This is a collection of selected Felix the Cat cartoons from the first five years of his existence. And while it would be nice if they'd release a complete set of these films (not to mention countless other pieces of silent animation that for what-ever reason are almost impossible to get a hold of), we take what we can get. This is an excellent disc for people interested in early silent studio animation in the United States. The films are interesting, especially when compared to the work of Winsor McCay or the Bray studio, because there seems to be a happy medium between Otto Messmer's personal artistic vision and the need to use assembly line techniques to release films in a timely manner. In the course of about two hours, we get to watch Felix as he evolves from a blocky character to the look we are more familiar with today. One of the only major drawbacks of this DVD is that it seems to be a re-release of two earlier VHS collections of Felix cartoons put out by Bosko Video and just transferred to DVD format. As a result, there is a noticeable lack of supplemental material to go with films that are badly in need of it. While the crude visual style and political incorrectness of the films make for an interesting watch on their own, I would highly recommend that the viewer get some reading material to go with it (Before Mickey: The Animated Film 1898-1928 by Donald Crafton is an excellent book with information on the subject). This is a great DVD for anyone interested in what the American animation studios had to offer before "Steamboat Willie".
What makes these Felix cartoons so interesting to watch is how they make the limitation of no sound into a plus. First timers may be initailly disorientated, but little by little the discovery of what made these animations work - and what keeps them working today - is the clever use of visuals and morphing of shapes. They work without sound, though the organ track definitely adds color. Try turning the sound off while watching nearly any contemporary cartoon and see how entertaining it is. In fact, don't try it; it isn't a great experience.
Another interesting facet of seeing silent animation is the discovery that animation (particuarily the short form) has not changed incredibly over the last century. You see jokes you've seen before, familiar themes, situations, and even familiar characterizations. The groundwork for a lot of twentieth century animation was laid pretty solid during the silent era. This collection can be appreciated both as animation itself and as history. Too bad Pat Sullivan gets all of the credit on the original reels.
When I show silent and early animation to friends, I almost always get the response "They don't make cartoons like this anymore."
That's a sad fact.
The cartoons are in relatively good condition for their age. There are occasional, mild problems with the visual quality, but that can only be expected from source material that is 80 years old. It is interesting to see how Felix evolves over the years. If you have a feeling that silent cartoons will interest you, then I have to recommend this. It has 16 Felix cartoons (including his debut in Feline Follies), plus 2 more cartoons, Bobby Bumps in Their Master's Voice and Frank Moser's Down The Mississippi. Total running time is 119 minutes. Unfortunately, there's no extras on this DVD, but the material is so hard-to-find that this DVD is still a great addition to an animation fan's collection.