they were spearheaded by Disney alumni Burt Gillett, the director of Disney's Three Little Pigs!
    • The artwork Otto Messmer did for the newspaper comics and comic books is just as great, if not better than the animated cartoons. One has to read a Felix Sunday strip or read one of the 40's/50's comics to really see Messmer's drawing chops and super appealing rubberhose drawing style in action.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Felix gets one of his shining moments in the silent short "Uncle Tom's Crabbin", a short that is a surprising example of Fair for Its Day—Felix travels to the deep south and finds the eponymous Uncle Tom, who is antagonized by Simon Legree by whipping him and smashing apart his banjo for keeping him awake with his music. While Tom is drawn in stereotypical cartoon blackface of the time, his race and plight is not played for laughs at all, and Felix is clearly on his side. He not only improvises a new banjo for Tom, but when Simon Legree shows up again, Felix distracts him into chasing after him and even hurls rocks back at Legree while he gives chase. And when Legree sicks a hunting dog after him, Felix proceeds to beat the animal into a limp noodle. Considering the institutionalized racism of the 1920's (and that other Felix cartoons sometimes used unfortunate black stereotypes), its amazing that they were able to get away with making a cartoon like this.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Winston Sharples' energetic and dramatic music scores are considered one of the best elements of the Van Beuren Felix cartoons. Fittingly, he would be hired by Joe Oriolo to compose music for his TV Felix cartoons decades later.
  • Ear Worm: The original Felix the Cat theme, "Felix Kept On Walking".
  • Fair for Its Day: "Uncle Toms Crabbin". While the blackface designs and deep south slavery setting would turn heads today, its surprising in that it clearly shows Felix on the side of a sympathetically portrayed Uncle Tom against Simon Legree (with his race and plight not being played for laughs), with Felix even helping Tom against Legree and coming out on top in the end.
  • Growing the Beard: The silent films got off to a good start, but the 1922-1924 period, when Bill Nolan worked at the studio for a couple years, redesigning Felix and started introducing smoother animation in the cartoons, was when the series really started getting great.
    • The newspaper comics greatly improved over time, too. Before 1929, the comics were only partly drawn by Otto Messmer, with a lot of the art being recycled from the cartoons by artist Jack Bogle, resulting in enjoyable but fairly straightforward adaptations of the cartoons. Ironically, the dearth of new cartoon material to adapt by 1929 proved to be a creative boon for the Felix comics, even as the animated cartoons went into a decline. Messmer, who finally took over all art duties for the daily newspaper comic, starts getting more experimental and ambitious with his artwork, redesigning Felix and the other characters to look more funny and detailed than in the cartoons, and he even began to creative beautifully illustrated, full blown cartoon story arcs for the funny pages, such as the 17 week "Felix's Ark" storyline, and with some storylines like "Felix the Cat on Cannibal Island" that run as long as a whopping eight months in length.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Felix is remembered as one of the first television stars. How? In the form of an NBC test pattern featuring Felix as a doll. Its significance comes from being one of the first images to be broadcast on the then-fledging medium of television, when NBC was just a decade old. 85 years later, NBC parent NBC Universal acquired DreamWorks Animation, the current rights-holder of Felix, ultimately bringing his legacy back to NBC after more than a century.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The bizarre climax of "Felix Dines and Pines", where Felix has a truly deranged stream of conscious nightmare induced by eating an old shoe.
  • Seasonal Rot: While the post-B&W Felix shorts have a divided reception, one point of the series that no fans will defend is the brief period when the original cartoons tried to upgrade to sound, and failed miserably. Cartoons like April Maze and Skulls and Sculls had post-synchronized soundtracks slapped onto them in a half-assed attempt by Pat Sullivan to cash in on the sound cartoon craze started by Disney's Mickey Mouse a few years too late, and Otto Messmer was forced to pad out the length and scenes of the sound cartoons to excruciatingly long periods of time so that it would be easier for the soundtracks to be added on afterward, making the cartoons extremely slow paced and poorly timed.
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: The silent Felix the Cat cartoons were considered very smoothly animated for their time, and its personality based visual humor and impossible cartoon gags were very unique compared to other early animated cartoons, pioneering many of what are now standard cartoon tools and cliches (with the rubberhose art style becoming the cartoon industry standard for decades), and he was also the first cartoon character to achieve significant popularity, being the forerunner for cartoons that took its foundation and considerably built on it, like Mickey Mouse, Looney Tunes and Betty Boop, so it can rather hard to appreciate just how innovative and creative the original silent cartoons were at the time. The rather slow pacing of the cartoons and Felix being the only central character the bulk of the time doesn't really help matters, either.
  • Values Dissonance: In spite of the Fair for Its Day example cited above, the silent shorts tended to have some unfortunate racist gags and cannibalistic depictions of African natives sprinkled throughout them, such as in Felix Saves The Day and Tee Time, and even the occasional sexist gag too, like in Felix Lends A Hand.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit: The later B&W Felix the Cat cartoons upgrade to sound was a very obvious attempt by producer Pat Sullivan to try and cash in on the sound cartoon craze started by Mickey Mouse, a series that had not only usurped the cats popularity, but was unwittingly aided by Sullivan's own reluctance to upgrade the Felix cartoons to sound in the past, which was what got his original distribution contract for Felix cancelled. Sullivan not only missed the boat, but the new Felix sound cartoons were so poorly done, that it only guaranteed that Mickey Mouse would remain the heir apparent to Felix, while the Felix theatrical cartoons that inspired Mickey in the first place would be sent to an early grave.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Fans only familiar with the TV era Felix will be surprised to find out that the Silent era Felix has subject matter that is definetely not kid friendly—like Felix's womanizing and suicide in Feline Follies, Felix partying hard and getting drunk out of his skull in Felix Woos Whoopee, and the grim, war torn setting of Felix Turns the Tide, complete with dead corpses of animals laying around—and it is not played for humor. John Canemaker's Felix the Cat history book makes it clear that the early cartoons were not made for kids.

