Felix the Cat had a very humble beginning as a curious and mischievous little cat as first conceived by New Jersey cartoonist Otto Messmer. In no time at all he was more popular than movie stars and world leaders of the same era. His squat, black body and huge, wide eyes and grin were instantly recognizable worldwide. He is considered the first true movie cartoon star. His first appearance was in a short film in the early 1900's called "Feline Follies". Soon thereafter he made the transition to print. King Features syndicated Felix in over 250 newspapers in a multitude of languages, reaching practically every corner of the globe. He's now published through Felix Comics, Inc., in various magazines and publications. Little did anyone know back then that this rather angular Felix would metamorphosize into the rounder, more lovable character he is today.
Otto Messmer was just doing what he loved to do...draw! He had no idea what he was starting! It wasn't long before a young Joe Oriolo, Otto's protégé, began working closely with Felix. There was a love for the character from the beginning. Joe Oriolo's presence with Felix then became very pronounced. Joe began to work exclusively on Felix and received from Otto a "carte blanche" to create a "new Felix". Joe Oriolo thus created a new Felix with a new image, new personality and new characters, including The Magic Bag of Tricks, Poindexter, The Professor, Rock Bottom and Vavoom. These are the renowned characters we know so well today. Felix became so famous that he was chosen by Charles Lindbergh to be his lucky mascot on his historic transatlantic flight. Felix’s image was the very first image to be broadcast over television airwaves. That’s right! When the engineers at RCA Research Labs were creating the phenomenon of TV, they used a Felix doll as their test model in their very first transmission on NBC, a historic moment! His image adorned clocks, Christmas ornaments, and was even the first balloon featured in the Macys Thanksgiving Parade. Soon Felix was playing in every TV set in the world…he was suddenly an overnight sensation!
At this point, a young Don Oriolo began his close
relationship to these popular characters. The only two cartoonists
ever to draw Felix in the newspapers and comic books in those early
days were Otto and Joe. As the characters became more trendy, so did
the desire by the public to have Felix dolls, cards, toys and jewelry.
In the mid-eighties, Don Oriolo single handedly wrote and produced a feature film entitled "Felix the Cat, the Movie". This feature length film has successfully entertained audiences throughout the world .In the US and Canada, Buena Vista Video released the film and the Disney Channel played the film in steady rotation for over 10 years. Again, Don Oriolo's keen interest to expand the image of Felix took him into the publishing world by creating nearly one million comic books worldwide. Since the mid 80's, licensing and merchandising showed a dramatic increase under the new leadership.
In association with Film Roman and CBS, Felix re-entered the world of national network television via the creation of about 60 very successful "bumpers" " or pre-commercial announcements. Felix the Cat Creations, Film Roman and CBS embarked on the creation of "The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat" which premiered in the US in1996 and throughout the world with stellar ratings!
Wendy’s restaurants began a promotion featuring Felix, and more than 9 million kids meals were sold. This was more than any other licensed characters had sold before. Dairy Queen, Arby’s and Carl’s Jr. also ran very successful kid’s meal campaigns.
Don Oriolo created "Baby Felix and Friends” and immediately NHK, NEC & AEON and Felix the Cat Creations partnered in creating a TV series that recently premiered in Japan with much success. New episodes are being made now to extend the series, which is to premiere around the world soon. Baby Felix and Friends are destined to become an instant success in every sector of the business as we see Felix the Cat, as a baby, learning to use his magic bag of tricks.
As the new millennium begins, Sony began to release the classic 60’s series on DVD, to much fanfare. In addition to continuing the publication of our popular comic book series, US and international licensing keeps going strong and growing. Felix the Cat can be found on fashion runways and many famous actors are Felix fans, such as Jennifer Aniston, Justin Timberlake, Ringo Starr, Whoopi Goldberg, Cameron Diaz, the Dixie Chicks, and Christina Aguilera. LL Cool J made a personal appearance at the 2002 Licensing Show in NY to say hello and show support for his longtime friend, Felix the Cat.
In 2003, Felix’s popularity exploded in
the US, with over 50 new licensing deals! IOther great Felix events
in the new millennium include a very popular traveling musical in
Japan featuring Felix and Hello Kitty. Felix fashions have been featured
in Elle, Elle Junior, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, People and the New York
Times. Felix was featured in TV Guide as the 25th most recognizable
and famous cartoon character in the world. Ballys Casinos has created
a Felix the Cat slot machine, was a huge hit at the 2003 Gaming Convention.
Daihatsu has put out a Felix Mira automobile. And Japan announced
Felix as one of the top three licensed characters in the country!
Also slated for 2004 are Felix on QVC. Felix is also going to be the official logo of the American International Carnival traveling China all this year.
Felix’s popularity continues to grow. Could it be because he’s a nostalgic figure? Or that he represents Americana? Or that he continues to win over new audiences with his winning personality and cutting edge graphic style? Yes, yes and yes!
Ask Don where Felix is heading, he'll smile and
tell you "on the same straight and narrow path to success that
was paved by Otto Messmer and Joe Oriolo!"