Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Toon Legends: Felix The Cat (1959)

There has been much dispute over who really gets the credit for creating Felix The Cat, whose adventures stretch all the way back to the silent film era.

Some say that Australian animator Pat Sullivan, who is credited in the intro to the TV shorts that bowed in 1959, such as the one you'll see below, created Felix. Others, including noted film critic Leonard Maltin (Entertainment Tonight), passed the credit to artist Otto Messmer, who worked for Sullivan. Regardless, Felix has delighted children of all ages for nearly 100 years.

After some of his early shorts were released to television in 1954, Felix began appearing in a brand new series of cartoons produced by Trans-Lux in 1959. This version is the one most of us are most familiar with, as Felix has a magic, shapeshifting bag that adjusts to whatever he needs at a particular time. Plus, there are the recurring villains, such as the Professor, whose nephew, Poindexter, is Felix's best buddy, and Rock Bottom, a bulldog who's about as sharp as a bag of stale dog biscuits. Periodically, the Professor would abandon his quest to acquire the magic bag and aid Felix on one of his adventures.

Winston Sharples, long time musical director for Famous Studios (Paramount), composed the theme song, sung by Ann Bennett, a big band singer of some renown. Continuing the Famous connection, all the voices in the Trans-Lux series were the work of one man------Jack Mercer (Popeye). Coincidentally, Mae Questel (better known as the voices of Olive Oyl & Betty Boop) was the original voice of Felix in the 1930's shorts. Considering that there were no credits or episode titles when the shorts reran in syndication in the 70's, the revelation is amazing in and of itself. Producer Joe Oriolo is another link in the Famous chain. He's also responsible for another cartoon icon---Casper the Friendly Ghost!

My first exposure to Felix came during the 70's, when the shorts aired on WPIX on weekday mornings. He'd return in 1995 with the CBS series, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, which returned Felix to his silent era roots.

Now, let's scope out why the Professor was after "The Magic Bag":

Too bad Felix doesn't have a home now on the cable, as he'd be a welcome addition anywhere.

Rating: A.

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