The cartoon above, heading this page, is the first cartoon of Felix the Cat called Feline Follies. Is this the first cat cartoon on film? I don’t know. But Felix the Cat was the first true animated film star. He successfully progressed to television and there were also books and comic strips. He did it all.
As you can see in this first black cat cartoon Felix screws up when he fails to discharge his duties as a mouser. I find these early cartoons charming. Based on one of Rudyard Kipling’s just so stories, “The Cat That Walked by Himself“, Felix is, it seems a broody, thoughtful, loner of a cat. The cartoons do not explain Felix’s domestic arrangements. In the first cartoon he lived with a human family and as mentioned was thrown out. He also lived with a human family in the cartoon, The Oliy Bird, 1928. Sometimes he lives alone (maybe he constantly gets beaten by the mouse and gets ejected from the human home?). In the first cartoon he courts a white cat and in the Why and Other Whys (1927) and Felix Woos Whoopee (1928) he is married to a white cat (he was obviously successful). He also has children.
On occasion the animators took the poetic license to use the symbols in the cartoon and convert them to other usable objects (such as the music symbol in Feline Follies above). He has also used the “?” and “!” symbols to to good effect. He also uses his tail and ears in extraordinary ways.
As for most cats these Felix black cat cartoons are often about the quest for food. Take for example, Felix Gets the Can (1924). Although, his appearance on television brought a less moody cat, as life is easier. This is because he has a bag of tricks that helps him defeat his foes such as the Abominable Snowman and Martin the Martian.
Both Felix the Cat and Sylvester the Cat are black but they have some white too, which probably makes them bicolor or more accurately Tuxedo Cats. Still, one can’t be too scientific about cartoon cats as there is a hell of a lot of poetic license employed in drawing a black cat cartoon.
Felix, one of the all time great black cat cartoon characters, starred in 150 silent films between 1921 and 1928. It didn’t work out so well in sound but he made a comeback on television making 260 four minute shows beginning in 1960. Jack Mercer did all the voices for the TV series.
Felix the Cat — The Magic Bag — 1959
Sylvester the Cat
Sylvester is another well known black cat cartoon character; a Warner Brothers black cat cartoon star.
Well, Sylvester started life a long time after Felix. Felix was 26 by the time Sylvester turned up in 1945 (of course cartoon characters don’t actually age). Sylvester as mentioned is strictly speaking a black and white cat, a tuxedo cat. The markings are caused by the white spotting gene in real life (boring uh!). The first cartoon was Life with Feathers in 1945.
The Last Hungry Cat
This black cat cartoon character spends 44 cartoon adventures fighting with a devilish canary called Tweetie Bird who most often succeeds in beating Sylvester. The fourth film, for example, was Tweetie Pie (1947), a film in which the cat spends all the time trying to get into the canary’s cage. Then there was All Abir-r-rd (1950) in which they fight it out on a train, of course.
Another “contestant” to Sylvester is Hipperty Hopper a baby kangaroo. This duo featured in 12 films. Sylvester thought Hipperty was a mouse, which didn’t help him!
In 1950 Sylvester was joined by his son Sylvester Junior (see the video above). Junior uses emotional blackmail to coax his Dad into battle, “You want to destroy a child’s faith in his father?” Other foes to Syvester include:
- Wellington Bulldog (Dogone Cats 1948)
- a mouse (Mouse Mazurka 1949)
- Mike the Bulldog
- Timmy Mouse
- Spike the Bulldog
- Speedy Gonzales (a well known cartoon character) in Speedy Gonzales 1955
- Sam the Cat (Trick or Treat 1959)
This black cat cartoon personality starred in 104 cartoons. The animator was Friz Freleng. He was drawn to give a hint of the circus clown with baggy trousers and a red nose. Mel Blanc provided the voice. Sylvester also starred in a comic book series with Tweetie Bird.
From Black Cat Cartoon to Cartoon Cats
- Felix juggling published under: