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Trivia / Felix the Cat

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  • Cash Cow Franchise: One of the earliest examples — Felix was popular enough to spawn lots of this — until Mickey Mouse came and usurped the silent stars popularity. Nowadays he's more or less known only because of his merchandise, since he hasn't had a truly popular cartoon made since the 1950s.
  • Channel Hop:
    • The Felix the Cat cartoons went through numerous distributors. Paramount distributed the earliest cartoons 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. In 1928, after Educational ceased releasing the Felix cartoons, several were reissued by First National Pictures. Copley Pictures distributed the sound cartoons from 1929 to 1930. And then there was the brief revival of the series by Van Beuren in 1936, which were distributed by RKO Pictures.
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    • The comic books went through different distributors too. The 1948 series (issues #1-19) were published by Dell Comics, but in 1951, distribution switched to Toby Press from issues #20 to #61. In 1955, the comics found a new distributor with Harvey Comics, having the longest run with them from issue #62 and ending with issue #118. Dell picked up the license again a year after Harvey's run ended, and released 12 issues in 1962.
  • Creator Backlash: According to John Canemaker's Felix the Cat book, Otto Messmer said he regretted recommending Burt Gillett to direct the Van Beuren Felix the Cat cartoons in his steed—while Burt had worked on the original Felix cartoons, Otto felt his time in Hollywood working for Disney had gone to his head by the time he directed the cartoons, and also because he felt Gillett poorly utilized the character, turning Felix into a meek shadow of his former self and overshadowing the cat with his own cast of characters. It didn't help that when Otto tried to get work on the Van Beuren Felix cartoons (having initially passed on the offer), Burt refused to hire him because he considered his style "out of step" with his newer, slicker cartoons.
    "Felix was just a little figure in the background, instead of being the center figure. He [Burt Gillett] tried to push his own characters in there. Gillett tried to push himself, rather than the cat."
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  • Descended Creator: In "Felix Saves Christmas", Don Oriolo, the owner of Felix at the time, provided the voice of Pointdexter. In the dub of Baby Felix, Don himself voices Adult Felix.
  • Dueling Shows: The silent Felix the Cat shorts briefly became this to the Mickey Mouse cartoons, a series that took cues from Felix in the first place. Unfortunately, Pat Sullivan's reluctance to upgrade to sound ended up giving Disney a huge advantage over them, and Mickey quickly overtook the cat in popularity. And when Sullivan finally did upgrade the Felix cartoons with sound, the results were so half-assed and unpopular that it killed the series cartoons stone dead.
  • Fountain of Expies: Felix is hands down one of the most heavily imitated cartoon characters of all time. Many other cartoon characters draw heavily from basic design, most famously Mickey Mouse and Sonic the Hedgehog.
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  • Franchise Killer: The box office failure of the Movie and the ratings failure of Twisted Tales put an end to Felix's career outside of merchandising, save for the obscure "Baby Felix" series in 2000 and the low key direct-to-video film "Felix the Cat Saves Christmas" in 2004. A CGI TV revival was planned, but it was shelved once Dreamworks (and then NBC / Universal once they bought out Dreamworks) got the rights to the character, who currently have no plans to make new cartoons with the series until spring of 2019.
  • God Does Not Own This World: Zigzagged; Otto Messmer never owned the rights to his own creation, and even though Pat Sullivan claimed before his death that Otto is the owner of Felix, Sullivan's estate secured the rights to the character while Otto worked on the comics. Eventually, Otto's assistant and friend Joe Oriolo inherited the franchise (having worked out a licensing deal with Pat Sullivan's nephew, and later buying out the rights to Felix from him altogether), and it passed on to his son, Don. Currently, the franchise is in a joint ownership between Don Oriolo and Dreamworks, which then became a joint deal between Don Oriolo and NBC / Universal after they bought out Dreamworks.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The series suffers this on all fronts, and is part of why the character suffers from Mainstream Obscurity these days—-making matters worse is that Don Oriolo sold the rights of the series to Dreamworks in 2014 (which were then acquired by NBC/Universal when they bought out Dreamworks), who seem to be content with sitting on the character and not rereleasing anything related to him;
    • One of the best releases of the silent cartoons, Felix: The Otto Messmer Classics, released by the now-defunct Bosko Video, has been out of print for many years, and it is not easy to find it for cheap online.
