In this entry of Kitty Stars of Cartoons we take a look at the pioneering cat in North American pop culture. Felix the Cat has survived over a century and has edged his place cartoon lore.
Early Days for Felix
Animator Otto Messmer is credited with creating the iconic cat figure in New Jersey. Felix the Cat debuted in 1919 in a short film entitled Feline Follies and is considered the first true movie star cartoon. Soon after the film debut of Felix he was turned to print and was syndicated in over 250 newspapers worldwide at the height of his fame. Felix was seen all over the globe and his print cartoons were translated in many different languages.
Creative Change takes Felix to new heights
Otto’s protege Joe Oriolo began working with the character exclusively and introduced new characters such as The Magic Bag of Tricks, Poindexter, The Professor, Rock Bottom and Vavoom. During this time period, Felix was so popular that he became the mascot for Charles Hindenburg’s historic transatlantic flight. Another note of history is that Felix was the first image to be broadcast over television airwaves.
How’d that happen?
Researchers at RCA Research Labs were creating the phenomenon of TV, they used a Felix doll as their test model in their very first transmission on NBC – leading to Felix’s image being even more marketable. The Felix clocks are famous still today and his balloon was the first ever to be featured during the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.
Felix’s popularity continued
In the mid-50s another popular cartoon run became a smashing hit and caused even more marketing avenues to open for Felix the Cat merchandise. In the
1980s “Felix the Cat, The Movie” led to marketing success for a new generation leading to over one million comic book sells worldwide. In 1996, “The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat” debuted and led to restaurant tie-ins.
Wendy’s restaurants began a promotion featuring Felix, and more than 9 million kids meals were sold featuring Felix’s cartoons. This was more than any other licensed characters had sold before. Dairy Queen, Arby’s and Carl’s Jr. also had kid’s meal campaigns that were also extremely successful.
Future for Felix
While Felix isn’t currently as popular as he once was, the iconic character continues to have worldwide appeal. The possibility for another jump in popularity could be in the character’s near future as the past has show Felix the Cat merchandise will sell throughout the generations.