It certainly feels like we have been celebrating some pretty significant pop culture anniversaries this week, right? We had the 50th anniversary of Night Gallery just the other day and earlier in the week there was the debut of the official theme song for the 40th anniversary of Pac-Man – although that actually takes place next year. As well as a couple of weeks ago it was the 65th anniversary celebration of the first episode of Walt Disney’s Disneyland television series – but today we have a rather large milestone to share with you… today marks the 100th anniversary of Felix the Cat. It was with the June 9, 1919 silent animated theatrical short entitled Feline Follies that the character who would become Felix the Cat debuted on the silver screen. To be totally fair, at this point the Pat Sullivan Studio had named their animated black cat Master Tom – it wouldn’t be until two animated shorts later that the animated cat would be known as Felix, with the December 14, 1919 cartoon entitled The Adventures of Felix. Times have most certainly changed since Feline Follies originally debuted – not just in how Felix the Cat would act but the style of humor as well… which you will obviously understand after watching the animated short.
First of all I want to give a huge shout out to Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research site – one of the greatest repositories of animation history that you are likely to find. It was Jerry’s post on the Cartoon Research Facebook page that gave me the heads up on the 100th anniversary of Felix the Cat in the first place. It appears that Feline Follies proved quite popular with audiences and I will admit it took me a few minutes to stop laughing from that rather over the top ending to Master Tom’s predicament. A second animated short was delivered a mere 15 days later by the Pat Sullivan Studio – this too was a success which of course led to The Adventures of Felix as previously stated. The popularity of Felix the Cat though would keep soaring – not just with additional animated theatrical shorts but with a plethora of merchandising such as a comic strip that began on August 19th of 1923 and lasted until 1943. In addition there were numerous collectibles such as toys and there were even some songs written about him – like with “Since Felix Has Been Shingled”. A term that apparently describes a type of bob hair cut – thanks Wikipedia!
For myself though the first time that I ever saw a Felix the Cat cartoon was not one of the Pat Sullivan Studio offerings but with reruns of the 1958 television series – it was this popular show that introduced Felix’s legendary Magic Bag of Tricks. Up until then Felix would usually use his tail – the surrealist animation style allowed it to morph into all manner of objects and tools. The animation is typical of the television series of the day and it possesses an incredibly charming quaint quality that I quite enjoy. As a matter of fact the voices of the various characters for the 134 episode run of the series was provided by none other than Jack Mercer – the voice of Popeye the Sailor from 1935 until 1980!
So here is to the 100th anniversary of Felix the Cat, an animated icon that has yet to use up all of his nine lives!