Felix the Cat: The Complete 1958-1959 Series
During the 1920s, Felix The Cat, brought to life by animator Otto Messmer, was a silent-film star of international renown. Unfortunately, like many of his peers, Felix was unable to make the transition to sound and faded from the spotlight, although Messmer continued Felix’s adventures in the comics.
In the ‘50s, Messmer’s assistant, Joe Oriolo, co-creator of Casper the Friendly Ghost, took over Messmer’s strips and struck a deal to create a new series of Felix cartoons for television that began airing in 1958. The first 31 episodes are presented by Classic Media on the two-disc set, prematurely titled by a few months, Felix The Cat: Golden Anniversary Edition.
On TV, Felix was given a magic bag that could do and become anything he, or more accurately, the episode’s writer, needed. The bag caught the attention of The Professor, who kept trying to steal it in the first few episodes. The bulldog Rock Bottom became Felix’s next nemesis. The two bad guys teamed up and lost interest in the magic bag, becoming common criminals. They attempt to steal Felix’s money tree (your parents were wrong), an 18-carat gold fruit tree, oil on Felix’s property, and his gold mine, but are foiled at every turn.
In a bizarre and unexplained turn of events, Felix, obviously able to forgive all transgressions against him, baby-sits The Professor’s nephew Poindexter. Allegedly the show coined the name, which was applied to smart, nerdy types. During one adventure Felix and Poindexter, in a ship the kid built, land on the moon and meet its self-proclaimed king, Master Cylinder, some sort of robot who used to be a student of the Professor’s. Unfortunately, this set does not contain an appearance by my favorite Felix character, Vavoom the Eskimo, who could only utter his name at destructive decibels.
Depending on what you read, most, if not all the character voices were performed by Jack Mercer, who had the longest run as the voice of Popeye. Some attribute Pierre Guillermo as the voice of Felix, although if true, it’s odd that he would only perform Felix while Mercer took on the rest of the load. Animation Historian John Canemaker is interviewed in a short feature about Felix The Cat, but unfortunately doesn’t clear it up.
The show’s famous theme makes bold claims, “You laugh so much/ your sides will ache/ your heart will go pitter pat,” but fails to deliver because the shows are barely amusing, filled with bad puns and contrived plots, the latter of which are repeated too often. The funniest cartoon in the collection is Feline Follies (1919), the first appearance of a black cat called “Master Tom,” who would become Felix two shorts later in Adventures of Felix (1919).
Felix The Cat: Golden Anniversary Edition is an example of things not always being as good as you remember them. Recommended only for hardcore animation enthusiasts and very young children who haven’t formed discerning tastes yet.