Monday, February 11, 2008

The History of Animation 7 - Pat Sullivan: Charlie Chaplin, Master Tom, & Felix the Cat (1914-1919)


"Felix was the most popular cartoon character in theatres until 1930, when Sullivan's distributors cancelled his contract because of his refusal to move towards sound films."

Feline Follies (1919):

Yes, Master Tom kills himself at the end!

The following information is from:

"On November 9, 1919, Master Tom, a character resembling Felix, debuted in a Paramount Pictures short entitled Feline Follies. Produced by the New York City-based animation studio owned by Pat Sullivan, the cartoon was directed by cartoonist and animator Otto Messmer. It was a success, and the Sullivan studio quickly set to work on producing another film featuring Master Tom, The Musical Mews (released November 16, 1919). It too proved to be successful with audiences. Paramount producer John King suggested that the cat ought to be renamed to "Felix", after the Latin words felis (cat) and felix (luck), which was used for the third film, The Adventures of Felix (released on December 14, 1919)."

"This is newfound footage of a 1914 Chaplin cartoon by Pat Sullivan, creator of Felix The Cat."

Charlie Chaplin at the Beach (1914):

Charlie At the Circus (1918):



The producer suggested "Felix" from "feline" and the Latin for "luck." Essentially this was "Feline, the Lucky Cat," which is a similar name and concept to Disney's "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" almost 10 years later. Disney couldn't get Oswald up to snuff to compete with Felix, but Mickey Mouse's second cartoon did the trick when Disney pioneered sound and "musical animation."

Sullivan was already having some limited success before this with his Charlie Chaplin cartoons. He'd also been trying a bunch of other cartoons that weren't catching on enough to continue the characters.

The truth is that Pat Sullivan was successful, and Felix was a side project he had his animator, Otto Mesmer do, in 1919 (it got Sullivan much more successful). Mesmer based Felix on the Charlie Chaplin cartoons they were already doing (He was the animator on those as well). In fact, Felix met Charlie in a 1923 Felix cartoon, Felix in Hollywood.

Sullivan released many films before 1919, including his Charlie Chaplin cartoons...

- Over the Rhine with Charlie (1918) (producer) [Director]
- How Charlie Captured the Kaiser (1918) (producer) [Director]
- Colonel Pepper's Mobilized Farm (1917) (producer)
- Doing His Bit (1917/II) (producer)
- A Barnyard Hamlet (1917) (producer)
- A Good Liar (1917) (producer)
- Hammon Egg's Reminiscences (1917) (producer)
- Box Car Bill Falls in Luck (1917) (producer) [Director]
- Monkey Love (1917) (producer)
- Seven Cutey Pups (1917) (producer)
- Duke Dolittle's Jungle Fizzle (1917) (producer)
- Young Nick Carter Detectiff (1917) (producer)
- A Pesky Pup (1917) (producer)
- Cupid Gets Some New Dope (1917) (producer) [Director]
- Them Were the Happy Days (1917) (producer)
- Twenty Thousand Laughs Under the Sea (1917) (producer) [Director]
- A Barnyard Nightmare (1917) (producer) [Director]
- Boomer Bill Goes to Sea (1917) (producer) [Director]
- A Good Story About a Bad Egg (1917) (producer) [Director]
- Inbad the Sailor (1917) (producer) [Director]
- The Love Affair of Ima Knut (1917) (producer)
- The Tail of Thomas Kat (1917) (producer) [Director]
- A Day in the Life of a Dog (1917) (producer)
- Fearless Freddie in the Woolly West (1917) (producer) [Director]
- Boomer Bill's Awakening (1917) (producer) [Director]
- The Trials of Willie Winks (1917) (producer) [Director]
- Sammie Johnsin Slumbers Not (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin and His Wonderful Lamp (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- The Trials of a Movie Cartoonist (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin's Love Affair (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin at the Seaside (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin Minds the Baby (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin in Mexico (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin Gets a Job (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin Magician (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin Strong Man (1916) [Director] [Writer]
- Sammie Johnsin Hunter (1916) [Director] [Writer]

Sullivan stopped all other cartoons in 1919. By the time that Master Tom got his name changed to Felix, all Sullivan's studio did was Felix cartoons.

Pat Sullivan was the Disney of the 1920s. Walt Disney lost Oswald because he asked for $2,500 (which would be worth $29,422 in 2006) instead of $2,000 (worth $23,537 in 2006). (Mintz countered by telling him to take less money, and had hired his animators from under him. Disney didn't let himself get squeezed. He finished his Oswald contract while getting his other animators started on Mickey Mouse.) Pat was making Felix cartoons for $12,000 during this time (which would be worth $141,226 in 2006).

We used the Purchasing Power aggregator to find out what money was worth:

However, Disney soon overtook Sullivan. Sullivan was too slow to embrace sound and color, while Disney pioneered them and capitalized on them.


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