The cat we have all come to know as Felix first made his appearance as Master Tom in Feline
Follies. Released just after WWI in 1919, and directed by Otto Messmer, the @4 minute short features the original Felix the Cat, here called Master Tom. Our hero cat is lured away from his duties of protecting his house from mice by the seductive charms of Miss Kitty. While he is away, the mice take over and destroy the house. The house owner comes home to find the place a mess and blames Master Tom and throws him out. Master Tom goes to find his love, Miss Kitty, but she is surrounded by so many other male cats that he flees and decides to commit suicide by breathing in gas.
In subsequent films, Master Tom becomes Felix the Cat, and in the 1920-29 Arabiantics Felix whisks away on a magic carpet and lands in Arabia where he trades the carpet for a bag of jewels. An evil Arab unleashes an army of mice to take the bag. After beating up an Arab guard, Felix finds the hooka smoking Arab who had stolen his jewels for his many wives. The mice again defeat Felix and throw him out of the house. The devious Felix then schemes to play music for the Arab’s wives to dance to and while they are dancing, all the jewels fall from their bodies into Felix’s bag. Felix’s cunning wins the day.
In the short, Eats are West a hungry Felix steals Mammy’s flap jacks and flies away using the flap jacks as a make shift plane. Mammy shakes her fist at him in her anger. Felix then parachutes down to steal food from a pony express rider. A fight ensues with Felix defeating them all. Then he goes on to have a fight with some Indians and completely destroys a cigar store Indian.
In Felix the Cat Ducks His Duty all the mice declare war, and he is forced to enlist to aid his cat brethren. Wearing a WWI helmet at the front, Felix tries to desert but is forced again to stay and fight. He faces gassing by the mice with old cheese and then he is sentenced to be shot. However, the clever Felix escapes and tries to get married but returns to the front because of the constant nagging of his wife.
The ingenious Felix entered the psyches of a whole generation as a courageous feline who would never give up. So pervasive was the Felix persona that even the great aviator Charles Lindbergh chose a Felix doll to be his lucky mascot on his historic 1927 transatlantic flight.
Felix the Cat had become a cultural icon representing the clever overcoming of all odds. Because of Felix’s iconic notoriety, NBC television used his image, a Felix doll rotating on a record, for its first test broadcast in 1929.
The children that had grown up watching Felix cartoons would eventually fight in WWII. Bomber pilots proudly adorned their planes with images of the undefeatable Felix, while his image appeared on allied battalion and regimental insignia.