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Why We Still Love Felix the Cat After 100 Years

In 1919, Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer created Felix the Cat, one of the most popular and enduring cartoon characters of all time. Felix was a black cat with white eyes who starred in his own series of short films from 1919 to 1930. The character became so popular that he even appeared in comic books, toys, and other merchandise. In 2019 Felix celebrated his 100th birthday.

Otto Messmer Felix the Cat Posing pen and ink
Otto Messmer (American, 1892-1983). “Felix the Cat Posing #3 [Pat Sullivan Studio]”. Pen and ink on paper. Signed lower right. Cream colored wove paper. Overall size: 5 5/8 x 4 1/8 in. (143 x 105 mm). Sold for $1,800 at Stanford Auctioneers, September 2019.
The Origins of Felix the Cat

Felix the Cat was created by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer in 1919. The pair were working for the New York-based animation studio, Paramount Pictures. At the time, Sullivan was the studio’s head animator and Messmer was his assistant.

The two men came up with the idea for Felix while they were working on another short film called “The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird.” In that film, there was a black cat who appeared briefly in one scene. Sullivan and Messmer thought the cat was cute and decided to make him the star of his own series of shorts.

The first Felix the Cat cartoon, “Feline Follies,” was released in 1919. In the film he was referred to as Mister Tom. It was a huge success and made the character an overnight sensation. Felix went on to star in over 50 short films over the next 11 years. In 1930, Sullivan and Messmer sold the rights to Felix to another studio, Universal Pictures. The new owners of Felix changed the character’s design and gave him a more cartoony look. Felix’s popularity began to decline and he faded into obscurity in the 1940s.

Felix the Cat Renewal Version from Medicom Toy
Felix the Cat (Renewal Version) from Medicom Toy. Felix measures 12.99″, is made of vinyl and is a replica of the famous Felix composition doll of 1924

However, Felix made a comeback in the 1950s when he appeared on television in a series of new shorts. These shorts were produced by Walter Lantz, who had also worked on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. The Felix the Cat cartoons from the 1950s are some of the best-known and most beloved entries in the series. They introduced a number of iconic elements, including Felix’s Magic Bag of Tricks. The shorts from this era also featured the voice of Dal McKennon as Felix. McKennon’s performance is widely considered to be the definitive portrayal of the character.

Did you know?
TV Guide ranked Felix the Cat number 28 on its “50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time” list.

Felix the Cat has also been featured in a number of comics and books over the years. One of the most notable is the 1960 graphic novel, “The Adventures of Felix.” This book was written by Otto Messmer and illustrated by Joe Oriolo. Oriolo also created a series of Felix the Cat toys in the 1960s. These toys were produced by the toy company, Mattel. Felix the Cat has also appeared on a variety of other merchandise, including t-shirts, coffee mugs, toys, games, clothing lines, figurines and even bedsheets.

Felix the Cat Theme Song

The Felix the Cat theme song is just as iconic. The song, which was written by written by Winston Sharples and performed by 1950s big band singer Ann Bennett. The song perfectly captures Felix’s mischievous personality. It starts with a cheerful melody that reflects Felix’s upbeat attitude, but quickly turns into a playful tune that hints at his propensity for trouble. The lyrics are also clever and humorous, making them instantly memorable. This is evident in the opening line, ” Oh, Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat…” which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the song.

Wade Felix the Cat
Wade Felix the Cat

His longevity is down to a number of factors: he is relatable, has great design and a great sense of humor that appeals to people of all ages. Felix the Cat is one of the most iconic and beloved cartoon characters of all time. He has been entertaining audiences for over 100 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

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Lucky Black Cats featuring Felix the Cat

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