Without question, Felix the Cat is one of the all-time classic cartoon characters – and I’ll always be grateful to the 1959 TV series that brought him to my attention as a kid.
Back in the 1920s, thanks to animator Otto Messmer, Felix became perhaps the first cartoon “super-star” – an animation original who transcended movie fame to become just as big in comic strips, merchandising and ultimately television.
Messmer mentored animator Joe Oriolo in the ways of all-things Felix, and Oriolo continued the legacy into a new generation – adding to the legend with such accoutrements as the “magic bag”, and characters and concepts including Poindexter, The Master Cylinder, Va-Voom, The Professor and Rock Bottom.
Joe’s son, Don Oriolo, is keeping Felix alive and healthy, especially as we approach the feline’s 100th birthday (in a few years). In earlier days, Don was taught musical arranging by Winston Sharples (Famous Studios, Van Beuren) and went on to a most successful career as a producer and musician.
With animation in his blood, Don’s taken his role as Felix’s caretaker quite seriously. For the last several years, Oriolo has been expressing himself with paintings – Oils featuring a friend he knows quite well. As we await the next animation incarnation of Felix The Cat, Don has compiled a book of his paintings (curated and designed by Rod Ollerenshaw) that remind us of how powerful an image Felix is.
There was always something about his design of Felix that captures our heart and imagination. Don knows this better than anyone. This new book celebrates the character and expresses Don’s considerable talents. And beyond that, its fun to look at.
I look forward to where Don Oriolo takes Felix next.
Another character I was introduced to via TV cartoons in my youth – Mr. Magoo – is back in a big way on a new Shout Factory DVD set. It’s really here – I just got my copy and its a must-have for all readers of of this blog. Sony restored all 53 Mr. Magoo theatrical cartoons – the shorts released by Columbia Pictures between 1949 and 1959. This set also includes the 1959 theatrical animated feature (1001 Arabian Nights).
For the first time on video, these cartoons were restored from the original negatives (in other words, these prints are way-superior to the versions seen on Totally Toon In). Over a dozen of these were produced in wide screen CinemaScope and are presented here in letterbox format (or 16×9 2.35:1).
Bonus features include: A rarely seen TV documentary A Princess For Magoo: The Making Of 1001 Arabian Nights featuring actor Jim Backus, producer Steve Bosustow and director Jack Kinney; An interview about Magoo with film critic and historian Leonard Maltin; A newly produced documentary on UPA & Mr. Magoo featuring yours truly and all your favorite animation historians; An Art and Photo Gallery featuring model sheets and publicity stills; and 14 audio commentaries by animator Bob Longo, Emily Hubley, historians Adam Abraham, John Canemaker, John Culhane, Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck, Michael Schesinger and Tee Bosustow (son of UPA founder Steve Bosustow).
The picture image and sound quality of each short is superb, on par with the previously released TCM Jolly Frolics collection. I’ve posted several frame grabs below (click thumbnails to enlarge), including one of Bosustow and Kinney from the rare special.
The cartoons from 1949 through 1953 (and 1959’s Terror Faces Magoo) are presented 4×3 full frame – from 1954 on, the cartoons are presented in 16×9 ratio for film originally in shot in Scope or in shown 1.85. All-in-all these cartoons have never looked better. I’m plenty satisfied.
As you might know, I had a hand in this set as a consultant. However one special contribution I made didn’t make it to the final package: I had acquired several pencil test sequences from the archives of Pete Burness and via Sony, had them digitally preserved and transferred. Oh well, Sony’s loss is Cartoon Research’s gain – Below, as a special bonus for my readers, I’ve uploaded about 40 seconds of one of these pencil tests – from Magoo’s Glorious Fourth (1957). I’ll try to post the rest of my Magoo pencil tests in a future post.
(Special Thanks To Mike Kazaleh for syncing up the sound to the silent pencil test footage)