Felix the Cat is a rarity--a cartoon character so classic, so beloved, that he's stayed in the public eye for more than seventy-five years. Now Image Entertainment brings you the DVD that's the cat's meow--a collection of ... more »sixteen vintage Felix cartoons from 1919-1924, restored to their original projection speed with Dave Wickerham's rich new organ scores.« less
"How great can Felix be on DVD?! Pretty great. This collection starts with the very first Felix cartoon "Feline Follies" (before he was officially Felix), and includes the other 2 shorts that shared the reel(these help show just how Felix slid into contemporary ideas behind animation). "Feline Follies" is the last, so you don't actually see Felix for about 5 minutes into the DVD. A very good sampling of Felix follows; right up to almost the end (when sound had a hand in slapping Felix's glory to dust). Another great thing is the preservation of the cartoons in their entirety. The other Felix DVD collection currently available hacks off some of the titles, which are just as interesting as the 'toons themselves. What makes these Felix cartoons so interesting to watch is how they make the limitation of no sound into a plus. First timers may be initailly disorientated, but little by little the discovery of what made these animations work - and what keeps them working today - is the clever use of visuals and morphing of shapes. They work without sound, though the organ track definitely adds color. Try turning the sound off while watching nearly any contemporary cartoon and see how entertaining it is. In fact, don't try it; it isn't a great experience.Another interesting facet of seeing silent animation is the discovery that animation (particuarily the short form) has not changed incredibly over the last century. You see jokes you've seen before, familiar themes, situations, and even familiar characterizations. The groundwork for a lot of twentieth century animation was laid pretty solid during the silent era. This collection can be appreciated both as animation itself and as history. Too bad Pat Sullivan gets all of the credit on the original reels.When I show silent and early animation to friends, I almost always get the response "They don't make cartoons like this anymore."That's a sad fact."
Otto Messmer, Jazz Age Insane Genius
woolrich2 | VA. United States | 12/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While I always loved cartoons as a kid, I did have one major bone of contention to pick with all of those vintage cartoonists and sounds effect men and directors over at MGM and Warner Brothers and Disney. You see, I was a regular ailurophile, meaning I always liked the company of a good rough-and-tumble tom cat as a kid. Well, you begin to see the problem: Tom gets hit by an anvil about 500 times and Sylvester takes electrical shorts about 700 times in the average 8-minute cartoon. Even early Mickey Mouse cartoons show the usually bland character being rather sadistic to black-and-white thuggish felines. Why so much animus towards the cats, Mr. Disney? I didn't understand until much later that it had probably been a competitive response--against the most popular other cartoon character in 1928(when "Steamboat Willie, " the First Mickey cartoon hit theatres),one Felix the Cat. Now, at last, I find myself with a copy of Image Entertainment's DVD reissue of Bosko Video's just plain marvelous 2-hour compilation of silent Felix cartoons, mostly from 1922-1924, and entitled "Presenting Felix the Cat: the Otto Messmer Classics--1919-1924." I think Mr. Disney had good reason to feel insecure: the animator Otto Messmer must be one of the greatest unsung geniuses of cartooning--wild, endlessly inventive, not at all sentimental, artistically creative and unique. I never thought much of Felix before: also in my childhood, I recall a bland, latter-day, watered-down version of the "Wonderful,Wonderful Cat," a Mickey Mouse-voiced little simpleton who was painfully nice to everyone. He carried some large gimmick bag around with him and giggled like an idiot constantly. Even worse, he even *sang* inane songs in an attempt to break up the tedium of his unimaginative cartoons. It really made for painful viewing! Now, at last I see Felix in all his glory, in the days of silents, before the Mouse clobbered him commercially and Felix's production company couldn't successfully transition the poor cat to sound. He's everything you wouldn't expect him to be: a wise guy, somewhat mischievous but basically well intentioned, and a cat who takes no undeserved grief from anyone--man, mouse, or even ghost. While he started out in 1919 as a second or third banana character in something known as "The Paramount Magazine" weekly film short series that was distributed for free to theatres along with Paramount film
releases, he quickly eclipsed the other cartoons, graduated into his own features, and the rest were forgotten quickly. The very best of the lot of the cartoons in this compilation, "Felix Turns the Tide," "Felix Lends a Hand," "Felix the Ghostbreaker," "Felix Revolts," "Felix in Hollywood," & "Felix Finds 'Em Fickle" show a strange, surreal world where literally anything can and will happen. In one, Felix bravely joins in a World War 1 1/2 between opposing armies of cats and mice, before commandeering a relief platoon of hot dogs to conquer the evil little rodents entrenched across No Man's Land. In another, Felix finds himself up against manic ghosts who turn off the lights in order to ambush him and who throw a whole squadron of cops the cat's called through the roof of a haunted farm house. Later, Felix tries to break into the pictures, but soon antagonizes Charlie Chaplin after the pilfering feline tries to swipe his routines. Next, after being maltreated by indifferent townspeople, Felix unionizes his fellow cats and encourages the mice to attack as the felines sit idly by! Finally, in a real triumph of clever cartoon design, Felix must stave off attacking bears, mountain lions and other beasts as he tries to retrieve wild flowers for a sexy lady cat who's giving him the cold shoulder. This cartoon really shows some of Messmer's strengths, as your eye gets fooled again and again. For example, at one point, Felix has reached the summit of the mountain, breathes a sigh of relief, then starts to pick the nearest flower. Two seconds later, he discovers he was grabbing the ear of a hostile bear who had been asleep behind the boulder from which the flower grew! One neat trick is how Felix will use the "emotives," the question marks, exclamation points and the like that pop up next to his head whenever he gets confused or excited, as ladders, weapons, or as tools! When he and a mouse "stare daggers" at each other in hate, they will inevitably
grab the daggers and commence a spirited sword battle... Folks, this one's well worth your ten dollars and should open a whole new world of both cartoons and silent films up to you. In closing, I might also mention that the organ music accompaniment and sound effects by Dave Wickerham add considerably to the fun and thrills. This one definitely rates the full five stars, despite a few rough prints in the batch."
