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Felix The Cat Was a Big Star; guess who copied him.
Richard Gottlieb -- Toy Industry Expert Richard Gottlieb -- Toy Industry Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York, NY
Tuesday, December 29, 2020


I am reading a fascinating book about the history of animated cartoons. Written by Reid Mitenbuler and titled, Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation, the book provides a much-needed look at an art form and a business that never seems to get the attention it deserves.

As I read the book, I was struck by how little has changed when it comes to intellectual property and copying. Consider animator Pat Sullivan’s Felix The Cat. His Feline Follies, released in 1919 and featuring Felix, launched a franchise that generated substantial revenues from product tie-ins.

Felix and Kitty White in Feline Follies

How popular was Felix? Mr. Mitenbuler puts it this way:

Men wore Felix tiepins and women wore Felix brooches. Smoke shops sold Felix cigars and auto-makers sold Felix radiator caps. Infants smelling of Felix baby oil napped under Felix blankets….The merchandising rights earned Pat Sullivan $100,000 per year.

I checked for inflation and found that $100,000 in 1919 would equal $2,628,575 in today’s dollars. Not bad for a cartoon cat. However, Felix’s success was only the beginning for the cartoon industry, which went on to see the rise of the ultimate cartoon star, a very popular cartoon mouse named Mickey Mouse.

Speaking of Mickey Mouse, I was surprised to learn that before he created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse, a struggling Walt Disney produced a virtual copy of Felix the Cat. His name was Julius the Cat, and he appeared in 47 cartoons before Disney abandoned him for more original work.

Julius the Cat

It is to Walt Disney’s credit that he want on to create original work and a remarkable career. If it is true that copying is the sincerest form of flattery then having Walt Disney copy your work has to be the ultimate form of flattery. Still, it sadly shows that as long as there will be a popular new product or character, there will be someone seeking to capitalize on someone else’s work. Some things never change.

Richard Gottlieb

Global Toy Experts / Global Toy News

646 675 3019



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