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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Welcomes Back Felix The Cat

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Well, this morning, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is bringing back an old friend.

(SOUNDBITE OF "FELIX THE CAT" THEME SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat. Whenever he gets in a fix, he reaches into his bag of tricks. Felix the Cat...

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

That's right, after 85 years, the "Felix The Cat" balloon is making a comeback. In the 1920s, Felix was a huge star in comics and animated movies. He joined the Macy's parade in 1927 as the very first character balloon.

STEPHEN SILVERMAN: He was paraded down on stilts because he only contained air (laughter) - oxygen, not helium. That came later.

INSKEEP: That's Stephen Silverman, author of "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: A New York City Holiday Tradition." Silverman says Felix's joy was short lived. One year later, he would be upstaged by a big-eared rival.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: And now they're all waiting for Mickey himself. Here he comes.

GREENE: Yes, Mickey Mouse. In 1928, Mickey was the star of "Steamboat Willie," the very first talking cartoon.

INSKEEP: Oh, my goodness. This is like Sunset Boulevard or something...

GREENE: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: ...Because Felix was the star of the silent movie era and like many of the stars from that era, gradually began to see their fame go away.

SILVERMAN: He hung on for a very long time. And, you know, he wasn't replaced by Mickey Mouse at all. Mickey was added. There was no conspiracy to get rid of Felix the Cat.

INSKEEP: Just a loss of interest. And by 1931, he was out. Stephen Silverman says Macy's decision to bring Felix back now for the 90th parade, was the right thing to do.

SILVERMAN: I think Felix will have a noticeable presence. A star is a star is a star (laughter). You know, he may not be Pokemon. But Felix is a credible celebrity.

GREENE: A celebrity whose star is back on the rise this Thanksgiving Day, with help from some helium.

(SOUNDBITE OF "FELIX THE CAT THEME SONG"

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat. Whenever he gets in a fix, he reaches into his bag of tricks. Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat. You laugh so much, your sides will ache. Your heart will go pitter-pat watching Felix, the wonderful cat. Felix the Cat... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.