- Felix Busts a Bubble, 1926 [flapper's dream of stardom] NHCINTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVE:
- Felix Saves the Day, 1922 [interracial baseball game]
- Felix Revolts, 1923 [labor strike]
- Felix in Hollywood, 1923 [movie industry]
- Felix Doubles for Darwin, 1924 [evolution]
- Felix Finds Out, 1924 [Prohibition]
- All Puzzled, 1925 [Red Scare]
- The Non-Stop Fright, 1927 [Lindbergh]
To offer a unique perspective on the Twenties, six collections of primary materials are presented in Theme I, each from a single source—newsreels, cartoons, political cartoons, animated cartoons, subway posters, and a 1931 retrospective. We encourage you to mix and match materials from two or more collections as a device for studying the period; a collection discussion guide is offered to stimulate study and analysis. Let's proceed to this section's collection—Felix the Cat silent animated cartoons.
Feisty, headstrong, and ever resourceful, Felix the Cat was the first animated star of the screen, appearing in his first cartoon in 1919, nine years before Disney's Steamboat Willie premiered Mickey Mouse. With his zany escapades, appealing but never sweet persona, and his signature back-and-forth pacing while plotting his next move, Felix became a Hollywood favorite, a popular mascot, and a marketing icon, his wide-eyed visage appearing on ceramics, toys, and even a balloon in the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 1927. As was true for many stars of the silent era, Felix was a casualty of the transition to talkies. He survived in other entertainment venues, however—the comic strip through the 1940s and television in the 1950s. [See the resources on silent and sound movies in the section, MACHINE: Movies.]
As did later Disney and Looney Tunes cartoons, Felix cartoons reflected mainstream attitudes of the time and occasionally highlighted controversial issues or headline events. In the eight cartoons presented here, Felix leads a feline strike, learns what "moonshine" is, tries to prove Darwin's theory of evolution, gets "blown away" by Russian revolutionaries, plays baseball in an interracial game, tries to replicate Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, gets a Hollywood film contract, and dissuades a flapper from doing the same. Keeping humor as the top priority, how did Felix's creators incorporate social-political issues in the cartoons? When did Felix himself take a position, and when was he a vehicle for the creators' positions? How partisan were the cartoons? What attitudes did they assume in their audience? Who might have objected to some content?
Note: Ethnic and racial stereotypes that were prevalent in the 1920s appear in the Felix cartoons (see NOTE after each synopsis), providing an opportunity for classroom discussion of cultural stereotypes in mass entertainment.
Felix Saves the Day, 1922. In a baseball game between white and black boys in New York City, Felix "saves the day" by getting the game called (on account of rain) when the star white player is jailed for punching a policeman. [6:41; with musical accompaniment] INTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVENOTE: -intermixture of animation with live action footage
Felix Revolts, 1923. When the city council resolves to ban cats, Felix leads a feline strike by orchestrating nighttime caterwauls and giving rats free rein to pillage the town. [8:16; with theater organ accompaniment] INTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVENOTE: -Felix's "union organizing" in the town square
Felix in Hollywood, 1923. Felix ingeniously raises money to go to Hollywood, auditions for a job as an actor, but "ruins his chances" when Charlie Chaplin catches him doing his Chaplin impersonation. By inadvertently being the hero during the filming of a western scene, he is offered a longterm contract. [7:58; with piano/orchestral accompaniment] INTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVENOTE: -economic hard times
Felix Doubles for Darwin, 1924. Felix sets out for South Africa (via transatlantic cable) to find proof of Darwin's theory of evolution. Showing a monkey some satirical illustrations of human types, he asks "Are these your relatives?" Insulted, the monkey calls to his family, "Ye gods fellers—he says we're related to these!!!" They chase Felix back to the U.S. where Felix is asked, "Well—? Do we come after monkeys?" "No," he replies. "The monkeys come after us!!" [11:28; no audio] INTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVENOTE: -telegraph office and Morse code; Charleston dance contest
Felix Finds Out, 1924. When Felix distracts his young friend from completing his homework, he resolves to find the answer to the boy's assignment: "What makes the moon shine?" In the process, he finds out what "moonshine" is. [9:12; with jazz band accompaniment; the moonshine sequence begins at 5:15. INTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVENOTE: -rural moonshine distributor and passwords/gestures
All Puzzled, 1925. Felix offers to help his human complete a crossword puzzle by finding the answer to the final clue—a seven-letter word for "Found Chiefly in Russia." Arriving in Russia through the kick of a helpful donkey, Felix discovers himself amidst Bolshevik revolutionaries and their bombs, one of which explodes and sends Felix flying home. "Did you find the seven-letter word?" asks his human. Felix shakes his head "no." "All I found is Russia was trouble"—which is the answer to the puzzle clue: T-R-O-U-B-L-E. [3:17; no sound accompaniment] INTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVENOTE: -crossword puzzle fad that began in the 1920s
Felix Busts a Bubble, 1926. Felix "busts the bubble" of a flapper who dreams of film stardom and earns a screen test in Hollywood. [8:02; with musical accompaniment]NOTE: -flapper's rehearsing "how to be a vamp"
The Non-Stop Fright, 1927. Aspiring to a Lindbergh aviation feat, Felix vows to win a $50,000 prize for arriving first in "Timbuctoo" in West Africa. INTERNET MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVENOTE: -sandwich-board advertising