Felix the Cat
Felix the Cat, The Wonderful Wonderful Cat
My first encounter with Felix the Cat was in the form of a flickering, hazy, black and white reproduction on the television. Nothing to write home about.
But closer inspection revealed the true Felix to me, the inner Felix.
The trademark Felix pace
His beautiful blackness was the draw-card and his wide grin endeared him to the crowds but the surreal situations he ended up in were the clinchers. He was admired for his famous pace - that hands behind his back, head down, deep in thought pace. The Felix Pace became a trademark, one that has been analysed by critics around the world. I have studied this pose myself.
He was a world breaker in many things. Felix was the first animated character who attracted movie audiences based on his star power, and he was the world's first television actor!
The early life of Felix
Felix first appeared in a Paramount Pictures short called Feline Follies. This was in 1919 when Felix went under the name of Master Tom.
It was a success, and a second film was produced in the same year, The Musical Mews, and this too was successful with audiences.
Felix, to use his real name, quickly became a popular figure in American culture, drawing people to see his films and shorts on his star power alone.
The first appearance of Felix - 1919
The Felix Collection on DVD - deliciously weird
A set put together for the Golden Anniversary of Felix.
A beautifully packaged set, with a graphic of the iconic cat on the cover, and a list of episodes.
The case opens like a book and contains two one- sided discs, the cartoons are complete and the menu is easy to navigate.
Easy for any human to enjoy!
His Rapid Rise to Fame
He rocketed to fame, holding a spot as the world's most popular cartoon character until the advent of Mickey Mouse. The wild, witty cartoons made during this period included such classics as Felix in Hollywood (1923), Felix Switches Witches (1927), and Comicalamities (1928).
Felix was perfect for silent films, with his endless repertoire of expressive mannerisms which don't need sound.
Felix on screen
Felix Fought Back
In the 1920s, Felix began to be supplanted by the stars of the "talkies," and it took him quite a while to regain his early popularity. But Felix was not daunted by his downfall!
When his screen career faded in the 1930s, Felix spent a few decades in a memorable series of comic books and strips. After a brief lag, he made it big in television in the 1950s in various TV series, Felix's Magic Bag of Tricks, Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, and Baby Felix is popular in the Japanese market.
Felix continues to appear in comic strips and television shorts. He has even been spotted in graffiti! Like many cartoon characters, he has been through his fair share of metamorphoses, and the modern Felix is quite different from the original.
Felix is older now, rounder and plumper, like most of us with a few years (and a few good dinners) under our belts.
The first television actor - Felix the Cat
Felix as the original TV Star
When television first started, the engineers had to constantly monitor and adjust the quality of the transmitted picture for the best definition. To do this, they needed an actor to constantly be under the burning studio lights as they tweaked and sharpened the image. Felix volunteered for this job from the goodness of his heart.
Felix was the right colour (black and white) for television and he could stand the heat from the lights. He was patient, biddable and good-natured. Foolishly, Felix accepted a one-off payment for his ground-breaking work, not a good example to other cats who entertained dreams of making the Big Time in show biz.
In 1928, Felix the Cat was placed on a record player turntable and was broadcast using a mechanical scanning disk to an electronic kinescope receiver. The image received was only 2 inches tall, and the broadcasts lasted about 2 hours per day.
Felix remained on his turntable for almost a decade as the early experimenters strove towards the goal of a high definition picture. Now that's dedication for you!
That Felix Song
Felix! Felix! Felix the Cat! was written by Alfred Bryan, Pete Wendling and Max Kortlander in 1928.This is just the first verse. There's also a recording from Bix Beiderbecke and, as soon as I find where it's available I'll post the link.
There's a cat, a fuzzy creature
In the movies, he's a feature
He's some Cat!
All the kiddies and the mammas
Say that he's the cat's pajamas
He's all that!
When on the screen he appears,
They shout these words in his ears (Doggone it!)
Felix, Felix, Felix the Cat,
Welcome, welcome, home to our flat.
You fascinate me with your funny meow;
I'll feed you catnip and sweet milk from the cow.
Felix, Felix, in our backyard,
You can hang up your hat.
Make your pillow underneath a pussywillow,
Felix, Felix the Cat!
Felix fights on!
The popularity of Felix the Cat has never gone away. Not just because of nostalgia, and not just because of his striking appearance and charming personality, but because he is a fascinating creature, an oddly disconnected and yet almost pathologically happy being
And Felix continues to fight Evil!
We must be generous of spirit to the old Stars. Maybe one day I could be an old Star myself?