April 4, 2024 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Felix The Cat in “Bold King Cole” (1936)

My first experience with the Rainbow Parade cartoons were in Black and White prints!

The first time I saw Bold King Cole was a black and white print broadcast as part of Matinee at the Bijou in 1981. That somewhat murky telecine transfer at least did its basic job of presenting the cartoon somewhat intact (at the end a bad sprocket or splice flipped the picture a little, but it was the 80s!). No too long after that, I bought a black and white super 8 print of The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. It would be another year or so before I’d have a 16mm projector, but when I did I was able to borrow a print from the Washtenaw Country Library in Ann Arbor- and that poor print was beat to death— but it was in color! Blackhawk films had released prints of these cartoons, making their own new negatives from the materials they acquired.

All these years later, five or six years less than half a century, we’ve been cleaning up the Rainbow Parades from what exists of the master materials on the series. It’s a mixed bag in that what does exist is mostly 35mm Technicolor prints rather than masters, but at least those exist rather than just 16. Because they were made by Commonwealth to use as the masters, those prints have stayed in pretty good shape, other than a little mold here and there that has been remedied already at this point.

This past week, I received another hard drive with some of the last scans for the set, and as I was copying files from the drive it went into click of death mode— throwing off the week of working on the newer films. The good new is that I was able to see some of the files before the drive died. So, now, it’s a wait again to get the new drive.

The folks at Blackhawk really are film heroes. I asked if it would be possible to take a look at some of the single color records and see if there were more there than we knew about or perhaps something was mislabeled (this was something I discovered while working with Flip — you had to pull *all* materials on any title since it was hard to say what was right or wrong since they were last looked at many decades earlier). One of the film cans was bigger for the yellow color record, and it turns out it *wasn’t* a yellow color record at all, but rather the complete successive exposure neg (all three colors) for Bold King Cole. So now, there’s actually a complete original camera neg of one of the Rainbow Parades. It’s clearly a lot sharper than a final Technicolor print and will look great once it’s combined and finished.

Since we’ll be using that material for the final, I thought it would be nice to share the Technicolor print we’ve scanned now. The whole set is working its way through the pipeline, and it won’t be too long before everything is finished. So, for now, here’s that scan, with no cleaning or color correction. I like all three Felixes in the series. This one always reminded me of Lonesome Ghosts- not so surprising since they have the same director.

Something to note is that there’s one element in this film that is actually from the earlier Van Beuren days- the moving staircase shot that appears originally in the first Little King, The Fatal Note (1933) gets used in several more Van Beuren shorts, including Pals (33) and Goode Knight (1934).

My guess is that this short was actually in production the longest of the three Felixes since it involves double exposure and a lot of pretty complicated layouts. The model sheets seems to coincide with the production order on both, with the model sheet for Neptune Nonsense dated November 12, 1935 and the model sheet for Bold King Cole dated December 3. Neptune was released March 20, 1936 while Bold King Cole was released on May 29.

I’ve always liked the little ditty at the beginning of this cartoon, and how Felix’s personality works with the story line. He’s somewhat incidental to a lot of the story here though, and I wonder if the king would have been left a shriveled mess if Felix hadn’t happened to show up that night.

I hope you enjoy the cartoon and have a good week everyone!


  • My first experience with “Bold King Cole” was with a public domain video collection in the 1990s. It wasn’t in black-and-white, but the general overall colour scheme was a sort of deep burnt umber. It started cheerfully enough with Felix singing a song among the bluebirds and apple blossoms, but then a storm came up and everything went dark. Once in a while a white blob would flash on the screen for no discernable reason. Suddenly a disembodied light bulb with a face on it started floating around in the murk. Next thing we know, we’re inexplicably in the castle as the king regales his servants with his exploits. Small wonder that I didn’t think much of the cartoon, then or since.

    This 35mm scan is, of course, far superior. I can hardly imagine how much more vivid and vibrant the cartoon will look when reconstructed from the original Technicolor elements. Of all the incarnations of Felix the Cat, the three Van Beuren cartoons have long been held in the lowest regard. I have a feeling that this will change very soon.

    The moving-spiral-staircase-in-a-castle scene had also been used in any number of early Terrytoons, for example “Robin Hood” of 1933. Given the overlap in personnel between the Terry and Van Beuren studios in the ’30s, this is not at all surprising.

