Animation Artifacts 22 Nov 2006 08:05 am
- Felix the Cat was a remarkable series in the era of the silent cartoon.
Other than Felix, there were few interesting film series.
Most of the films in theaters were horrible: the tedious Col. Heeza Liar films of J.R.Bray, the tiresome, repetitive and endless Aesop Fables of Paul Terry, the Hearst recycled comic strips, and the Disney Alice films which stole from the worst of them (the Terry cartoons.) Disney improved substantially with some of the Oswald films.
In this lot, the Felix films were enormously creative and entertaining.
Pat Sullivan still gets credit for the character, but it is well known that Otto Messmer was responsible for putting him on the screen. Messmer and his animators imaginatively used the medium with graphic nuance and ingenious wit.
Don’t get me wrong; these films are still bordering on the unwatchable today. But back in the early Twenties, they had to have stood out from the pack. Felix would remove his tail to use for some other need. He’d take type out of the screen balloons to use for graphic gags. It often was quite clever how they manipulated the visuals for Felix to find his anmated deus ex machina.
Of course, the book to read all about Sullivan, Messmer and Felix is John Canemaker’s Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat.
Unfortunately, the comic strips – which were often done by Otto Messmer as well – didn’t exploit this graphic sensibility well. Poring over a number of strips to find something to illustrate my point, I didn’t have the easiest of time locating the imaginative graphics that the animation always exploited.
Here, I give you two Sunday pages which do take advantage of the visuals around him.