Otto Messmer was born August 16, 1892 in Union City, New Jersey. He died from a heart attack at the Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey on October 28, 1983, at the age of 91. Otto Messmer is responsible for characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Felix the Cat, both of which are still extremely popular. Today, Felix the Cat still runs in syndication in over 250 newspapers across the world. Not only that, but Casper the Friendly Ghost has had several full-length films about him and also stars in his own cartoon series.
Otto Messmer loved creating cartoons and found himself inspired by Winsor McCay’s animated films. Messmer’s successful career started out with him creating comics for his local newspaper station in 1912. People loved Otto Messmer’s comics- they were extremely successful. In 1915, he signed a deal with Jack Cohn from Universal Studio’s.
Cohn wanted Messmer to produce a test film of a character called “Motor Mat”. Unfortunately, “Motor Mat” was never released, but Messmer was lucky enough to have it draw the interest of animator Pat Sullivan. Instead, however, Messmer decided to go work with Henry Mayer, another well-known cartoonist.
Messmer and Mayer did a collaboration to create an animated series called The Travels of Teddy, based off of the life of Teddy Roosevelt. It was extremely successful. Eventually, Messmer began working for Sullivan’s Studio. Sadly, Messmer had to set his dreams aside for a while because he got drafted into World War 1.
Otto Messmer ended up returning to the United States in 1919 and continued to work for Sullivan’s Studio. By then Sullivan Studios was hired by director Earl Hurd of Paramount Screen Magazine. Hurd wanted Sullivan Studios to create a cartoon short that would later be accompanied by a feature film. Sullivan put the entire project on Messmer, who then created Master Tom, a black cat. He was the prototype to Felix the cat.
Felix the Cat was the fist cartoon character created and developed for screen, it was also the first to become licensed and become a mass merchandised character. Even though Otto Messmer directed and was the lead animator of all the episodes of Felix the Cat, Sullivan too all the credit. Sullivan’s name was the only onscreen credit that appeared in Felix the Cat. Mesmer also made most of the Felix newspaper strips. Felix the Cat was made into over 150 cartoons. Sadly, in 1931 Felix the Cat started to die out because animation studios began to convert to sound films.
Felix the Cat films were created using a process known as full animation. Full animation is a technique where each individual frame is re-drawn one-by-one. Felix the Cat is considered full animation because Messmer hand-drew and inked every frame of Felix and re-drew every background. For the flipbook that I created, this is the process that I chose to use. The only downside to full animation is that thing will very from frame to frame, but this is ok because it gives the piece character.
Messmer’s “Felix the Cat” films were quite often comical. Felix was a shape-shifting cat who always seemed to be in trouble. An example of this can be seen in “Felix in Hollywood”, when his landlord takes his money and leaves, Felix changes into his brief case and tricked him. I tried incorporating this into my flipbook by my making my main character a shape-shifting period. I also attempted to make my flipbook funny by having my character be scared to death.
I think I was pretty successful in my attempt to adapt Otto Messmer’s Style into my flipbook. The first thing I did, as I said earlier, is I used full animation, with a pencil sketch for every slide, to create my flipbook. Also, just like Messmer I inked my whole flipbook as well. Another thing I did was made my main character, Dot, into a shape shifter. Lastly, I made my flipbook a comedy.
Otto Messmer is a name that will never be forgotten. His characters Casper the Friendly Ghost and Felix the Cat are still known around the world today. His contributions to the world of animation are unforgettable.
- “OTTO MESSMER .COM.” OTTO MESSMER .COM. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.
- Mavromatis, Kally; “Felix the Cat – Silent Star of April 1999”, accessed Sept. 14, 2014.
- Gordon, Ian. Felix the Cat at St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture, accessed Sept. 5, 2014.
- Canemaker, John. Felix: the Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat. New York: Pantheon, 1991.
Otto Mesmer (Word Document of Essay)