Felix the Cat is a funny animal character who appeared in animated cartoons of the silent film era from 1919 to 1930. Created by Pat Sullivan, he was the first cartoon character to attain sufficient popularity among movie audiences. Felix is depicted as a anthropomorphic black cat with white eyes, a black body and a large grin. The character later starred in a comic strip, several TV series, and a pair of feature films. In 2002, TV Guide ranked him the 28th-greatest cartoon character of all time.
History with the Macy's Parade
Felix the Cat made his Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade debut in 1932, rising to the occasion as a giant helium balloon. Designed by Tony Sarg and constructed by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the Felix the Cat balloon stood at more than two stories tall and prowled down the Parade route on large rods, carried with the help of four handlers.
Macy’s has stated multiple times that Felix the Cat was the first-ever balloon to appear in the Parade in 1927. However, newspaper clippings, footage and other historical documents from the time reveal that Felix was not introduced until 1932 making The Katzenjammer Kids the first licensed characters. Additionally, The Cat balloon from the 1931 Parade is also oftentimes mistaken for Felix the Cat.
The original Felix the Cat balloon made only two appearances in the famed holiday spectacle, and was retired following the 1933 procession.
In 2011, Felix the Cat would appear in the form of a walk-around character on the Hats Off To Our Heritage! float, which celebrated the Parade’s 85th anniversary milestone. Joining Felix were several other famous pop culture characters who have had balloons grace the skies of Manhattan.
Felix the Cat made his grand return to the 2016 Macy’s Parade as a brand-new balloon, helping commemorate the Parade’s 90th anniversary celebrations. From the time the Macy’s Parade Studio began concepts and research on the original balloon, it took approximately four months to get the fine-flying feline to his completion stage.
Stephen M. Silverman, author of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A New York City Holiday Tradition, said that “[Macy’s] wanted to appeal to the kids, but they weren’t sure how it would be received.” Once completed, the 70-pound balloon’s nine chambers required more than 1,800 cubic feet of helium and another 150 cubic feet of air, taking 25 minutes to reach its full size.
The balloon is said to feature the same measurements and design as the original, with several technological differences. Instead of neoprene-coated cotton, the second Felix the Cat was constructed out of polyurethane-coated fabric. Instead of being inflated entirely with air, the balloon was filled with a mixture of both helium and air.
As an homage to the original balloon, Felix the Cat was carried along the streets of Manhattan in the same fashion as its predecessor -- with large rods. Additional handlers dressed in Felix-themed apparel gave the balloon some much-needed balance.
The second Felix the Cat balloon was retired after only one appearance, and hasn't been in the Macy's Parade since.