    • I wonder how many Public Domain VHS tapes and DVDs this has appeared on over the years? Certainly seems like a lot. Wouldn’t surprise me if it were in triple digits.

  • I first became aware of this cartoon on early-morning television, in the days when they used to show cartoons before the morning newscast on our ABC affiliate. This is also where I first heard about the happy harmonies cartoons from MGM. Up until that time, I was only aware of Felix, the cat from the television entries where he had his magic bag of tricks. I was not used to the character without that magic bag, but I enjoyed this cartoon and the other two in the series. Sorry, I never saw the silent entries in the Felix the cat series, the actual beginnings of the character. I wonder who voiced the character in this cartoon. It almost sounds like Walter Tetley, but I could be very, very wrong there.

  • I have a soft spot for Felix the Cat. It’s a shame that the Van Beuren Felix cartoons didn’t continue after the three in this series. Felix is a charming character, and while Van Beuren seems to have Mickey Mouse-ified the character a bit here, the art and humor of these films seem to be a notch above most of the Rainbow Parade entries.

    • While Felix has more of the “Mickey Mouse”-type personality in the VB shorts, I think his voice in these (provided by Walter Tetley) is better suiting for Felix than his more current voice (pioneered by Jack Mercer, no offense to him) which sounds like a Mickey Mouse impersonator.

      • Jay: Jack Mercer’s widow Virginia told me that her husband HATED the voice selected for FELIX in those 1960s cartoons! I suspect he tried a couple of voices and somebody in charge picked that one for the character. I believe I asked her about the slowness of Mercer’s voice work in these cartoons having to do with using less animation for the characters speaking to save money – but she couldn’t veify that. I NEVER knew as a kid that the original cartoons were done by Paramount in the early ’60s and in COLOR! I grew up with the “Trans-Lux” black and white versions on TV!

        If that is Walter Tetley doing the voice in this cartoon, I kind of like it. I love the animation and creativity on THE TWISTED TALES OF FELIX THE CAT (?), but the teen-aged surly voice? No, thank you!

        Interesting that some of the animation for BOLD KING COLE looks like Otto Mesmer’s designs. (The clouds being opened up and the lightning bolts in particular.) Too bad old Otto wasn’t involved in the production. The cartoon is well designed and animated, but Felix is too cute and sweet-tempered for my taste!

  • Beautiful transfer!

  • The Halloween Haunts version looked good, but this is far superior!

  • Wonderful memories growing up.

  • I wonder if Gillett was the source of the story of Lonesome Ghosts, which he directed after returning to Disney.

  • I’ve always respected Gillett for at least making an effort to bring some of the distinctive silent-era Felix visual humor into the Technicolor Disney-era, no doubt due to his own history with the character. The head-as-lightbulb running gag is not only a nice callback, but it’s made more visually interesting due to the color and lighting effects, an effective melding of old and new. More effort along those lines, and maybe Otto Messmer’s eventual involvement, and Van Beuren finally would have had their own, distinct, truly competitive starring character series that they’d been striving for. Of course RKO then had to pull the rug out.

  • The animation on this short is quite good. I see Al Stahl’s name on the model sheet. Any idea who else worked on this short?

  • I really love how the colours just pop on this scan and it’s amazing that you were able to uncover the original SEN of this cartoon! Incidentally, have you ever managed to track down any soundtrack negatives for the Rainbow Parades as well? Just curious.

  • I remember first seeing this on TV when I was a very little kid, and being confused as to why Felix was so different from the way he was in the Trans-Lux Felix cartoons. My mother explained, that it was Felix when he was a little boy. That’s the headcanon I’ve been stuck with for all these years.

  • I remember first seeing this”Felix The Cat”/”Rainbow Parade”movie cartoon on”Early Bird Cartoons”on WABC TV Ch.7 in NYC..back in 1958..I love this film..where “Felix”and the furies of “Mother Nature”help to save”Bold King Cole”and his realm from a group of vindictive ghosts.

  • I would swear I spotted Jim Tyer animation here and there-especially in the armor fight of the two mice. The drawings look like Tyer’s and though they don’t have the exaggeration he’s known for, it could be that director Gillett discouraged Tyer from going crazy. Since Tyer was working for Van Beuren in this period, it seems possible.

  • It’s always incredible how nicely mediocre cartoons clean up. I hate to think how King Cole got his hair like that (ironing the back flat and then using one long curler), although it’s probably a wig.

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