Here on AdCharacters we’re not only passionate about advertising characters, but also of animation cartoon characters (even though many of the latter met advertising roles such as in this case).
A CARTOON STAR IS BORN
On the annals of the history of the art of animation back in the decade of the 20´s, this technique was been developed and was still a novelty, however it already had its first “global” star of animated silent film, a small black kitten.
Its debut in cinemas in late 1919 was the realization “Fellini Follies”, one of the episodes for the animated sequence of Paramount Magazine, the unexpected presentation on stage of a small and restless cat, which would catch the attention of the public.
The authorship of this character is uncertain, its creation is attributed to the pair Sullivan – Messmer (producer and animator, respectively).
Shortly after the character would be named Felix and it would appear starring its first short: “Felix the Cat”.
BOOM and DOWNFALL
Felix the Cat is credited with being the first cartoon character in the category of international “Superstar”.
Felix was a success in American popular culture, and also abroad. It had its own comic strip (drawn by Messmer) and its image soon adorned all sorts of products.
Over the years, the image of the character (redesigned in 1922 following geometric trends of the animator Bill Nolan) would start to be the subject of an aggressive commercial exploitation by Sullivan, who would be revealed as a great salesman making lucrative profits from granted licenses for the manufacture of dolls and all range of merchandising items.
However, it was a brief success. The arrival of the audio cinema and therefore the sound cartoons (particularly Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse), eclipsed the no-sound proposal of Sullivan and Messmer
A few spoken shorts created by Sullivan’s brother failed in their attempt to gain audience. The last silent episodes of Felix the Cat would be produced until 1928.
BACK TO BUSINESS
Television can be taken as the salvation of the black cat. Felix cartoons began airing on American television in 1953. Meanwhile, Joe Oriolo, the new artist behind the comic strip, won the rights to introduce Felix in a new series, specifically for television.
Oriolo added new characters, like Poindexter and Rock Bottom, and created the magical bag that could turn into any shape that Felix needed. Joe Oriolo’s son, Don Oriolo, continued as the manager of Felix, the cat has starred in various televisions series and a movie.
Felix is a good example of how a cartoon character thought finished by the arrival of a new technology (the sound) can be recycled itself and adapt to changing times thanks to another new invention: the television.
Many will remember the incursion of Felix the Cat on TV and its characteristic intro song as an endearing toon character of our childhood. Thanks friend Felix!