Pat Sullivan (film producer)

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Pat Sullivan
Born (1887-02-02)2 February 1887
Died 15 February 1933(1933-02-15) (aged 46)
New York City

Patrick "Pat" Peter Sullivan (22 February 1885[1] or 2 February 1887 – 15 February 1933)[2] was an Australian cartoonist, pioneer animator and film producer, best known for producing the first Felix the Cat silent cartoons.

Early life

Sullivan was born in Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, the second son of Patrick Sullivan from Ireland and his Sydney-born wife Margaret, née Hayes.[1] Sullivan arrived in the United States around 1910, after spending several months in London. He worked as assistant to newspaper cartoonist William Marriner, and drew four strips of his own. When Marriner died in 1914, Sullivan joined the new animated cartoon studio set up by Raoul Barre. In 1915, Sullivan was fired by Barre for general incompetence. In 1916, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, set up a studio to produce animated cartoons based on his paper's strips and hired Barre's best animators. Sullivan decided to start his own studio and made a series called ‘Sammy Johnsin’, based on a Marriner strip on which he had worked.

It is a matter of some dispute whether Felix was created by Sullivan or his top animator Otto Messmer. Animation historians have accepted Messmer's claim without question, as he was the principal animator on the Felix series.

A sketch for fan by Pat Sullivan, samples such as this were used to match Sullivan's lettering in the initial works of Felix
Charlie in Turkey (1919, animated film) starring the tramp Charlie (known from the Chaplin movies). After visiting a second-hand bookstore Charlie dreams that he abducts the Queen of Sheba. But behind the veil of this Turkish lady awaits a surprise.

However, Sullivan was drawing cartoons for Paramount Magazine by 1919 and later when he signed a contract as an animator with Paramount Studios in March 1920, one of the subjects specified in his curriculum vitae was a black cat named Felix who had first appeared in Paramount Magazine as a character named "Master Tom" in a cartoon series named Feline Follies, tending to support Sullivan's claim definitively.[3]

First hand accounts were recorded in print. Notably a recollection from 1953 by Australian writer Hugh McCrae who was sharing an apartment with Pat Sullivan just before Felix was created. 'It comes properly as a postscript that in New York McCrae shared a flat with Pat Sullivan, the famed creator of "Felix ,the Cat." When a film about Felix was being planned, Sullivan suggested that McCrae should do the drawings while he (Sullivan) supplied the ideas. McCrae refused and has regretted it ever since.' [4]

As Mickey Mouse was gaining popularity among theatre audiences through sound cartoons by late 1928, Sullivan, after years of refusing to convert Felix to sound, finally agreed to use sound in Felix's cartoons. Unfortunately, Sullivan did not carefully prepare to convert Felix to sound, and put sound in cartoons that the studio had already completed.[5] By 1930, Felix had faded from the screen.[5] Sullivan relented in 1933, and announced that Felix would return in sound, but died that year before production began.

Rape conviction

In 1917, Sullivan was convicted of rape in the second degree of a 14-year-old girl. He spent 9 months in prison,[3] during which time his studio went on hiatus.


Although it is disputed that Felix the Cat, the first cartoon super star, was Sullivan's creation, as studio head he was responsible for naming him Felix, and for producing and promoting the series. He was a pioneer in character marketing and a tenacious fighter for his intellectual properties.


Sullivan carried a strong bias against African Americans, which his employees found as detestable as his pedophilia and alcoholism. According to Rudy Zamora, when he and Eddie Salter tested for positions at the Sullivan studio, they were bested by a young African American boy. Zamora recalled that animator Dana Parker “took the black boy [aside] and told him that they’ll call him when they needed him, [as they were] not hiring anyone that day. But they kept Eddie and I. That was lousy. Then they would have hired this black guy and myself. Ed was third.” When Zamora complained about this to Parker, he was told, “The old man (Sullivan) didn’t want any black guys.”

Character Creations

  • Felix The Cat (Disputed)
  • Willing Waldo
  • Old Pop Perkins
  • Johnny Boston Beans
  • Obliging Oliver


By the early 1920s, Sullivan's alcoholism had completely consumed him. According to artist George Cannata, Sulivan would often fire employees in a drunken haze, not remembering the next day when they would return to work as if nothing had happened. According to Shamus Culhane, Sullivan artist Al Eugster recalled that Sullivan was "The most consistent man in the business - consistent in that he was never sober". According to Otto Messmer, Sullivan drank all day long and was never in a sound enough state of mind to contribute creatively to the cartoons he produced. In later years, much of Sullivan's staff was interviewed and claimed Messmer deserved all credit for the Felix character's creation and development, arguing that Sullivan was too sick to contribute, or even really run the studio.


Sullivan died on 15 February 1933[2] in New York City[1] at age 47 [1] from health problems brought on by alcoholism and pneumonia.[1] (At the time, newspapers attributed his death to only pneumonia).[6][7] He is buried in Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Young, John. "Sullivan, Patrick Peter (Pat) (1885–1933)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 24 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dates per Pat Sullivan at the Lambiek Comiclopedia
  3. 3.0 3.1 Barrier, Michael (2003). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516729-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Felix the Cat | St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture | Find Articles at BNET at
  6. Jefferson City Post-Tribune (16 February 1933) "Pat Sullivan Dies"
  7. The Evening Tribune (16 February 1933) "'Felix' Creator Dies"
  8. Patrick Peter Sullivan at Find a Grave

External links