The on going cat fight between Aussies and Yanks on who created
Felix the Cat was re-ignited with Judy Nelson's The New South Wales Library
'Reclaiming Felix the Cat' Exhibition 2005. Otto Messmer, Invariably described as Sullivan's partner or mere meek employee when it suits, came forward about a seemingly factitious forty four years after Sullivan's death claiming it was he who had created the Sullivan Studio's famous cat. That's enough to make wise King Soloman's eyes to roll.
JUDY NELSON, CURATOR, NSW STATE LIBRARY brought to light that Pat Sullivan had registered a half reel of film called The Tail of Thomas the Kat for copyright in March 1917 . The next appearance of a Thomas vis -a-vis Master Tom was in Feline Follies, that is when Messmer claimed he created Felix then called Tom, In fact it looked like Sullivan was reprising his earlier creation soon to be called Felix. The name of Felix was given to Tom on the cat's fourth film, American film historians claim just what caused Sullivan to change the name of his animated cat is not well documented. While the Latin word for happy is 'felix' (and what could be better than a happy cat?) that does not seem to be behind the change. Further investigations in Australian newspapers from 1936 came up with the answer and the answer was obvious, more about that later. In an interview in The Melbourne Argus December 1st 1925 Sullivan said 'I shall never forget the first film of Felix I made, it took me six months to do, and was a gigantic failure. I was, of course, utterly inexperienced in a new and highly technical art. The result of it was that I had a nervous breakdown, and was in hospital for 5 weeks. "
Reload to replay- Clip from the ABC's Rewind
TV reporter Christopher Zinn
OTTO MESSMER: "Sullivan's studio was very busy, and Paramount, they were falling behind their schedule and they needed one extra to fill in. And Sullivan, being very busy, said, "If you want to do it on the side, you can do any little thing to satisfy them." So I figured a cat would be about the simplest. Make him all black, you know - you wouldn't need to worry about outlines. And one gag after the other, you know. Cute. And they all got laughs. So Paramount liked it so they ordered a series."
If that's the case why does the lettering match Sullivan's and not Otto? It is like finding DNA evidence that Pat Sullivan was inspired, writing the animation and calling the shots not Messmer. Messmer had claimed emphatically he quickly produced the entire four-minute animation all by himself, on a freelance basis,working at home. Crucial details get lost to memory it seems.
Busy indeed, all by himself indeed, see for yourself, not too busy for Pat Sullivan to letter the whole bloody animation! The 'very busy' Sullivan's lettering makes a joke of Messmer's claim. You were not quick enough, Otto!
"...So you (Messmer) could very quickly make this film...It had to be done quickly, it was needed for the Paramount Magazine." John Canemaker, interview on local New York cable show Biograph Days, Biograph Nights 1991
Here's another version of Messmer's recollection by Leonard Maltin.
"The studio being busy, Sullivan asked me to do one in my spare time, at home.
I did a quick one showing a black cat being outwitted by a mouse. I used
plenty of picture gags. Paramount liked it an signed it up for their PARAMOUNT
SCREEN MAGAZINE. It made a hit with the public. I wrote and animated it alone
with studio assistants. It grew in popularity, and as the demand became more
urgent, Sullivan took on more animators, at various times, to help."
((Feline Follies is about Master Tom, a cat who forgoes his duties to pursue a damsel cat, The damsel takes him back to her place where Tom finds she has had a large litter by other cat/cats. Tom is last seen down at the gasworks about to top himself, seen as dark catholic/Irish anxiety by one author. It is ridiculous to say it was a Tom and Jerry style cartoon!))
This is a howler!
A quote from John Canemaker's book Felix The twisted tale of the world's most famous cat
"There is a scene of silhouetted people in the windows of white buildings gyrating in extreme distress
over Felix's lover. ("Scat!"! "Vamoose!" "Beat it!" "Stop that noise!" read the square dialogue balloons.)
this image predicts Messmer's work twenty years in the future when he would begin a long tenure creating
crisp, eloquent silhouette animation for Douglas Leigh's giant electric signs in Times Square"
Canemaker thought he was looking at Messmer's work. This all defies logic, Canemaker and Messmer went to great
lengths to exclude the "very busy" Sullivan and yet Sullivan takes on what be could have easily been handed on to an assistant.
In an age when plant spores can decry an artwork as a fake. We have a work saturated with Sullivan's art mannerisms
and handwriting, as good as a signature on his inspired work. No wonder it took Otto forty years to have a tilt at
claiming Sullivan's work as his! The Messmer claim has never been proven.
Sulivan's art mannerisms, on the left Obliging Oliver 1913 about three years before he met Messmer in 1916
on the right Sullivan repeats his style. In Feline Follies Pat repeats what he had done before. His dotting technique is a carryover from his ghosting William F. Marriner's strips.
Otto's lettering unlike Sullivan's in Feline Follies became so quirky,
see below, as different as chalk and cheese. This is from one of the Felix strips he ghosted.
Above Pat Sullivan's letter formations.
Okay, Kids... Be your own detective!
Identifying Pat Sullivan's work, Youtube demonstration
Sullivan and wife arrives in Melbourne Australia via the Narkunda1st December
Drawings he did while in Australia and Britain were used to match his lettering with Feline Follies.
