Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Felix the Cat (1989)

Well, this goes to show that digging up past fascinations doesn't always work out. I found a lot to appreciate about Casshan and was ultimately blown away by Teknoman, so I felt good tracking down this animated film that utterly enchanted me one night when I was about 7 or 8 years old. But...it's actually quite atrocious.

I'm not talking about the ancient Felix the Cat cartoons, those are an essential part of animation's early history (his first appearance on screen in Feline Follies was almost a decade before Steamboat Willie introduced Mickey Mouse). This feature-length film was a 1980s effort to revive the character for a new generation of youngsters growing up in the Disney Renaissance of that era. That comparison is not very kind to this particular film - it's no Beauty and the Beast. The freewheeling storyline places Felix in an adventure ripped right out of Star Wars - he gets a magical transmission from a princess in distress, who is in the clutches of a half-man half-machine villain.

One problem early on is that Felix just won't shut up. Despite his origins in silent cinema, any time he's on screen he's squawking away in that chirpy voice of his. Puns and pop-cultural references abound - in one bit, he tells the skull of a dead miner that it needs a Big Mac. Living creatures have no awareness of their privilege. But his constant jabbering is just one example of how the movie is just so busy, like they're afraid any pauses will lose the attention of the little kids. You still see this attitude today, especially in the Dreamworks animated films. But there may be something to this approach since I distinctly remember being thrilled by this when I saw it as a kid.

I think it was the very storytelling I now regard as messy or incoherent that made it so appealing. In its own bonkers way, it's very imaginative and colorful. It was something I might have imagined as a kid. The suggestion that a movie made by a studio full of professionals probably should be more competent than what an eight-year-old can dream up was not something I considered. Speaking of that, I miss playing pretend. That was really fun.

Academy Award predictions will be coming very soon (ceremony is this weekend). I have The Pirates of Dark Water on deck for the next installment of the Nostalgia Series. Hope to see you then!

1 comment:

Steve Marrow said...

This is one of my guilty pleasures, the animation is mostly bad and Felix is annoying but there's a strange charm to it. I love the Duke of Zill song, it's a pretty good tune for such a mediocre movie.