State Library of NSW
Cartoon strip, ‘Felix the Cat'c 1920
Felix, the little black cat with the big personality and the giant grin, was possibly the world’s first animated celebrity, predating Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse by almost a decade. Created by Sydney-born expatriate cartoonist, Pat Sullivan, Felix made his first appearance in a short film The Adventures of Felix, in 1919. The cheeky cartoon cat went on to star in 100 silent films and began to appear in comic strip form from 1923. Felix became an internationally recognised cartoon character, with the strip published in over 60 newspapers worldwide by the mid-1920s. Felix also featured in several songs and inspired a wide range of merchandise including comic books, toys and badges.
By the late 1920s, with the arrival of sound, Felix’s success as a silent film star was fading. Following Sullivan’s death in 1933, Otto Messmer who worked in Sullivan’s studio took over drawing duties and continued to draw the daily Felix strips until 1954. His assistant Joe Oriolo continued the work until 1966. Felix cartoons began airing on American TV in 1953, and it was Oriolo who gave Felix his ‘magic bag of tricks’ which could take any shape. The cat later starred in other television programs and two feature films.