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DreamWorks Animation acquires Felix the Cat

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Felix the Cat, the cartoon born in 1919 during the silent film era, now belongs to DreamWorks Animation
DreamWorks Animation's DreamHouse will update the mall Santa meet-and-greet experience

Felix the Cat, the black-and-white cartoon born in 1919 during the silent film era, now belongs to DreamWorks Animation.

DreamWorks Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg made the announcement during a speech on Tuesday. The studio bought the iconic character for an undisclosed sum from Felix the Cat Productions, owned by Don Oriolo. Don's father, Joe Oriolo, acquired and redesigned Felix in the early 1950s.

Felix's famous image will be used to create a fashion line, Katzenberg said.

"Felix really goes beyond evergreen status and rises to something even more uncommon, as he is a true icon," Katzenberg said in his speech at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. "We plan to make him one of the most desired fashion brands in the world."

With his stout, black body, giant eyes and wide smile, Felix is easily recognizable. He appeared in animated shorts throughout the 1920s and soon blazed a path into printed comics. Then Joe Oriolo reintroduced Felix with longer legs and new characters.

Felix isn't alone at DreamWorks. The studio's 2012 acquisition of Classic Media — rebranded as DreamWorks Classic — brought hundreds of historically notable characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Lassie, and Waldo from "Where's Waldo?" under the Glendale company's roof.

Along with plans for Felix fashion, Katzenberg announced that this holiday season DreamWorks will launch DreamHouse. The 2,000-square-foot attraction to be rolled out in malls will upgrade the traditional Santa Claus meet-and-greet into an interactive experience featuring the studio's familiar characters.

Hosted by characters such as Shrek, shoppers will enter a 42-foot-tall "cottage" and take a four-minute virtual flight on Santa's sleigh. Then they will be able to meet Santa.

"Should be quite an upgrade from the 1890 experience!" Katzenberg said in his speech.

He is working to bring DreamHouse to a number of malls, though specific locations have not been disclosed.

DreamHouse and the Felix-themed pivot into retail are two of the studio's recent attempts to diversify under pressures to improve financial performance.

On Monday, the company debuted the YouTube channel DreamWorksTV, which will include a selection of original animated, live-action and reality shows. Most of the shows will be two to five minutes long to fill the demand for bite-size entertainment. The same team that produces AwesomenessTV will operate DreamWorksTV.

madeline.o'leary@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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