ANIMATION SPIN
April 29, 2014 posted by Greg Ehrbar

“Felix the Cat” on Records

Warning: Watching Felix the Cat may not be for everyone. Side effects include laughing so much that your sides might ache and your heart may go pitter-pat. Ask your doctor if Felix the Cat is the wonderful, wonderful cat for you.

FelixCricketLP600

FELIX THE CAT
Original TV Sound Tracks
Cricket Records (Pickwick) CR-28 (12” 33 1/3 rpm / Mono / 1959 / 22 minutes)

Album Producer: Ralph Stein. Writers: Joe Sabo, Joe Stultz. TV Series Executive Producer: Pat Sullivan. Producer/Director: Joe Oriolo. Directors: Jim Tyer, Stephen Muffatti, Reuben Grossman, Frank Endres. Music: Winston Sharples (Famous Studios stock). Special Effects: E. Pomponio. Editor: Fred White.
Voices: Mason Adams (Narrator); Jack Mercer (Felix, Rock Bottom, The Professor).
Song: “Felix the Cat” by Winston Sharples.

Cartoons:
“The Thinking Hat” (Title on DVD Set: “Detective Thinking Hat”)
Felix’s Uncle Perlock Jones sends him a detective hat. At one point, Rock finds himself in a movie theater showing a Felix TV cartoon, theme and all.
“The Great Rubber Racket” (Title on DVD Set: “Balloon Blower Machine”)
Felix trails Rock to The Professor’s lab, where they’re stealing rubber.
“Hard Luck Rock!” (Title on DVD Set: “Friday the 13th”)
Superstitious Rock blames his bad luck on Felix.
“The Money Tree”
(See “Give a Little Listen” below)

Sorry, couldn’t resist the disclaimer above! Much as I love the 1959-60 TV version of Felix the Cat, neither my sides nor heart reacted as much as the iconic theme song promised when I watched the show. Nevertheless, these cartoons are among the very first I remember from my earliest childhood. I even love the “Saran Wrap” around Felix’s head in the theme sequence. Jerry’s recent post about Felix inspired this look at some Felix on vinyl.

This is one of the few Cricket Records that is a bonafide original soundtrack recording (still having nightmares about their rendition of “Yogi Bear?”). Producer Ralph Stein may have watched several episodes and chosen them for their adaptability to records. But unlike the Mr. Magoo soundtracks he also produced for records, Felix the Cat has narration by the venerable announcer Mason Adams, the voice of Smuckers jams and Charlie Hume on the Lou Grant TV series.

My guess is that Stein took notes during the screening of the cartoons—or used a tape recorder to take down all his comments (that’s what I would have done). Then they were transcribed and Adams read them in a studio. Some of his narration anticipates the action, so it’s likely that his recordings were edited to fit within the spaces between dialogue bits. Some of his narration overlaps, but overall it works fairly well. It’s a cross between sports announcing, DVD commentary and the descriptive audio provided on some films and shows for the sight-impaired.

Who sings the famous Felix theme? I nominate Dottie Evans, who recorded children’s records for virtually all the major and minor labels in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Some of many recordings include Songs from Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Captain Kangaroo (Columbia), The Tootlepiper’s Zoo, The Tootlepiper’s Circus (RCA) and A Child’s Introduction to the Nutcracker Suite (Golden).

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Money Tree”
Felix does a magic show in which he produces a money tree, Rock wants to steal it by pretending to be a tree doctor (with Wimpy’s voice) and seals Felix in a tree trunk. In part two, the Professor forces Felix to tell Rock and him the secret. I picked this one because Adam’s narration eventually sounds like he’s announcing a prizefight!



FELIX THE CAT / FELIX AND HIS FRIENDS
Peter Pan Records / Mono / 1959 / 10 minutes
#538 (7” 45 RPM); #492 (7” 78 RPM)

Producer/Writer: Don Cope. Narrator: Ken Roberts.
Songs: “Felix the Cat” by Don Cope.

FelixPeterPan275Peter Pan went with a completely different theme song (a parody of “Pop! Goes the Weasel”), but offered quite a bit of story material for a single record and a nicely orchestrated little score. It’s nice to see Felix buying his own record at the store, too.

Instead of Felix tangling with characters from the TV series, on this record he’s more of an “agony aunt” or “Dear Abby” to whom the animals come with their problems. Each animal sings a parody of a public domain song: Billy the Goat’s song uses the melody of “The Farmer in the Dell,” Hector the Horse’s is “Reuben, Reuben,” Harriet the Hen’s is “Turkey in the Straw” and Benny the Bunny’s is also “The Farmer in the Dell.”

The most notable thing about this record is the narrator/voice of Felix. He’s legendary announcer Ken Roberts, whose radio career goes all the way back to 1930. He was the announcer for some very popular, decades-long soap operas including The Secret Storm and Love of Life. He was also the father of actor Tony Roberts (Annie Hall, The Million Dollar Duck).

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Felix and His Friends”

If Ken Roberts sounds familiar, maybe it’s because he narrated one of TV’s greatest—and funniest— “shows-within-a-show:” Love of Chair. Created by Paul Dooley when he was head writer for the children’s TV classic The Electric Company, it was a relentlessly endless continuing “drama” about a boy in a chair in a room (“Will the boy get out of the chair? Will the chair get out from under the boy? And…what about Naomi?”)

12 Comments

  • Greg:
    The Mason Adams and Jack Mercer tale is rather interesting,since its basically an enhanced soundtrack.The Ken Roberts record is “cute” and “charming”

  • Is that the same Kenneth Roberts who narrated the Famous Studios “Flip-Flip” and “Madhattan Island” cartoons?

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0731313/

    • Ken – Yes it is.
      Another note: Ken Robert’s wife, Norma Finkelstein, was a painter at Famous Studios.

  • I love Felix! Thanks for the great post- I hadn’t heard any of these before! The TV Felixes are some of the first cartoons I remember as a child as well. I have a strong memory of watching Felix on TV one day when I was sick from school, and thinking that they wouldn’t play the second half of the cartoon until the next day!

  • Interesting that the first album mentions the cartoon directors on front cover.

    • Kinda nice they did that.

  • I read that the singer of the theme was a iner named Ann Bennett.:)

  • A couple of things. How could Pat Sullivan be the Executive Producer when he passed away in 1933? Hearing this started to give me a sour throat. Can you imagine the strain on Jack Mercer’s vocal chords doing the voices of Rock Bottom and The Professor? Also, this mix is not good, even if it is a “Children’s Record.” I think the ones made from the Hanna-Barbera soundtracks were done much better. Oh, well, it exists. Righty-Oh!

    • It sounds like Mr.Mercer there was trying to recreate the voices madfe famous by other actors only on the other side-
      Felix: Mickey Mouse (orig.Walt Disney)
      Rockbottom: The voice made famous by Mel Blanc (like in the beagle who commonly harasses Foghorn Leghorn only a much deeper variation)
      Poindexter,of course: Alvin the chipmunk (Ross Bagasarian)
      Only all done by Jack Mercer..

    • Pat Sullivan’s family, most of whom I believe lived in Australia, still owned the Felix the Cat character at the time, hence the credit. Joe Oriolo later bought out their interests.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>