Cartoon Hell #34 – “Felix the Cat and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg”January 19, 2010
Cartoon Hell is Nicholas Merlin Karpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.
Felix the Cat is about as close as animation gets to a hipster icon. He’s obscure, but vaguely recognizable, and iconic enough that people keep trying to revive the franchise. It gives you that extra bit of cred to have his merchandise, but ask anyone what their favorite Felix the Cat moment is, and you’ll be treated to blank stares. There’s a reason for that: No one watches silent cartoons, and all the talkies with Felix are awful. They resuscitate the corpse of Felix every couple of decades to try and recapture the magic, but I’ve never seen the appeal. Apparently there’s brewing right now.
Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse both started as silent film characters. They both functioned as mimes going through a series of stream of consciousness animation experiments. Adding voice to a silent character sank a lot of careers, and if you listen to Mickey Mouse, he’s boring as hell, which is why he became the straight man to the antics of characters who actually possessed specific personalities. He was the Zeppo Marx of animation.
You can’t take an existing character and betray peoples’ expectations, which is probably why the studio that made Felix resisted doing talkies for so long. This particular cartoon was an attempt by Van Beuren to revive the popular character, and they missed the point entirely, which is why only three were ever made.
The reason so many characters of yesteryear fail is because they either had no personality, which later technology revealed, or the owners of the rights no longer have the courage to let them behave that way. Popeye isn’t hyper-destructive, Bugs Bunny isn’t obnoxious, Donald Duck no longer has a rage problem, they all become paper stand-ins with nothing more than a recognizable profile and an annoying voice.
The voice is indeed the biggest problem here. From the first line, Felix’s talking cuts like a knife, a shrill, kiddy tone only replicable by having a child yell half an inch from your ear.
Felix is running a relief stand powered by the Goose and its golden eggs. Maybe I’m just being a nerd, but wouldn’t you rapidly devalue the local currency doing that? Damn it, Felix, do you not understand scarcity, quit squeezin the goose!
We see a sinister character disguised as an old woman sneaking a peek at the system. Why he needed to go to such lengths to eye a one-man operation is beyond me. When this devious fellow sees the egg process, he shouts, “So that’s where he gets it!” All that fancy detective work would have be saved if he’d just listened to Felix very loudly shouting, “Don’t thank me, thank the goose!” a moment earlier. Felix isn’t being disingenuous about where the golds coming from in the slightest. Being an active listener is valuable even if you are a villain.
Work shuts down for the day, and they spend an uncomfortable amount of time showing Felix rubbing up against Goldie. After the first ten seconds it feels like we should leave the room. This is some really intimate goose time.
The man dressed as an old woman comes to the door and gives a sad story. I keep wondering if this character is Felix’s personal Bluto. Cartoons usually get lazy about this really quickly, letting us assume who the villain will be based on previous experiences.
And then Felix shocked me. The moment the villain gives his pitch, Felix yells, “Look out, it’s Captain Kidd!” and slams the door, locking it from the inside.
I can’t think of another time this has happened. Imagine if the monster or ghost appeared on Scooby Doo and Fred kicked him the crotch, pinned him, and Velma immediately pulled off the mask, revealing the innocuous character from the first scene. What if Rocky and Bullwinkle always saw through Boris and Natasha’s crappy disguises? Felix did something I thought cartoon characters were expressly forbidden from doing, he saw through a villains thin disguise the way a normal person would. It’s like someone at the Daily Planet saying, “Why is Superman walking around with glasses on?”
Captain Kidd (it’s nice to have a name attached) burst through the spinning door and puts the squirming golden goose in a bag. Felix attempts to intervene and gets thrown into a cuckoo clock.
”I take what I wants, and I wants what I takes!” Captian Kidd yells as an exit line. That’s right folks, Captain Kidd will not eat your terrible cookies at the potluck, he doesn’t yield to social obligations, he has to want it. In defiance of consistency, he kicks the door straight off its hinges to make his escape. The earlier old lady ruse goes from seeming stupid to utterly useless. Brute force clearly serves him better.
The whole taking what we want theme expands into a melody sung by Kidd’s band of pirates on the nearby ship:
Oh we take what we wants and we wants what we take,
Your passive aggressive attempts to make us accept anything else will be ignored.
for we’re pirates out looking for treasure.
It’s weird to think that treasure is basically just a euphemism for stuff that isn’t yours.
If we see any gold, we steals it away,
Regardless of source. Fillings, computer parts, trophies; they just like the shine.
Robbing quaaludes and sorghums of treasure.
I have no idea what they said here, but I’d like to think they were raiding pharmacies and farms.
We fight with our mates, and cuss, and shoot
And shoot those that cuss, and cuss those that shoot, and various other combinations.
We’re mean and we’re bad from our heads to our boots!
But our hats are oddly conflicted.
While Felix frets over how to get his goose back, Kidd works hard pressuring the goose to put out… eggs that is. When the goose doesn’t give up the gold, he threatens to “get them himself” by trying to stab the goose. I’d I don’t get his reasoning, does he just assume a chicken has a lifetime’s worth of eggs inside itself that it metes out? At least I think that’s what he was getting at with his sword waving. Otherwise I fear he’d try putting his hand up in there.
Felix fires himself from a cannon on to the the ship, kicking Kidd square in the midsection. The retaliation from the pirates is odd. They throw all their mugs at him. This isn’t open mic night, guys, you have swords and guns. The mugs all end up in a cannon, which Felix then fires back unto their mouths. I don’t know about you, but I can still be aggressive with a mug suctioned to my face.
In an amusing move, the goose cuts the main sail, giving Felix the opportunity to harpoon them in a bindle sack, which then gets knocked below deck by the next cannon shot. That’s what you need to defeat pirates: Mugs, fabric, and a means of sewing.
Felix puts on a barrel for protection and fights Kidd in armed combat. Their swords get so hot that they fuse together and burn through the deck. It’s one of the least effective gags I’ve seen, because they weren’t even fighting that fiercely, the gag lacking any sort of proper set up.
Lacking a weapon, Felix does what every stupid hero does, and seeks the far less stable and much more dangerous high ground by climbing up to the main sail. What’s more interesting is that Kidd, a man with a peg leg, is able to stay balanced up there. After some sword swiping shenanigans, Kidd falls and gets his pants hooked on a rope.
The rope is, of course, perfectly situated over the same opening the other pirates fell through, allowing Felix to put the entire gang in one consolidated location.
Felix has Goldy steer the ship back to shore, and proceeds to fire all the treasure from cannons. I don’t think he thought this through, because hot shards of flying gold isn’t something anyone wants coming at them no matter how badly they need the money. Homeless people want my money, but they’d probably rather I not give them paper-cuts with it beforehand.
Kidd drinks enough liquor at one point to put most people in an oxygen tent. A bowdlerized version would probably put the words “Root Beer” on the barrel and call it a day.
Rating: Nearly Unwatchable
The characters in this short are almost startling Disney knock offs, with some looking like they just traced Goofy and Pete as their basis. Van Beuren only made three talkie Felix cartoons, and I can see why. America already had Mickey Mouse, they didn’t need a slight variation with an even more annoying voice and no discernible character traits.
Van Beuren had the rights to a famous, iconic character, but had no clue what made him popular and no better idea to take its place.