04 October 2010

Mystical Felix Monday: There's More?

Hey, who said it was over? At the time our Fantastic Felix Friday celebration finished up last week, an e-mail snafu had unknowingly kept me from receiving Don Oriolo's replies for two extra Felix the Cat interview questions. But the Cat always comes back—and now Don is back, too, with one of the funniest Felix anecdotes ever. All in service, of course, to Felix the Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails, Don's new book with Yoe! Studio—an exciting collection of Otto Messmer, Joe Oriolo, and Jim Tyer Felix adventures that's available now.

What, you want another adventure here? Oh, all right. But I don't want to spoil too much. So following below is "The Great Inventor" (Four Color 135, 1946), a Felix story that's not in Great Comic Book Tails. While I don't want to state the credits with certainty, I believe pages 1-13 are largely by Otto Messmer, with inks by Otto, Joe Oriolo and possibly Jack Bogle (pages 4 and 5). Pages 14-16 are—I believe—penciled by Jim Tyer and inked by Joe.

(Comic © Felix the Cat Productions; all rights reserved.)

And now I'm back with Don for those final two questions—switching to boldface interview style now!

Don, the stories in Great Comic Book Tails seem almost to be trying to top each other for wildest adventure or most outrageous fantasy scenario. What's your own favorite from among those stories? And what would you say was your dad's most outrageous Felix cartoon story?

I love "Felix Pulls Through" (Felix the Cat 13, 1950)! I remember my father penciling and inking it like it was yesterday... I was fascinated when Felix threw the magnetic ore into the air and the cannonballs and weaponry were attracted to it, thereby veering away from Felix. I totally remember when my father drew the cluster of cannonballs all stuck together; I watched with baited breath as he inked it, and I could see it coming to life. As soon as he inked around the little reflective windows that he left white, the whole scene popped; that stuck in my head to this day! That's how I ink reflections, too.
Regarding Felix animated on the screen, I loved Master Cylinder, King of the Moon (1959)—when Master Cylinder established himself as king, it was so bizarre; that a character named after the working business of an auto brake system was crowned king of the moon. Why? I had these battles with my father all the time. His answer was, "Why not?"

So what was the most outrageous situation Felix ever got you into? These things tend to happen when he crosses our paths.

Well, it's funny you should mention that, David. About 12 years ago (seems like yesterday!) my mother got involved in investing in an "amusement" park in Palm City, Florida. The object was to have more "intellectual" exhibits for children—and to do away with traditional amusement rides, et cetera. It was more like an outdoor library than an amusement park!
And the whole construction of the park was running years over schedule; it was not looking good. Well, one of the things that my mother donated—along with the usual bricks with family members' names etched into them—was a version of "Where's Waldo?"... or rather "Where's Felix?" Yup, you heard it... I designed—and the park council produced—seven solid brass Felix statues, painted black and white. They were amazingly heavy and each one stood about three feet tall. They were actually pretty cool... but by the time they were ready, I was getting very skeptical about the plan. The principals in the park, called "Gift Gardens" after someone named Gift, were constantly bickering and replacing each other with even less efficient people. You have to understand that they actually built this thing. It was probably about 10 to 15 acres with a brand new high masonry wall around the whole bit.
The park opened without fanfare; and as I walked past the "Where's Felix" section—a nicely landscaped plot of land about thirty feet square—and looked around, I saw no press; just a handful of people and a bunch of bizarre exhibits. Whatever kids were there walked along the path with glazed looks on their faces. "Where are the rides?" I said to myself. "This does not look good."
To make a long story short: the park opened one day, and was locked tighter than a sardine can the next day! I was like, "What the heck?" It started with good intentions, but was built by do-gooders raising money from local retired people, and it also felt like maybe they did it as some kind of tax shelter scam. I was livid. I went back that afternoon and there was already graffiti on the beautiful eight-foot wall. "Okay," I said, "this confirms my suspicions; this park is going to be looted and destroyed in a matter of days." No security... it was completely abandoned.
I thought back; how would Errol Flynn get over this wall in Robin Hood? Oh, yeah... there's a ladder over there...

You saved the statues.

Yeah, you got it; I climbed over the wall, and I carried those ridiculously heavy statues from one side of the park to the front wall. One by one I placed the rescued Felix statues on the top of the wall. I was exhausted... but these were our Felix statues; we paid for them plus plus plus... and the park owners had abandoned the place. I was upset to say the least.
In any event, today those statues live in my studio and the homes of a couple of my nephews. Boy, the things we do for that Wonderful Wonderful Cat!

I'll say! Truth is stranger than fiction.

Glad to have you h— uh, glad to have you here again, Don. And speaking of strangeness; to finish off this blogpost in style, it's time to share a true Felix oddity with readers. Dating from 1924, "Since Felix Has Been Shingled" was among the earliest Felix spinoff tunes; and is rare enough that until very recently, I wasn't aware it had been recorded.
But times change. Rarities are rediscovered. And now—thanks to collector David Moore—here's England's own Clarkson Rose with the story of our favorite cat... being forced to get a lady's hairdo. Maybe fiction is stranger.

Felix has been walking since the day that he was born
And so to keep him home at nights we had to have him shorn;
We did not like to 'bob' him; he didn't look the part;
So we went and had him shingled and it nearly broke his heart.

Now Felix is shingled he won't go out of doors;
He lies on a cushion and snores, and snores, and snores.
He's canceled engagements which he'd made by the score
Since Felix has been shingled he won't walk anymore.

Felix caused great jealousy amongst the other Toms,
But since he has been shingled now, they wag their to's and froms.
He rivals them no longer among the lady cats;
He never spends his ev'nings now in other people's flats.

Now Felix is shingled he won't go out of doors;
He won't trim his whiskers, he's left off his plus fours;
The Sheik of the Tabbies in the good old days of yore
Since Felix has been shingled he won't sheik anymore.

Felix rivaled Owen Nares when he made his bow
But Felix now is owing hairs; meow! meow! meow!
Don't forget to visit my sister (brother?) blogs from last week's Fantastic Felix Friday:


Thanks Craig, and thanks Don!


Mykal Banta said...

David: What a magnificent post. Great on all counts: Great story and great interview. The more I get into Felix, the more I understand what an important role Tyer and Oriolo played in the wonderful cat's success, assisting the great Messmer.

Man, what I wouldn't give for one of those three foot, brass felixes!

While I'm here, let me say what a beautiful, well-done blog you have!

Eric Stott said...

Has anyone caught on that "Felix has been shingled" is a coy way of saying the cat has been neutered?

ramapith said...

I wondered about that—but I haven't been able to find a single other instance of "shingled" as a term for neutering.

Eric Stott said...

Maybe so, but I find the lyrics pretty explicit

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