In fact Sullivan was drawing Felix at different parts of his cat's development when asked by fans . The short Felix (catholic) drawn on a light blue envelope while he was in London (it has the Metropole Hotel, London W.C.2 on the back flap). The 'goodbye Sydney' is the longer older version and another version from the reclaiming Felix exhibition and his newspaper photo. My guess is that he was drawing to a request . The lettering matches up of course with Feline Follies. Pat a competent animator was very familiar with his own creation. Disney when asked by Princess Margaret who was visiting America could not draw Mickey Mouse.
All images and clip are offered as part of a review.
Australian Cartoonists' Association archivist Lindsay Foyle has written the story of Pat Sullivan in Inkspot the ACA magazine.Here is why Sullivan called his cat Felix ..." Writing in The Sydney Mail on July 1, 1936 Australian cartoonist, Kerwin Maegraith - a friend of Sullivan's - quoted him saying it came from Australia Felix the name of a Henry Handel Richardson book. Richardson, who in reality was Ethel Florence Lindesay Robertson, had been working on the book in Australia in 1912 and had completed it in London in 1915. It was published in 1917 with quite respectable sales.
The term had first been used by Major Thomas Mitchell, when describing land he explored in central Victoria in 1836. It was also used in Richard Howitt, Impressions of Australia Felix in 1845 and in the name of Australia Felix Monthly Magazine in 1849.
Maegraith also quoted Sullivan saying he drew Felix in solid black after the boxer Peter Felix who had fought for the NSW heavyweight championship the year Sullivan left Sydney. He always appeared in black, frightened children and apparently left an impression, as heavyweight boxers can." http://cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/felix-peter.htm (Sullivan had a great interest in boxing, when he arrived in New York he boxed for prize money)There are two versions by Messmer on how Felix got his name on Otto Messmers official site it says Messmer returned From the American army during World War 1 and rejoined Sullivan with a great idea for a new character named Felix The Cat. Here we have the gang that can't shoot straight, besides claiming of the cat at the wrong time and blissfully unaware of Sullivan's lettering throughout Feline Follies, this is a direct contradiction and must challenge the veracity of other claims in John Canemaker's Felix book, for Messmer is quoted again as saying the name Felix was coined by Mr King of Paramount Magazine...he suggested the name of Felix, which we kicked around a bit and decided this was it. Think about it, why would a distributor be naming the Sullivan studio's cat? They did not know of the strong resonance the name had with Pat Sullivan, that was the best Otto could come up with.
Mitchell called the country 'Felix' happy, lucky. Sullivan called his Aussie moggie 'Felix', a 1950s comic book of explorer Major Mitchell's exploration of Victoria.
'LO MUM! Little Aussie Moggies with an Aussie accent! Good one, Pat!
So this is the Canemaker story, Otto goes off to his home, creates Feline Follies quickly
all by himself, using Australian spelling , even dropping 'H's, I don't
think Americans would swallow that either!!! a vital clue hidden in
If this was Otto's work it would be HI, MOM! HI,MA! No reason to do otherwise! I think the Canemaker and Messmer claim is so farcical!
Here we have a owner of artwork by Pat Sullivan who used Feline Follies to identify and verify what they owned was genuine...
Dear Mr. Carr,
I watched your video on youtube about Felix The Cat and the Evidence that shows it was Pat Sullivan’s creation. I own an original Felix the cat Pat Sullivan sketch that I’m auctioning now (edited to keep it short) that further proves Mr. Sullivan’s creation, Also If you or anyone you know in your part of the world are interested feel free to make an offer on Ebay
Thanks for your great work
I am 100% positive both these works are by Pat Sullivan
That same lettering again!
Once you can recognise his hand writing
one can identify Sullivan's work.
I think this is where these claims by Canemaker and Messmer are unfair to owners of Pat Sullivan's work,
one would be very lucky to find a drawing of Micky Mouse by Walt Disney. Here this owner has a drawing by the creator of Felix the Cat the world's first cartoon super star.
The Otto Messmer claim can't be proved but there is undeniable evidence Pat Sullivan created Felix.
Felix the Animated Cat The Story of Pat Sullivan
By Lindsay Foyle
THE MASK VIXEN THE PANTHER
The Tait brothers 1906 feature length film and our first blockbuster 'The story of the Kelly Gang'. It was made for 1000 pounds and made 25,000 pounds. Australia lays claim to producing the world's first feature length films, starting with the Salvation Army's Limelight Studio's 'The Soldiers of the Cross' at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Australia http://www.abc.net.au/tv/rewind/txt/s1230009.htm , which had the world's first feature film industry, made twenty feature films before Hollywood got started.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sk1ZunbY7Xc The story of the Kelly Gang
Other innovations in the film media from Aussie, the painted glass matte for backgrounds,* inventor Ron Jones"rolling loop" film movement that made Canada's creation Imax possible, the Frazier lens that gave complete depth of focus from the foreground to the background.(a feat deemed impossible by physicists before Jim Frazier's invention.) As well as the time and money saved on feature films the invention is used on nearly every second commercial made in the US. It also gives that 3-Dimensional feel to modern movies.
Pat Sullivan created the first cartoon superstar in 1917. Felix the Cat.
* An excellent example of the use of the painted glass matte is in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker has a duel with Darth Vader and finds Darth is a delinquent dad. The background of multiple window lights was a painted glass matte, Today all that is digitally added without using digits to paint on glass. The technique was first used on the silent 1927 version of the Term of His Natural Life. It was used to reconstruct partly on glass the penal buildings at Port Arthur, Van Diemen's Land now called Tasmania. http://archive.org/details/ForTheTermOfHisNaturalLife
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Gerald Carr's contribution to the great cat debate © copyright 2004-2013