    • Only the first 31 Trans Lux Felix cartoons have made it onto DVD, with the others remaining in limbo. And the DVD set containing the episodes is out of print and fetches fairly high prices on amazon. While VHS tapes containing episodes not on DVD have been released, they've been out of print for decades and aren't easy to find.
    • Want to read the many, many Felix the Cat newspaper comics and comic books which date all the way back to 1923, with some of them running the way up to the 1960s (with a crossover newspaper comic with Betty Boop in The '80s, and a brief comic book revival in The '90s)? Well, unless you have cash to burn and a lot of time on your hands, good luck with that. Only a small fraction of both the newspaper and magazine comics have been reprinted, and all but one of those book collections (Yoe Books "Felix: The Great Comic Tails") is out of print. So the only way to read the comics is to track down the originals, which becomes very difficult the further back you go, especially if you're looking for the newspaper comics.
    • The DVD of Felix the Cat: The Movie has fallen out of print, and has not gotten a blu-ray or newer DVD release either.
    • Episodes of The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat are remarkably hard to find on home video—only a few episodes were released on VHS by BMG Video way back when, and only a handful of them have ever even existed on the Internet. It's true that they did put out a few DVD releases for some episodes as well, but only one of them was ever released in the United Statesnote  while the others were released in Hong Kong. However, the entire series was eventually released. The bad news? It's in a DVD box set in Germany, so unless you have a region-free player, you're probably unlucky. To make matters worse, the rights to the show are tied between Film Roman (the studio that produced the series) and NBC/Universal now. On top of that, the short lived second season (where the tool was completely retooled after the first season underperformed in ratings, only to flop even harder after the shake up) is not held in high regard by either fans or even the original showrunners, making optimism for a rerelease all the more unlikely.
    • Baby Felix & Friends, which was mainly made for Japanese audiences, only saw a very limited DVD release for toddlers (with a few episodes per DVD) in the US.
    • The NES and Game Boy Felix the Cat video game have never been rereleased either, and its unlikely they ever will be.
  • The Merch: Despite the aforementioned lack of rereleases, Felix is a merchandise juggernaut, especially in his prime.
  • Missing Episode: A huge chunk of Felix cartoons from the silent era are currently missing.
  • No Budget: The made-for-TV Felix cartoons were made on very tight, shoestring budgets. The entire series only had a budget of 1,750,000$ (which, despite what one would think, is not big money for a 260 episode series of animation) or basically 6,700$ per episode (which was paltry, even by late 1950's standards), hence why Limited Animation is in full effect, why there are so many shots just showing off the backgrounds and stock music cues, and even parts where they just slide cels across a background with no animation at all! To further limit the need for more elaborate animation and save money on the already meager budget, Jack Mercer (the sole voice actor for the series) was asked to enunciate his dialogue very slowly so that the animation would require less labor intensive artwork. Mercer also had to continually alter the pitch of the voice during takes, because he preformed his audio recordings straight through instead of recording each character separately and editing their dialogue together later on to save on money. To make matters worse, they had extremely tight deadlines-—they had to turn out three completed episodes per week (one animator was cranking out 150 feet—or close to two minutes worth of animation each week just to get the episodes done) and were given mere hours to write the scripts for each episode. John Canemaker's Felix book summed up just how frugal Joe Oriolo was forced to be on the show;
    “One of his dictums became well known within the industry: scenes that could not fit under his office door, said Oriolo, held too many drawings.”
  • No Export for You: The NES video game never saw a release in Japan, although it was initially planned to have one.
  • Short-Lived Big Impact: The Joe Oriolo series only ran for three years (1959 to 1961) but it manages to be the Felix everyone remembers today, being far more well known than the original silent cartoons.
