Saturday 12 December 2020

Ubiquitous Felix

Felix the Cat wasn’t just a cartoon character. He was a little gold mine for Pat Sullivan. People saw Felix on the screen. They wanted Felix stuff. Sullivan was ready to accommodate them thanks to a pile of licensing agreements.

But it was all over too soon for Felix. Sound cartoons took over theatres in the late ‘20s. Felix lagged behind. By the time some music and perfunctory noises were added to his cartoons, it was too late. Sullivan died in 1933.

Here’s a story from the Miami Herald of August 6, 1926, giving you an idea of how popular Felix was and what you could possess of Felix for your very own.

FELIX THE CAT, whose droll antics are laughed at by thousands of readers every Sunday in The Miami Herald and who also is featured in an animated cartoon released through Educational Exchanges Inc., originally was conceived from a black cat of the commonest alley variety. Pat Sullivan, originator and cartoonist of Felix, gives his wife full credit for first calling attention to the possibilities of drawing an animal rather than a human and starting him famous black cat known to millions as Felix the Cat.
“I had been drawing comic human characters in New York with more or less varied success,” Mr. Sullivan says. “One day when I was particularly low in spirits and lower still in finances, my wife came into the apartment and dropped a shabby half-starved cat on my lap.
“‘What’s that good for?’ I asked gruffly. ‘I know of nothing more useless than a black cat and besides luck’s been bad enough already!’
“‘That kitty may mean a lot,’ she informed me. ‘Everybody is drawing pictures of men and women—why don’t you feature an animal?’ And from that circumstance grew the conception of the popular Felix.”
Mr. Sullivan started making movie cartoons in October, 1919, for Famous Players. After two or three months they came to be known as “Feline Follies,” the principal character being called Felix. It was used in Paramount’s Screen Magazine until 1921 when this company discontinued releasing Short Features to devote its time to long productions. Then Mr Sullivan distributed his film as a state right feature with varying success, until it finally was taken up by Educational Film Exchanges Inc. and through them secured the great national distribution which it now enjoys.
FOR awhile he drew “Felix the Cat” comic strips for a British weekly. When its popularity grew more pronounced it was syndicated to American newspaper by King Feature Syndicate, which now holds the rights to the newspaper cartoons. Various companies here and abroad then started manufacturing Felix the Cat dolls and other souvenirs. On a recent trip to England, where his fame as creator of Felix was widely known, Mr. Sullivan was recognized everywhere as the artist who drew their national pet. He was Invited as honor guest to the annual kitten parade of the Cat Fanciers Association of England. Passengers aboard the ocean liner requested Mr Sullivan to make as souvenirs more than 200 drawings of their favorite.
Felix the Cat dolls were displayed recently in the most valuable window location in the world—Liggett's drug store in the Grand Central Terminal building on Forty-second street, New York City, as the initial feature of the big national exploitation campaign between Educational Film Exchanges Inc. and George Borgfeld & Co., New York City holders of the exclusive manufacturing privileges of the Felix dolls. The display was withdrawn only because orders for merchandise failed to keep up with the unprecedented demand which quickly depleted the entire stock. The Felix dolls now are being sold in practically every Rexall drug store in America and in addition are being handled by 2400 United Cigar stores throughout the United States.
In addition to the huge demand for Felix the Cat dolls, the tremendous popularity of Felix is indicated by the large number of other novelties now being marketed of the famed cartoon feline. There are Felix fabrics, Felix clothes for kiddies, Felix dolls and toys of wood leather and metal, Felix beauty patches, Felix postcards, Felix the Cat designs on nursery cups plates and jugs, Felix phone mouthpieces, small candy containers, buttons and footballs.
IN England and Ireland, Felix is every bit as popular as in America. When the Prince of Wales visited this country in the fall of 1924 with the British polo team. “Felix the Cat” served as the polo players’ mascot. When the Queen of England visited a great British exposition several years ago she returned with a giant model of Felix. In London Felix is featured in revues in masquerades and even popular songs are written of the cartoon character.
In a recent radio talk a speaker on movie subjects stated that an original Felix drawing autographed by Mr. Sullivan would be sent to anybody who would write the studios. Now one man is kept busy addressing envelopes and sending out drawings in answer to requests as fast as Mr. Sullivan can sign them.
The Sullivan Studios, 47 W Sixty-third street, are working overtime making cartoons for newspaper use and drawing the animated film cartoons released through Educational.


  1. Just Imagine in an AU When Pat Sullivan DID Transition to Sound well

  2. the root of the problem was that Sullivan was a problematic raging drunkard, if Messmer got the rights after Sullivan drank himself to death rather than his brother, the plans to move the studio to Florida would have come to fruition and Felix would've kept on walking on the big screen.