Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Felix the Cat: The Movie

Felix the Cat: The Movie was released in 1988. It was an American-German-Polish-Hungarian produced animated movie that didn't see an American release until 1991 and then it was just direct-to-video. There have been no official DVD releases of this movie in North America.

Felix the Cat was created in 1919 by Pat Sullivan and/or Otto Messmer for Pat Sullivan Productions. Felix became the most popular animated star of the silent movie era. The animated shorts, combining adult humor with childlike fantasy was a hit with moviegoers. The last Felix short came out in 1930 after a disastrous attempt at adding sound to the shorts. Sullivan died in 1933. Messmer would continue the Felix the Cat comic strips and would illustrate the comic books. He would die in 1983. A short-lived attempt to revive Felix occurred in 1936 but only produced three shorts.

Joe Oriolo, an assistant of Messmer's on the comic strip, purchased the rights to Felix and, through Paramount, produced 260 Felix cartoons to distribute to television networks. The series debuted in 1958 and gave Felix much of his appearance and personality--the magic bag of tricks, a rotation of villains, and catchy theme song. After Oriolo's death in 1985, his son Don continued marketing Felix producing a new comic book series from Harvey Comics, a Nintendo video game, a series of bumpers for CBS Saturday morning cartoons, a new 13-episode series, and this movie.

Felix the Cat: The Movie was written by Pete Brown and directed by Tibor Hernadi who would go on to direct 86 Red Bull commercials between 1992 and his death in 2012. Currently, Felix the Cat is owned by NBCUniversal.

GAAH! Satan! Burn it with fire!
We are introduced to Felix through a floating disembodied head. This part, done by CGI in one of the first uses of motion-capture animation, stands out starkly as the rest of the movie is done with traditional hand-drawn animation. Felix tells us about Oriana and it being in another dimension and is very excited to tell you this tale. Perhaps, a little too excited.

We are introduced to Princess Oriana who rules the Kingdom of Oriana (o...k) and she is a kind and peaceful ruler. She wants to give back money to her people much to the dismay of her adviser Grumper and has disbanded the army believing the people will defend the kingdom if anything happens. As fate would have it, something is happening. The Duke of Zill begins invading the kingdom. Oriana tries to flee and find the dimensporter to summon a hero from another dimension. They activate the dimensporter but Zill and his robotic cylinders find Oriana and take her captive. A single tear with her cries for help are sent through the dimensporters and happen upon Felix the Cat. Despite saying he won't hurt it, Felix continuously swats at the tear as it cries "Help me." This chase scene between Felix and the tear goes on for nearly five minutes and then we get a short song called "Sly As a Fox" which are about foxes that has nothing to do with the story. The tear leads Felix into an abandoned mine where there happens to be a dimensporter which transports Felix to Oriana to rescue Oriana.
"Help me, Felix Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."
After a couple mishaps with his magic bag, flooding the dimensporter chamber, and dancing sea creatures, Felix lands in the Land of Zill and meets Pim who offers to take Felix...somewhere but really just wants his magic bag despite not knowing that it's a magic bag. Meanwhile, back in our dimension, The Professor and Poindexter are tracking down Felix and find the mine. They then follow Felix to Oriana.
Felix and Pim. No, I don't know why Pim looks like an 1840s prospector.
As Felix and Pim arrive at Progress City, Felix is double-crossed and is taken captive by Wack Lizardi, who manages a circus in the city. Felix is thrown in jail and his magic bag is taken to Lizardi. The bag won't work with Felix so Lizardi says if Felix wants to eat (and see his bag again) he has to perform in Lizardi's circus. Felix initially refuses to he's locked back up where he meets some mizzard (mice-lizard hybrids). While locked up, Lizardi begins his show with a tribute to Zill.
"We are contented because he says we are."

I honestly don't hate this character design.
Like all villain songs, it's vastly superior to every other song in this movie. The first act in the circus are the mizzards tap dancing which the audience doesn't like--both the circus audience and the movie audience. The tap-dancing goes on for nearly four minutes. Felix is the next act and his act is that he talks and has a magic bag. Felix rips some jokes before performing with his magic bag. The crowd goes wild and Felix becomes a permanent feature at the circus.

Turns out Oriana (the princess not the kingdom) is now a dancer in Wack's circus and every night Zill watches Oriana dance like some sort of pervert. Oh, I forgot to tell you, the Duke of Zill is Oriana's uncle. Felix attempts to talk to Oriana after her performance but she doesn't listen and walks away.
The mizzards talk!
Felix befriends the mizzards who create a hole big enough for him to go through so he can visit Oriana (the princess not the kingdom). There are so many pointless scenes in this movie. Oriana isn't so sure about Felix being the dark hero but she tells him the story of her family and Oriana. The Duke was a great inventor and brilliant scientist who was disfigured during a lab explosion. Outfitting himself with a mechanical shell, the Duke became Doctor Doom The Duke of Zill after he was banished from Oriana for liking war too much. He gained the strange creatures of Zill as followers and built an army of cylinders and cubes as his military. Why are the Professor and Poindexter even in this movie?

Felix asks to perform with Oriana when she dances so Felix joins the band, playing saxophone with his magic bag. Emitting magic bubbles, Felix is able to float him, the band, Pim, and Oriana out of the circus and to freedom. Zill, watching this, freaks out, falling down the stairs, and injuring his back. They make the Duke of Zill out to be this smart, strong, and sinister villain but all that is brushed away with one pointless scene trying to be funny. It's just another of a bunch of disappointments in this movie.

Free! We're free! Wait. We still have half the movie to go.
Felix, Oriana, and Pim begin to make their way to Oriana with cylinders and cubes hot on their trail. Felix then realizes that he has left his magic bag behind despite it being in the screenshot posted above. Luckily, Professor and Poindexter catch up to Felix and they just so happen to have Felix's magic bag. Felix and the gang arrive at some hair forest in the shape of a face for some reason, it's not explained, and have to cut their way through the hair. Some more filler happens and Pim finds a boat to take them the rest of the way to Oriana.
"Hmm. The castle is around here somewhere..."
Princess Oriana is voiced by Maureen O'Connell, you probably haven't heard of her and despite a career spanning five decades, she has no credits of note. She kind of sounds like Didi Hill, Hank's stepmother on King of the Hill. It's very strange.
Felix tries to lasso Zill but his magic bag is confiscated and everyone is taken prisoner. Zill says he won't harm them if Oriana gives him the Book of Ultimate Power. She refuses so Zill sics his cylinders on her friends. She makes the book appear but Zill discovers it is useless to him. Zill has no use for Truth, Love, and Wisdom.
Still better than Cheryl Strayed's Wild.
The Duke of Zill unleashes the Master Cylinder on our heroes, an evil-er update of the Master Cylinder from the 1950s cartoon and the thing that controls the cylinder and cube army. There's no way that our heroes can overcome this.
Here are the blueprints if you want to make your own Master Cylinder..
Felix picks up the Book of Ultimate Power and throws it at the Master Cylinder. The Cylinder malfunctions and shuts down destroying the entire army and melting the Duke of Zill who promises that he will be back. So to recap: We've spent one hour and ten minutes getting to a villain that takes less than thirty seconds to defeat. Felix just threw a book. That was all it took. Oriana goes back to normal, everything is hunky-dory.
Yay.
Poindexter gives us an infodump that the purity of the gold binding on the book interfered with the circuitry of the Master Cylinder or some garbage thus explaining why everything blew up. Oriana decides to shut down the dimensporter so Felix will never be able to come back. Felix, the Professor, and Poindexter are sent back to their dimension. But not before Oriana says Felix has a heart of gold and he agrees with a "Righty-O!"
Oh, thank God it's over. Unfortunately that disembodied Felix
head is back.
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