Felix, who was one of America’s first major tv star, was created by a man named Otto Messmer. Otto was born on August 16, 1892 and died on October 28, 1983 Though Felix is well known and renowned, he was not Messmer’s first character nor first step into the world of animation. Messmer had a variety of other jobs beyond Felix, though Felix did become famous.
Otto Mesmer grew up in Union City, New Jersey where by day he worked as a scene painter for Carl Laemmle’s Universal Studios and by night he attended Thomas School of Art in New York City for commercial art. His first series of cartoons were published around the time of 1914 for Life and New York World. Not only did he work with cartoon strips, Messmer was fascinated with animation and so he created Motor Mat. Not too long after, Messmer was scouted by Hy Mayer to help with a series of commercials called The Travels With Teddy. Continuing on with Mayer, Messmer also assisted in creating Travelaughs.
Eventually, a year layer, Sullivan hired Otto Messmer where they collaborated in the making of Sammie Johnsin. Otto Messmer also created his own independent films like Motor Mat, Boomer Bill and Twenty Thousand Laughs Under the Sea. Otto eventually attempted having his own studio but, he was drafted into World War I, being forced to hire other animators. Finally, in 1919, Messmer created Felix the Cat. Felix was first shown in Feline Follies and in more than eighty one reel cartoons. Eventually, Felix would die out when Sullivan nor Messmer would adapt Felix to sound cartoons.
Felix was Otto’s most renowned creations. Otto even explained his characterization of Felix as, “I used the style of Charlie Chaplin and kept him alone in his antics, unhampered by supporting characters.” Felix is a stand alone character and does not rely on other characters to be funny or to show his personality. Messmer accentuated and exaggerated body movements and facial expressions of characters; each movement is unique to that character. It gives a clear picture of what the character is like. Each character is rounded and simplistic. The background holds just as little detail. Messmer created such scenes and characters through the use of cel animation.
When I attempted to mimic Messmer’s style, I created a round dog character named Yippy. I used the exaggeration of body language that Messmer used on his character as well as the simple design. In order to copy aspects of Messmer’s design, I started with sketching Felix to get the feel of the kind of character Messmer created. I then molded the base idea of Felix into my own character instead of having an exact replica of Felix. I feel the character design isn’t too far off but the facial expressions of my character could have been clearer. I was also trying to adapt Messmer’s fluid motion for his animations and for my cartoon I could have made the animation smoother.
Otto Messmer’s creation of Felix the Cat is genius. It produced the world’s first great cartoon star. Without Felix and Messmer, cartooning would likely not be what it is today. The world would have missed out on Felix had Messmer not put himself into the world of animating.
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Lenburg, Jeff. The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. New York: Facts on File, 1999.Print.
Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film & Television’s Award-winning and Legendary Animators. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema, 2006. Print.
Felix the Cat on Youtube
- Felix the Cat- Halloween (1927)
- Felix the Cat- Felix Saves The Day (1922)
- Felix the Cat Goes to China- False Vases (1929)
- Felix The Cat : Two-Lip Time (1926)
- Feline Follies (1919)
- Felix the Cat – April Maze (1930)
- Felix the Cat- Doubles for Darwin (1924)