On the First Feline Star

Felix, a squatty black cat with wide eyes and a recognizable smile, is the first true animation star. His popularity during the silent film era matched that of film stars.

It’s time to watch the screen to sing along with his introduction

The Early Years
Felix’s origins are disputable; but linked to Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer

His prototype’s first appearance is disputable, either Feline Follies (1919) or Tail of Thomas the Kat – but Felix wasn’t the name in either

Adventures of Felix (1919) marked the appearance of Felix as the name

Besides is his popularity, there was a successful transition from screen to print with over 250 newspapers in syndication with the comic strip

Supporting characters include Willie Jones (his master), Skiddoo (mouse), Inky, Dinky, & Winky (nephews, and Kitty (girlfriend)

US Navy Fighter Squadron 2-B chose Felix as a mascot, thus appeared holding a bomb on the side of F-3 biplanes (1920s)

New York Yankees adopt Felix as the team mascot (1922)

Logansport High School (Indiana) choses Felix as the school mascot (1926), and remains so today … although their nickname is the Berries

Charles Lindbergh took a Felix doll on his historic solo flight across the Atlantic (1927)

Felix appeared as the first balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (1927)

RCA used a papier-mâché Felix doll in a test as one of the first images ever broadcast by television (1928)

Felix’s last silent film was The Last Life (1928)

Felix the Cat by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra

Felix Kept on Walking by Paul Whiteman

Post-Silent Film Era
Transition from silent to sound unsuccessful as new characters became more popular

1st voiced by Mae Questral (1936)

Animation transitioned to Joe Oriolo (and eventually Don Oriolo), who produced 264 shorts featuring Felix (voiced by Jack Mercer for 29 years)

Felix, now less mischievous, using a “bag of tricks” became his trademark

First full feature film was Felix the Cat: The Movie (1988)

DreamWorks Animations currently own Felix the Cat

Newer Opener

Honors
#28 TV Guide’s Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time (2002)

#89 British Television Channel 4 poll of 100 Greatest Cartoon Characters (2004)

#36 Animal Planet’s 50 Greatest Movie Animals (2004)

Enjoy this tribute

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55 thoughts on “On the First Feline Star

  1. Ohhhhh – Felix the Cat!!!!!!!! Now, why didn’t Ii expect that?! Hmmmm…
    What an in depth post on this brilliant character, Frank! So many things I didn’t know.
    But I did know your post would make my Saturday!!!!
    Only one thing left now… get me his bag of tricks! 😉

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  2. Felix was one of the staples of my Saturday mornings! But like you, he wasn’t one of my favorites. But his theme song is now stuck in my head for the day! Thanks, Frank, I’m sure!

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  5. Wow, Frank! You put a lot into this post, lots of history and research. Most enjoyable.
    I remember watching Felix cartoons as a kid…. now I know the origins & history. Very cool! Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend. I think we’re all trying to stay warm, anyway. Even the South just ain’t south enough. 😀

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  6. We were taught about Felix when I was taking animation classes in college in the 70s, Frank. One of the things about him that stood out to me in his silent films was his dexterity with his tail. Although the ascent of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie greatly diminished Felix’s star, it wasn’t that long ago that I gifted my cat-man brother with a Felix clock. If you watch Steamboat Willie, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBgghnQF6E4, at about the 5:16 mark, a mangy cat, who looks a lot like Felix — which I am sure was intentional, enters the frame and Mickey trounces him. Hm, was Walt Disney sending a message? One last observation: “Pussyville” — love the name of that town! It also sounds like the birthplace of James Bond’s Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman who played her in “Goldfinger” turns 90 this year. Yikes!). Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Felix the Cat is a name that I know well… I could picture him in my mind’s eye and, though I cannot remember ever really watching it (though I may have) I know exactly what he looks like and the sound of that music! Funny how some things just get put into our memory banks, only to be extracted by someone like you who goes way deeper than I could ever imagine. Thank you for giving me even more “useless” (I use the term as in things that I will now know that people will Wonder why the hell I know it!!) information!

    Now I’m going to have that tune stuck in my head…

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    • Cayman,
      Given that you are a youngin’ … well, compared to me, 😉 … I imagine you were watching those that we developed int he late 50s or later. Where they in color or B? Glad you enjoyed this nostalgic trip.

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    • Christy,
      In the sidebar, see Categories > Entertainment > Saturday Morning Cartoons … you will notice that I’ve done my share of these, thus probably many characters with whom you are more familiar. For a youngster, at least you knew Felix!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a neat post. I remember Felix, but not as in-depth as what you’ve provided here. This was a fun read and enjoyed the youtube additions. Hope you’ve had a nice weekend ~

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  9. I got to know the black & white Felix about ten years ago. They’re in the public domain and I would download them for my youngest daughter to watch. I ended up enjoying them much more than she did. 🙂

    I see a lot of Felix in the early Betty Boop cartoons with the almost psychedelic scene transitions, the musical tracks and fantastic story lines.

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  10. This is so fun for me to read, Frank. I loved Felix when I was a child, and I guess I still do! There is a Felix Chevrolet in Los Angeles with a huge vintage sign of Felix, and I get such a kick out of it whenever we are nearby. I really enjoyed these videos, and I’m going to be humming the familiar tune tomorrow. 🙂

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    • Debra,
      Believe it or not, Felix Chevrolet was mentioned in my research, but to be honest, I can’t specifically recall the reference. Besides, I hedge against providing wrong information. Glad you enjoyed Felix!

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  11. i wasn’t a big fan of felix, but i will always remember when he was hiding behind a rock or something while looking at something dangerous. he said, “i wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole.” reaches behind him. “luckily, i have an eleven-foot pole.”

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