Wednesday, January 18, 2023


Toppers: Laura


Felix the cat, one of the biggest of the early animation stars, made the transition to newspaper comics in 1923 with King Features. The strip, which was credited to animation studio head Pat Sullivan, was mostly ghosted by Otto Messmer for the first two decades of its existence. 

When Hearst strips began carrying toppers, Felix was unusual in that it didn't go through a few different test run top strips before settling on one for the long run. Felix added the strip Laura as its first topper on June 6 1926* and stuck with it for nine years, finally changing to a new strip after the Sunday of June 16 1935**. 

While many toppers reused old characters from the creator's oeuvre, Laura seems to have been a brand new creation. The strip starred a parrot who quickly learns bits of speech from her owners and repeats them at inopportune moments. The strip was pretty much a one-joke affair for its entire existence, but the gag was pulled off with originality and playfulness that kept it from getting too stale. 

According to some online sources, Laura, or a parrot that resembles her, was later incorporated  into some of Felix's film shorts. 

Update 12/31/2023: Turns out that the Laura topper did finally stop with the repetitive gags. By 1935, when it was winding down, the parrot was engaged in a light contuinuity, mostly being chased by a cast of funny animals.

* Source: Philadelphia Record

** Source: Washington Star


I've seen lots of the Felix cartoons from 1919-37, and though a parrot may show up in one along the way, there never was a role built up for it. That was pretty much one of Felix's character traits; he was Chaplinesque; he was homeless loner.
If you read the early dailies (began 1927) you will see for many months, they are based entirely on aepisodes in specific, named, actual animated films. That eventually stopped, and that was really the only time the strips made a point of identifying with the screen version. Just as well; the strip outlasted the films by many years.
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