Figure, 'Felix the Cat', ceramic, maker unknown, [Australia], 1922-1940
The original drawings for Felix the Cat were done by American animator Otto Messmer while working for the Australian born film producer and animator Pat Sullivan. After making a short animated film called 'Feline Follies' in 1919, Messmer and, to a lesser extent, Sullivan developed the central cat characcer in Paramount Magazine and further animated films. The name Felix was coined by John King of Paramount Magazine in 1919.
Warner Brothers distributed the films in the early 1920s and the character became extremely successful. The first stuffed toys were produced in 1922 by the American Gund Company. During the next decade Felix merchandising boomed and dozens of products - both licensed and unlicensed - were designed, manufactured and sold in many countries including the United States, Great Britain, Japan and Australia. Preceding the success of Disney's characters by a decade, Felix the cat became the world's first major media related product.
This toy bears no identifiable manufacturer's or designer's marks. It was almost certainly produced in the first of two periods of Felix the cat merchandise production; between 1922 and the early 1930s after which Mickey Mouse eclipsed Felix as the most popular cartoon character. During this period several companies produced Felix merchandise. They included the American doll company Schoenhut, toy manufacturers Gund, George Borgfeldt and Company, Nifty Co., the British firm Chad Valley and the German firm Steiff.
The second era of Felix merchandising followed the success of animator Joe Oriolo's 'resurrection' of Messmer's cartoon for television in 1959. Up into the 1990s companies such as Cannon Mills, Don Kreiss Inc and Determined Productions have used Oriolo's Felix on a variety of goods from bed linen to t-shirts and coffee cups.
Felix products from the first period of merchandising varied in their resemblence to the animated character. Some were hardly recognisable as Felix beyond being a large eyed, smiling, black and white cat. Products from the post-war period were more consistently faithful to the Oriolo stylisation of Felix.
John Canemaker gives 1922 as the date of the first Felix doll and 1931 as the year that the popularity of Felix merchandise gave way to Mickey Mouse and other characters. See excepts from his book 'Felix' in the blue file for theFelix soft toy P.1436/41.