Have you seen these cats?
June 22, 2010 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Can you identify these 90s cartoon cats from Happy Meals or some other restaurant prizes?

So while cleaning out the attic, my brother found a box of my old My Little Ponies and Happy Meal/kids meal toys. I've been eBaying them off, but these guys, I can't for the life of me remember what show or movie they were from. Anybody know? Who are these 90s cartoon kitties?

Thanks all!
posted by lily_bart to Grab Bag (65 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
The aristocats?
posted by mai at 7:42 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are they stamped on the bottom at all? Probably would have manufacturer or year data to go off of.
posted by msbutah at 8:09 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

What do you think about Heathcliff (1980 tv series, 1984 tv series, and his friends, the Catillac Cats.. there was also an animated movie in the late 80s)? It's a little bit earlier than the 1990s, and I'm googling, but I haven't found any premiums or toys yet. I remember watching the show in the 80s. The only thing is Heathcliff, though orange like the middle cat, was also a fat cat, so I'm not sold on my answer, either. And the Catillac Cats don't match the group..

I have ONE other idea. Remember the Pound Puppies (official site)? There WERE Pound Kitties PURRIES. I had some of the plush toys. It's killing me because I know there are loads of sites about 80s toys and I'm not finding what I'm looking for! (FWIW, there is mention of Pound Puppies premiums at Hardees from 1987, but I don't know if they would have been plush and if they would have included cats.

Are there any markings on the toys at all? For what it's worth, they DO look familiar to me. I'm going to google around some more, and I'll let you know if I actually find something.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:37 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, going on the assumption that they were a tie-in for a Movie I perused all the animated movies from the 90s. Didn't find it, so I expanded the search from 1960 to 2005 (what? I discovered a lot of things, like there are at least ten Land Before Time movies—frankly I had no idea). Still didn't find it. The closest thing was Top Cat and The Beverly Hills Cats, which has the right looking animation but not the right set of characters.

I applied the same methodology to TV shows, but found nothing.

You may want to have a look yourself in case something jumps out at you that I may have missed.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:56 PM on June 22, 2010

Yep, I was doing the exact same thing as jeffamaphone after I posted here. I searched Wikipedia for animated movies, TV shows from both the 80s and 90s.. series and movies that had cats and/or anthropomorphic characters... fictional cats, you name it. I did find a whole bunch of 80s and 90s toy sites eventually, and 1) I'm certain that my guesses are all wrong (but I suggested them just because sometimes cheap premiums looked nothing like the actual cartoon characters), and 2) I kept finding different things that seemed very hopeful for a brief time.. but, ultimately, I couldn't match them. It's driving me crazy because they look so familiar!
posted by Mael Oui at 10:40 PM on June 22, 2010

I DO have one more suggestion: Upload the picture to Flickr and put it in a group devoted to 1980s or 1990s toys, cartoons, kids stuff, or, if you think that they were a premium from a movie or a tv show, a community for fast food premiums. If anyone might be able to ID them from sight, it'd probably be on Flickr. Examples:

Toys in the 1970s-80s
The 1980s Brain-Drain Nostalgia Train
80s Child
McDonald's Happy Meal & Toys
posted by Mael Oui at 11:06 PM on June 22, 2010

That makes three of us. I've looked at "collectible cat", "cartoon cat", "collectible toy AND cat", "orange striped cat", "orange spotted cat", ""fast food"+cat" and "cat+promo". I also tried isolating each of the figurines and searching on GazoPa (that just got me a bunch of deep etched, colour-hued pictures).

I've had a bellyful of looking at cats. I give up. These cats do not exist.
posted by unliteral at 11:18 PM on June 22, 2010

I don't think it's a Pound Puppies spinoff, because the puppies characters wore clothes. Ditto for the Top Cat and Catillac Cat gang (for the most part).

My first guess is they're from a short-lived series, but then how would they have warranted a fast food tie-in so easily?

Is there a copyright mark on these figures? If it says Disney or something, and/or has a year, that could help narrow it down.

Now I have the Heathcliff theme stuck in my head...
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:54 PM on June 22, 2010

I did the same search through wiki's 90's cartoons and various fan pages. I also judged by the poses of the figurines (hands up, palms out as if they are trying to grab you) and their shabby outfits that this is possibly some sort of street gang - probably incompetent antagonists to the smaller protagonist. I went through the TV Tropes "Cats are Mean" article to see if I could find any mention of them, but nothing jumped out at me.

