Since International Cat Day is today, I was thinking about my first introduction to cats when I was a small child. We didn’t have any real cats in our home, so all I knew came from television and movies. Let’s take a look at 5 animated cats with shows airing in the 1970s.
1. Felix the Cat
Felix is a black cat who starred in an animated show created in 1919 during the silent film era. In 1953 the cartoon, now with sound, was on American television with Felix redrawn and with a magic bag of tricks added. He was always being chased and attacked, but he outsmarted the villains trying to steal his magic bag of tricks. I never could guess what he would pull out of that bag but knew he would survive. His catch phrase was “Righty-O.”
2. Thomas O’Malley
Aristocats, a Disney movie released in 1970 was based on a family of aristocratic cats. A sophisticated mother cat, Duchess, and her three kittens, Berlioz, Marie, and Toulouse, are raised by a retired opera diva, Madame Adelaide, and are set to inherit her fortune when she dies. The butler plots to kill the cats as he is next in line to inherit the fortune. An alley cat named Thomas O’Malley helps this cat family and they are safely reunited with the diva who adopts Thomas and turns her mansion into a stray cat sanctuary.
Snagglepuss, a pink mountain lion who wears a bow tie, shirt cuffs and an upturned collar made his first appearance in 1959 on The Quick McGraw Show. He loves the theatre and has a campy way of speaking. He addresses the audience directly, breaking the fourth wall. His favorite catchphrases are “Heavens to Murgatroyd” and “Exit, stage left!” Plots included his being chased by Major Minor, a short hunter, and being rejected when he tries to woo Lila, the lioness.
4. Sylvester the Cat
His full name is Sylvester Pussycat, Sr., a tuxedo cat in Looney Tunes, who was usually scheming to eat Tweety bird. He speaks with a lisp and his catchphrase is “Sufferin’ succotash!” While Sylvester was the villain, Tweety, a yellow canary, not only outsmarted Sylvester but was sometimes aggressive in trying to injure him.
5. Tom Cat
Thomas Jasper “Tom” Cat Sr, is the main character in the animated show Tom and Jerry. He is a grey and white tuxedo cat who walks bipedally, but unlike many other animated cats, doesn’t talk. This show revolves around Tom trying to trap Jerry Mouse, but his plans backfire and he usually hurts only himself.
Typical of children’s animation in the 1970s, lots of violence was involved with attempted murder as the common plotline. The animated cats on TV shows walked on two legs, had human vices, and often used a catchphrase or two.
As a kid, Felix was my favorite, and I didn’t want to miss a show. I remember him as a good cat just trying to defend himself. But once I saw Thomas O’Malley at the movies, he had a charm that put him in a close second. After all, he married Duchess and became stepfather to her three kittens. How many other animated cats in the 1970s were settling down?