The first Felix the Cat cartoon appeared on 9th November 1919. It was three minutes long and called Feline Follies. It was released by Paramount Studios. In the film Felix did little more than grow agitated as a clever mouse outsmarted him. The animator was Otto Messmer who introduced a new look to the animation by using “a wink or a twist of the tail” or some other gesture which gave Felix his personality.
The following are some other dates in the career of Felix the Cat but in all he starred in 150 silent theatrical cartoons between 1921 and 1928.
- 1921-Felix the Cat
- 1922-Felix In Hollywood;
- 1923-Felix in Fairyland;
- 1924-Felix Gets the Can and Felix Revolts;
- 1925-Felix the Cat on the Farm;
- 1927-Why and Other Whys, Flim Flam Films and Felix Dines and Pines ;
- 1928-The Oily Bird, Felix Woos Whopee and Oceanantics.
Felix was created, as mentioned, by Otto Messmer. Pat Sullivan owned the studio where Messmer worked and it is he who claimed credit for creating the character. They both agreed that Felix was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “The Cat That Walked by Himself”.
The first film in 1919 was released as part of the weekly one-real Paramount Screen Magazine package. Previously an animator, John R. Bray had provided this segment of animation but he went to rivals Goldwyn so Magazine producer John King asked Sullivan to come up with a replacement. Sullivan asked Messmer to create the character. He created Felix at home in his spare time, apparently. Until 1921 Felix had no name when Felix the Cat was released.
The name Felix apparently is taken from the words feline and felicity. Felix is a random bred tuxedo cat; a black cat with white fur on his chest. Felix failed to be a hit when sound was introduced when the character was overwhelmed by cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse.
My thanks to Jeff Rovin and his excellent book: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cartoon Animals.