Friday, 13 April 2012

Felix and the Bell

Felix the Cat was one of the great actors of silent film. Otto Messmer and his crew at the Sullivan studio developed an attractive, imaginative character rich in emotion. And toward the end of the ‘20s, Messmer put him in increasingly unusual settings.

One cartoon I like is ‘Astronomeous’ (1928). Felix, for reasons that aren’t all that clear, fires a harpoon which lands on a cyclist going around the rings of Saturn. Our hero then finds himself punted to Mars.

The New York animation studios were known for their morphing animation into the early ‘30s. Felix turned things (including body parts) into other things. Here’s a cute little scene where curiosity creates a question mark, which hangs in the air, and Felix uses it, a Martian mushroom and his tail to create a bell that he rings.

The crescent moons in the atmosphere is a nice touch.

There’s a lot of cycle animation. Some of it is pretty obvious but some is used to good effect, like when the letters of the word “DONG” change shape.

Felix took a rest for awhile when the sound era came in, with the exception of a couple of ho-hum cartoons for Van Beuren, and then returned with a revised format, a cute little theme song, and even less elaborate animation in the late ‘50s in some made-for-TV cartoons that are liked by many today who grew up with them.


  1. I also like the '90's Film Roman series as well.

  2. Hey Yowp,

    Felix's "reasons... aren't all that clear" in ASTRONOMEOWS (1928) because the print we usually see today, a reissue from 1931, had its intertitles unceremoniously chopped out when sound was added.
    In the original, Felix is campaigning for President of Cats in the "Democatic" primary. The big issue is finding new homes for homeless cats; Felix promises to colonize outer space—and that he'll launch an exploratory space mission immediately.
    In the end, after Felix saves the King of Mars from the comet, the grateful King says "I wish I had a million more like you." In line with Felix's campaign promise, up come a flood of strays.

    Copley Pictures was good enough to produce some new Felix cartoons, but their soundtracked reissues (which appear to have come a little later) really are incomprehensible at times...

  3. David, thanks for your note on this. I should have figured something like that happened. I've seen others that are a bit of a guessing game.

    The plot makes perfect sense now.

  4. As much sense as stray cats colonizing space ever made. (-: