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BMG Special Products presents
The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat (1995)

"Computer animation—big deal!"
- Felix the Cat

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: June 09, 2000

Stars: Felix the Cat
Director: various

Manufacturer: BMG Special Products
MPAA Rating: G for ages 6 and up (bizarre, possibly scary situations)
Run Time: 01h:30m:00s
Release Date: June 20, 2000
UPC: 755174571695
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C CA-B- D+

DVD Review

Felix the Cat (FTC) reigns as far back in my memory as I believe it is possible to go. I can recall my father reading the color funnies to me and pointing out each frame as he went. I saw Felix at the movies, on TV and read all the comic books my allowance would buy. When I discovered EBAY a year and a half ago, I went Felix crazy—I spent easily over $1000 on anything FTC I could or couldn't afford.

This "wonderful, wonderful" cat first appeared on the silver screen in 1919 as the star of Feline Follies (as Master Tom). His creator, Otto Messmer (for The Pat Sullivan Studio) inked his cartoon kitty into an international lion—Felix quickly became the most popular cartoon character in the world. He held that title through the 1920's until Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse opened his mouth—sadly, Sullivan thought "talkies" were just a phase. Like most silent-era celebrities, his light dimmed and his career faded as the decades slipped by.

Felix's impact on the world of animation is indisputable. He proved that audiences could sympathize with a cartoon character in the same ways they did with living actors, paving the way for every belovéd and popular animated "star" today. And although true Felix fans know his early years were the best, we are grateful to the Oriolo's (Joe, and now his son, Don) who carry his legacy through, even today.

A couple of notes for trivia hounds: Charles Lindbergh chose Felix as his mascot during his historic transatlantic flight in 1927. And when RCA laboratories transmitted the first television image, it was Felix they chose: a statuette, spinning slowly on a lazy susan tray.

The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat is the Felix of the Oriolo's, a contemporary figure, with his ubiquitous "bag of tricks" the senior Oriolo introduced in 1958. He's the face of FTC we recognize and love, although a bit less sympathetic in his magical self-sufficiency. The style is a kind of Felix meets R. Crumb via Tex Avery, as he exists in a warped world of strange anthropomorphic creatures, from a back-talking vacuum cleaner to dancing eyeballs to doors that refuse him entry.

Not my personal favorite incarnation of my feline hero, but as long as there are glimpses of his original charm, I'll go along for the ride.

In The Petrified Cheese, Felix flies off to Egypt with Detective Shamus H. Goldcrow to recover a treasured relic gone missing. They meet a whining Sphinx, a hungry pyramid and assorted ghoulish mummies before apprehending the culprit—a wisecracking Skidoo the Mouse—finally earning their $14 reward.

Felix has always displayed unique resourcefulness when faced with various dilemmas. Here, when he and Goldcrow need to get to Egypt, he shapes his "bag of tricks" into an airplane, using his thought "!" as the propeller—the highlight for me in this absurd episode.

In Manhattan Triangle, Felix tries to take his girl Candy Kitty out for a "quiet evening filled with down-to-earth intellectual stimulation," just as that crazy Bermuda Triangle heads north for a bit of fun of "his" own. The town goes awry until FTC, of course, saves the day.

This short is a heightened version of FTC's newer, surrealistic existence brimming with wacky imagination. He loses the girl, but never his "Felixity."

During a bit of musical chairs with a hippopotamus in a movie house, Felix is thrown into the screen and becomes a part of the movie in Now Playing Felix. The audience laughs and cheers as our hero finds himself in the midst of all sorts of movie clichés.

His ability to morph is taken to new levels in this very comical adventure. The "food fight" scene is a literal delight.

FTC and his pal Rosco, out for a road trip, end up at the Middle of Nowhere Home for the Hopelessly Loopy on a dark and momentarily stormy night. Their Jailhouse Shock comes when they end up in court with a very froggy lawyer who gets them a life sentence in prison. But our ingenious hero steals the numbers off a license plate he's stamped, makes a motorcycle and escapes as the prison itself puts on the chase.

It is always the vestiges of the early Felix that save the day in these later shorts: his good guy attitude and infinite creativity.

The Sludge King Parts 1 and 2 finds Felix, like every red-blooded tom, turning to putty in front of the fairer sex. In Part 1, he follows Candy Kitty into an animation factory with workers trudge Escheresque stairways. He finds himself in a lab where he sees a "familiar" wire-frame kitty appearing in a prophetic sequence. He meets Rosco and discovers that the object of his desire is his old pal Rosco's sister. As they meet outside, Rosco chases his runaway doughnut down into a sewer, and fearless Felix dives in after to save him.

Part 2 has FTC adventuring through the slimy underworld of the sewers, the realm of the nasty Sludge King, where he discovers Rosco about to become the evening meal. In a clever move, FTC grabs the remote control from a black and white "live action" family, pauses and rewinds the action back to the wire-frame animation from Part 1 to see how it ends. Armed with this future information and his faithful bag of tricks, he defeats the "slimeballs" and once again loses the girl but saves the day.

Another carry-over from the original Felix is his hunger. This time, in Mars Need Felix, with his tummy literally growling, he finds a sign on a door advertising "See the World for Free—Eats Included" and our famished feline can't resist. He enters to meet a slimy travel agent but missing the warning sign, is catnapped into space, where indeed, he "sees the world" as the earth waves a "bon voyage." He's taken to Mars where he is put to work as slave labor at the Marzco factory.

Perhaps his strangest escapade in on this disc is Space Time Twister.In this weird adventure Felix takes a ghost train to a bizarre, hallucinatory realm that some might recognize from their "experiences" of the 60's.... Oriolo's imagination goes over-the-top as FTC discovers what Trekkies might call "a rift in the space-time continuum."

While not to my taste, it is a vivid extravaganza of the younger Oriolo's contemporary style#&8212a taste of what animation would be like if Phil Spector was at the helm.

In Guardian Idiot our hero's ever-empty tummy gets the best of him again. This time he's led into the kitchen of a restaurant that has an excessive need of fodder for its meat grinder. As Felix's luck would have it, at the moment he needs help it is an idiot angel's turn to earn his wings. "Out of the frying pan into the fire" best describes the harrowing situations FTC goes through until he finally pleads to go back to where the angel found him...but in the end, our hero is saved, showing us that even an idiot angel deserves a second chance.

Step Right Up takes place at a carnival where a magician sets his sights on Felix's magic bag and sends his goons to capture it. Luckily, FTC is has ingenuity as well as magic, and manages to outsmart the thieves in the end.

A fun cartoon romp, this one is safe viewing for even the littlest Felix fans.

Hooray for Don't String Me Along! Now THIS is the Felix of my happy memory! While the loony improbabilities of the previous episodes exploit the "anything goes" aspects of animation, this charming short shows a Felix who is of his environment: a world of black ink outlines that hold the color in.

After his disgruntled vacuum cleaner storms out, Felix decides to straighten up the house himself. He begins by yanking a black string off his coat rack, unraveling first the furniture, then his house, then the entire structure of his cartoon world. This would be a perfect episode if Oriolo could have resisted the urge for bizarro characters—gratefully, they only make their appearance near the end.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: This transfer is in great shape. All the colors are clean and sharp—of course, the originals are fairly recent and so good masters were likely readily available. No imperfections noted. A very enjoyable watch.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Although delighted to see this available in 5.1, these shorts do not use it to its best advantage. However, the heavy metal intro does....

Animation is a GREAT place for 6 channel audio tracks, with all the boings and bams and crashes —but this seems a bit of a cheat: the music tracks sit in the back, with most of the dialog, bells and whistles up front. And while there is some cross-over, it is disappointingly rare. However, the audio is perfectly clear at all times, so although I wanted more, I was pleased with what they DID achieve.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Production credits
  2. Audio Set-up
Extras Review: Nothing here, even though there's over 80 years of history available on this "Wonderful, Wonderful Cat"...truly tragic. I can think of a dozen things off the top of my head that would have helped add depth to these later, more superficial shorts. I sadly wonder if anyone truly respects the world's first anthropomorphic superstar—it seems more that he has become just another entity for capital exploitation.

The menus are looping animations with snazzy music and use some standard wipes as you move from screen to screen, cute to rev up the kiddies, perhaps.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

One thing Felix the Cat has always been is a good guy. Unlike the generations of cartoon felines to follow, FTC is a hero, a friend, and his machinations serve toward the betterment of all. As a die hard Felix worshipper, I am pleased to have this disc, because, in the end, well...it's FELIX. And like his current creators, I want him to live on through the generations.

While true fans may shudder over these recent exploits, it IS a must have if you understand that for all the dolls and toys and magnets and even cels, Felix is only Felix when he is action on the screen.

 


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