Felix the Cat

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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 [1] 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 studio founder/CEO Pat Sullivan refused to produce sound films.

After a failed attempt at a Felix revival via sound and color during The Golden Age of Animation via Van Beuren Studios, the cat eventually migrated to a hit TV series in the very late 1950s. 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 the Japan-only Baby Felix to the 2004 direct-to-video special Felix the Cat Saves Christmas. Don Oriolo, the current owner of the series, claims that another cartoon series is planned, being done entirely in CGI, due by 2013.

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

Has a Character Sheet.


Available Filmography[edit | hide | hide all]

Tropes used in Felix the Cat include:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: The Professor and Master Cylinder
  • Captain Ersatz: Felix probably has the most ersatzes of any fictional character. Ironically, one of them would totally dethrone Felix in popularity.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Professor and Rock Bottom in the Trans-Lux cartoons.
  • Cash Cow Franchise: One of the earliest examples of this trope-Felix was popular enough to spawn lots of this-until Mickey Mouse came around and unsurped 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 1950's.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Efficient Displacement: In "Felix Goes West", this happens when Felix is thrown through a door by an angry house owner.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The ending of "Felix Doubles For Darwin".
  • Expository Theme Tune
  • Fountain of Expies: See "Captain Ersatz" above.
  • Franchise Killer: The failure of the Movie and Twisted Tales put an end to Felix's career outside of merchandising, save for the Japan-only "Baby Felix" and a low key direct-to-video film "Felix the Cat Saves Christmas" in 2004. It should also be noted that he his getting a upcoming CGI Revival.
  • 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.
  • God Does Not Own This World: Otto Messmer never owned the rights to his own creation.
  • Haunted Castle: The castle in "Bold King Cole".
  • Idea Bulb: Quite often seen.
  • 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.
  • 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 cartoon star, and he's done a lot to earn that rep. We 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 (with more on the way), decades worth of newspaper and magazine comics, and an absolutely monsterous 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.
  • Missing Episode: A huge chunk of Felix cartoons from the silent era are currently missing.
  • 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 Fourth Wall: 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.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Felix's simple, round design set the standard for cute cartoon animals ever since.
  • Spinoff Babies: "Baby Felix", only released in Japan.
  • 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
  • Talking to Himself: All of the voices in the Trans-Lux cartoon were done by Jack Mercer.
  • 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!

  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Bold King Cole", whatever happened to those guests that the King was boasting to?
  • 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.
  1. Pat Sullivan claimed credit for Felix's creation during his lifetime, but Messmer revealed after Sullivan's death that he [Messmer] was the creator of the character--this claim is also backed by former employees of the Pat Sullivan studio