  • Stillborn Franchise: The Van Beuren Studios Felix cartoons, which only got three shorts made (with a fourth and fifth one never getting past the story and design stages) before the studio abruptly went belly-up due to RKO cancelling their contract in favor of distributing Disney shorts.
  • Talking to Himself: Jack Mercer voiced all of the characters in the Trans-Lux Felix cartoons—you're basically hearing him have one long conversation with himself in them.
  • The Wiki Rule: Fulfills it with the Felix The Cat Wiki.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • There was a fourth and fifth Van Beuren Felix the Cat short in the works that got as far as story and design before the studio went belly up.
    • When Joe Oriolo originally created Vavoom, he was loosely called Sneezy as an early name. Trans-Lux liked the character, but said "You can't have him promote unhealthy, sickly behavior!", so Joe changed his name to Vavoom, after the Jackie Gleason phrase "Va-va-va-voom!"
    • Originally Joe Oriolo wanted Felix to have a Magic Carpet but then it became a Magic Sack of Laundry, which eventually became The Magic Bag of Tricks.
    • Joe Oriolo originally wanted to do a follow-up series to his made-for-tv Felix cartoons after the success of the first one, but Trans-Lux refused to come up with the money to support the larger studio Joe would've needed to do such a project, forcing his studio to disband.
    • Don Oriolo had planned at least three direct-to-DVD holiday specials for the Felix series, including a Valentines Day and Halloween special, but only one of them, Felix the Cat Saves Christmas, saw the light of day.
    • The 1992 Hamilton Comics compilation "Otto Messmer's Felix the Cat Keeps on Walking" mentions that two more collection books with reprints of Messmer's Felix comics were planned to follow it up, but for reasons unknown, they were never released.
    • A CGI-Flash reboot was planned in 2013 but never made it past early development.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants:
    • Feline Follies was improvised and animated by Otto Messmer in a rather short period of time as a side project so that Pat Sullivan could fill in for another cartoon that was late for the Paramount Cartoon reels.
    • According to Don Oriolo, the son of the TV Felix showrunner Joe Oriolo, the Trans-Lux cartoons had absolutely grueling production schedules to go in hand with the low budgets—they had to churn out a few episodes of the show every week (one animator was reported to have been doing around 150 feet—or around 2 minutes of animation—per week). The scripts for each episode were written in hours, hence why there was so much inconsistency between the Professor being Felix's sworn enemy, and then hiring him as a helper now and then.
    "It's sort of the same concept as Bluto being friendly to Popeye in a couple of episodes. It just happened by way of scripts that were churned out in hours. Don't forget they were doing a few episodes a week. They didn't overthink anything or analyze anything because there was nothing to analyze. They were creating what is our history now—-and didn't think of the ramifications!"
    • The comic books Otto Messmer and Joe Oriolo worked on likewise had grueling work schedules that forced them to make up stories as they went—they were expected to turn out one completed script per day.
  • The Wiki Rule: The Felix The Cat Wiki.
  • Write What You Know:
    • Otto Messmer based the events of "Felix Turns the Tide" off of his own memories of friends and allies getting gunned down around him when he served in World War I.
    • Poindexter's name was inspired by the surname of Joe Oriolo's lawyer, Emmett Poindexter.
    • Vavoom was inspired by Joe Oriolo's own son, Don Oriolo, according to an interview with the latter.
    "I had a little drawing board next to my father... I was home sick one day from school, and as my father was doing the daily Felix strip, I sneezed. He flew off his chair. I thought "Wow, I have a powerful magic sneeze!" So I "force-sneezed" at my father who flew backwards, and stumbled down the stairs as I continued to "sneeze" at him. Not long after that he designed a character loosely called Sneezy. When they were deciding on the cast of the Felix TV series, he brought that character up; Trans-Lux liked the character, but said "You can't have him promote unhealthy, sickly behavior!" After which my father changed his name to Vavoom, after the Jackie Gleason phrase—va-va-va-voom!"
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