Tuesday, January 28, 2014

FELIX THE CAT, by Charlie the cat

Piper asked me to write her blog entry today because I am a black-and-white cat, just like Felix.  And of course, black-and-white is the best color to be, as Piper has probably told you already.  Also, being a cat is way better than being a dog, but that's just my opinion, not Piper's!

Here's a picture of me, just so you know I am telling the truth when I say I look a lot like Felix.  It's just that his eyes are bigger than mine. And also, he doesn't have any whiskers, which is kind of strange in a cat.

Anyway, Felix is a cartoon character who has been around a long time.  He made his debut appearance in 1919 in a short film called Feline Follies.  He was called Master Tom originally, and he didn't have any lines to learn because this was back in the days of silent films.  The studio that produced Feline Follies was owned by a man named Pat Sullivan, who was originally from Australia.  The cartoonist who animated Master Tom was Otto Messmer.  Later on, Mr. Sullivan would claim that he invented Felix, and Mr. Messmer would make the same claim.  But nowadays, Mr. Messmer is basically considered to have been the true creator of the popular feline.

By his third film, the cat had assumed the name Felix, which was probably a combination of the Latin words felis for "cat" and felix for "lucky."  During a 1925 interview in Australia, Mr. Sullivan said his inspiration for Felix came "from the sight of a cat which my wife brought to the studio one day."  Other times, he claimed that Rudyard Kipling's story, The Cat that Walked by Himself was where he got the idea for Felix.  So who knows where his true inspiration came from.

Felix was the first animated character to be popular enough to draw movie audiences to the theater.  They loved his clever antics, big grin, witty personality, and extremely expressive tail.  And they enjoyed the surrealistic situations the feline usually found himself in.

Besides being in short films, Felix also appeared in a comic strip, beginning in 1923.  Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Messmer, and a man named Joe Oriolo drew the comic strip.  Soon there was lots of merchandise with Felix's image, including ceramics, toys, postcards, and clocks.  He was also featured as the first giant balloon ever in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

By the late 1920s, people started making films with sound in them, including those that featured the new animation star, Mickey Mouse.  Sullivan and Messmer were unwilling at first to do productions with sound.  Then when they decided to do some, their films basically flopped.  The whole operation ended in 1932, and Mr. Sullivan died in 1933.

That might have been the end of Felix the Cat, except for the fact that Joe Oriolo brought him back in the 1950s.  The redesigned Felix had longer legs, and his cartoons featured a cast of new characters.  The shows started airing on American TV in 1953.  Mr. Oriolo also gave Felix a Magic Bag of Tricks that would make itself into all sorts of useful shapes whenever Felix wanted it to.

The TV series had almost nothing in common with the original Felix films, but they made the cat into a pop-culture icon.  In 2002, TV Guide ranked Felix the Cat at number 28 on the "50 Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time" list.  Besides starring in two feature films, Felix has also appeared on a variety of TV programs and merchandise.  Creative control of the feline has now been assumed by Mr. Oriolo's son, Don.  Felix has his own website, and many of his cartoons are available to watch on YouTube.

Okay, well, thanks for reading Piper's blog today, even though it was written by a cat instead of by a dog.  I hope I have done a good enough job of telling you about Felix the Cat, because he really is one of my idols.

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