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!