Great Cartoons... some supplemental material might be nice
Eric A. Faust | Chicago, IL United States | 01/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'd like to start off by saying that the other user comments on this page baffle me. The films on this disc came out between 1919 and 1924 (and this is clearly marked on the cover). It almost goes without saying that children will not be amused and that the film quality is going to be fairly poor.This is a collection of selected Felix the Cat cartoons from the first five years of his existence. And while it would be nice if they'd release a complete set of these films (not to mention countless other pieces of silent animation that for what-ever reason are almost impossible to get a hold of), we take what we can get. This is an excellent disc for people interested in early silent studio animation in the United States. The films are interesting, especially when compared to the work of Winsor McCay or the Bray studio, because there seems to be a happy medium between Otto Messmer's personal artistic vision and the need to use assembly line techniques to release films in a timely manner. In the course of about two hours, we get to watch Felix as he evolves from a blocky character to the look we are more familiar with today. One of the only major drawbacks of this DVD is that it seems to be a re-release of two earlier VHS collections of Felix cartoons put out by Bosko Video and just transferred to DVD format. As a result, there is a noticeable lack of supplemental material to go with films that are badly in need of it. While the crude visual style and political incorrectness of the films make for an interesting watch on their own, I would highly recommend that the viewer get some reading material to go with it (Before Mickey: The Animated Film 1898-1928 by Donald Crafton is an excellent book with information on the subject). This is a great DVD for anyone interested in what the American animation studios had to offer before "Steamboat Willie"."
Interesting cartoons, which deserve better treatment
G. B. J. Grob | Utrecht Netherlands | 09/07/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's very interesting to see the most classic cartoon character of the silent era, and these cartoons are an excellent introduction to pre-sound humor in animation. But do not expect fast paced jokes or excellent animation. Everything is more primitive than even the earliest Mickey Mouse. Therefore I would not recommend these films to anyone who is NOT interested in animation history. Nevertheless, the cartoons are okay enough to watch with joy and wonder when you're a cartoon buff (like me).
However, the films deserve a much better treatment than they got on this DVD. Transfer from the original films is usually pretty okay, but the films are obviously cut off on the sides, which is quite annoying since you often have to read half visible text balloons. Even worse, the films seem to have been transferred from the VHS version, rendering fuzzy images even in single 'frames' (typical for video).
Serious cartoon fans should consider waiting for a higher quality introduction to these interesting films."
Felix - the earliest cartoon superstar!
Lee David Glover | Plymouth, Devon United Kingdom | 03/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a must for any animation or silent movie fan, as this contains the earliest surviving Felix cartoons.
Felix was the first cartoon superstar, and seeing this DVD it's not suprising. Felix at that time had what other silent cartoon characters lacks - PERSONALITY. He was a survivor, always solving his problems through wit, he also helped out others but takes revenge on others who wronged him. He also talked to the audience, enabling us to be involved in his adventures. He seems real, he was a silent movie actor, creating enjoyment in the same level as Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, and Mr. Bean. How sad it was that he didn't survive the sound era (initially), to be replaced by a mouse that can talk but had minimum personality!
All of his cartoons are outstanding, although Felix is not in his well-known form, as he looks more like a dog than a cat! However, Otto Messmer's unique talent of storytelling and animation makes each of the Felix cartoons a true gem.
Even though it's on DVD, don't expect pristine prints. Bearing in mind these cartoons are over 80 years old, some of the cartoons have some degree of decomposition, although all are watchable. Mind you, the first Felix cartoon, FELINE FOLLIES, is in a remarkably good condition! At least the cartoons are on near-indestructable DVD, providing a lifetime of enjoyment of this little piece of cartoon history."