YMMV Tropes for the Joe Oriolo / Don Oriolo Felix Cartoons and Comics

  • Anticlimax Boss: King Gulpo in "Felix Babysits". The setup is that Poindexter, after restoring Felix to his original size from under the microscope, unwittingly gets some of it on the evil amoeba that was hounding Felix. It goes from bad to worse when Gulpo drinks more of the same growth formula, making him big enough to barely fit in the Professor's lab. It seems like it'd be a good setup for a climatic fight, but Felix easily defeats him just seconds afterward by throwing Poindexter's shrinking formula (which got Felix into this mess in the first place) at the behemoth, reducing Gulpo back to his original microscopic size.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: In "Felix Babysits", Felix socking King Gulpo with a brutal punch to the stomach when Gulpo tries to eat him alive. Felix was no coward before, but this was the first time in the Trans-Lux series where he directly fought back against an opponent! And without his Magic Bag of Tricks, at that!
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Having worked on the Van Beuren era Felix, Winston Sharples once again returned to compose for the series, and his dynamic musical scores are considered some of the best things about the cartoons. There's a reason he was nicknamed "The East Coast Carl Stalling!"
  • Ear Worm: The very catchy Felix the Cat theme song is one of the things people remember most about the character.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: One of the series recurring characters, Poindexter, is a kid scientist who has Dexter as (part) of his name...
  • Idiot Plot: The Trans-Lux series had such a hectic production schedule and so little time to write the stories, that subpar story material would easily slip through, resulting in both Felix and the Professor sharing the Idiot Ball (Rock Bottom is exempt, as he's already an idiot) For example;
    • "Into Outer Space", which has the Professor successfully trapping Felix in his lab so he can get the Magic Bag...only to do the exact opposite of what would help him and stuff Felix and the bag into a satellite and launch them both into outer space, which not only robs Professor of the bag, but ends up making Felix a national hero for travelling into space.
    • "Blubberino the Whale", one of the Trans-Lux era cartoons, has the plot centered on Felix stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean and starving. The thing is, Felix has his Magic Bag on hand, which he can use for any situation or purpose he needs—in fact, he turns the bag into a gyrocopter at the end to defeat the eponymous whale. Why didn't he just use the bag to return back to the mainland in the first place?
  • Ink-Stain Adaptation: The Trans-Lux series tends to be considered this by fans of the Silent Era Felix, mainly for being the most well known and longest supported incarnation of the character, despite some fans considering the TV cartoons inferior to the Silent cartoons due to their more childish tone and stories and very cheap animation.
  • Newer Than They Think: The Professor's nephew Poindexter is actually the progenitor of the term "poindexter" being a synonym for "geek" or "nerd"!
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: There exists a Felix video game for the NES and Game Boy, and both happen to be surprisingly enjoyable Mario clones, with fun gameplay and appealing graphics and music. The same cannot be said for the Sega Genesis bootleg of it, which is a Porting Disaster with bad controls, and inexplicably features a frightening game over screen where Felix rips his face off.
  • Values Dissonance: The Joe Oriolo cartoons are comparatively very free of this compared to the silent cartoons, but the stereotypical use of indians in some of the episodes (i.e. "Felix Out West") definitely wouldn't fly in contemporary cartoons either.
  • Vanilla Protagonist: This is part of why some fans prefer the Silent Era Felix over the Oriolo Felix. Joe Oriolo's Felix is a nice, fun loving guy, but compared to how wild and rascally Felix was portrayed in his original cartoons, he comes off as very milquetoast in contrast. Making matters worse is that the Oriolo Felix is rarely the one who drives the plots in his own cartoons, which are usually instigated by Professor and Rock Bottom instead.
  • What an Idiot:
    • In "Into Outer Space", the Professor has Felix trapped inside of his laboratory and has a clear shot at getting the bag from him, so what does he do? Trap Felix and the bag in a satellite and launch him out into outer space, the exact opposite of what would've helped get the bag. On top of that, it gets Felix recognized as a worldwide hero by being launched into space. And Professor decides to go to the trouble of travelling all the way to the antarctic where Felix landed to steal the bag anyway. Even the Professor realizes he didn't think things through by the end.
    • Professor makes another boo boo in "Venus and the Master Cylinder", where he sends away Poindexter to live with Master Cylinder as his pupil in exchange for a 1,000,000$ reward, only for it to immediately blow up in his face when Cylinder enslaves Poindexter and scoffs at the idea of offering Professor any money, tying him to a rocket and sending him away. Unless his absentmindedness made him forget how hostile Master Cylinder was to both him and his nephew in "Master Cylinder, King of the Moon", there was absolutely no reason he should have trusted Cylinder.