I am truly surprised that there is no online archive of happy meal and kids meals toys.
posted by Think_Long at 5:58 AM on June 23, 2010

Creature Comforts? Though unlikely if bought in the US.
posted by mippy at 6:05 AM on June 23, 2010

My best guess is a gang of cats that appeared on the Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Here is a page with descriptions.

Here are the cats:
Butch is a black and white alley cat.
Toodles Galore is an attractive female, white cat, and is supposedly Tom's usual love interest.
Lightning is an orange-red cat.
Topsy is a small gray/brown cat.
Meathead - brown, mangy, generally dull-witted cat

I can't find any pictures to confirm or deny this and I'm not at a place that I can watch videos. The female cat in your picture is gray, not white, so that's a strike against.

My other thought is that it's not a movie about the cats, but about something else and these are the villains or tough guys, or the posse of the one tough guy who turns soft to help the protagonist. Like in Lady and the Tramp, Fievel, Rattatouie(sp?), Oliver, etc.
posted by CathyG at 8:04 AM on June 23, 2010

I ruled out the American Tail films because the black cat is wearing a collar, these are apparently anthropomorphized feline pets living in a human world.

This is Toodles Galore, I can't find any pictures of the other characters from Tom & Jerry but the grey cat isn't Toodles.
posted by Think_Long at 8:11 AM on June 23, 2010

I checked the Wikipedia page of fictional cats with no luck. They do look fairly Creature Comforts/Wallace and Gromit style to me. What's maddening to me is that the black cat looks familiar! I almost want to say that the black cat is the main character, the orange cat is his guy friend, the grey cat is his lady friend, and the other two are either other members of the gang or bad guys.
posted by booksherpa at 8:27 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I tried searching a bit but after finding too much nightmare fodder (those Fabulous Felines will HAUNT me, I tell you what) - http://www.ghostofthedoll.co.uk/Toys.htm looks like good resource.
posted by lemniskate at 9:08 AM on June 23, 2010

I asked my sister, whose age and toy-cat-preferences made her a likely source. I got "My first impulse was something like the "back alley" or "garbage can" gang. However, I tried googling and... nothing." I throw it out for what it's worth.
posted by kmennie at 2:04 PM on June 23, 2010

Response by poster: @everyone, there are NO markings or stamps that I can see. They also feel really solid, maybe a little heavier than regular Happy Meal toys.

@booksherpa, I have the same vague memory! Also that the brown one was really slow-witted.

Also, the black one is missing the most paint, so I would infer that we played with him more, probably because he's the star of the stories.
posted by lily_bart at 7:07 PM on June 23, 2010

Wait, are you in the US or the UK? That's going to make a difference.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:57 PM on June 23, 2010

I was a cat-obsessed kid of the 80s/90s and these guys aren't ringing any bells for me either, but also seem vaguely familiar.

My best guess is that they're not from any kind of cartoon series/fast food meal, but rather just random feline figures you might find in an open bin in a Mom-n-Pop toy store, or perhaps ordered from something like Oriental Trading Company.

But, that's coming from someone who still has all of her old toys thrown together in boxes, which include the popular well-known stuff, a variety of fast food toys, and random rubber figures from the two sources mentioned above....
posted by Squee at 9:28 PM on June 23, 2010

I looked around the Tom & Jerry Wikipedia page to look for more recent incarnations, and there was a "gang of mean singing alley cats" in Tom & Jerry: The Movie from 1992, and I thought for sure this was it... but alas, it wasn't.

The toys do have a Hanna-Barbera look to them, and CathyG's list of side characters match them almost perfectly. The later screengrab link of Toodles is probably from the original shorts, and since these toys came later, it's possible they were all revamped anyway (and maybe that Siamese wasn't one originally).

How many of these animated cat gangs are out there? Or is this some weird animator collective unconscious at work? None of the other T&J series/movies seem to fit, but it can't be a coincidence. Then again, the would-be "Butch" is the only one with a collar. What does it all mean? Aaargh.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:18 PM on June 23, 2010

Response by poster: @Mael Oui, I'm in the US. I grew up in Michigan, and back then we had a lot of Hardee's around, which as a kid I preferred to McDonald's, though I'm quite sure I have toys from both.
posted by lily_bart at 5:54 AM on June 24, 2010

This mystery has become a minor obsession for me and has led me to rapidly becoming something of an expert in cartoon feline merchandise. At this point, I think it's safe to say that this is not from any (American) kids meal in the 90's. We can conclude this because:

- The cats are not immediately recognizable. Most toys focused on popular and still widely known characters from television or film franchises. Basically, we should be able to recognize almost all of the toys made during the nineties, if not the eighties as well.

- If the cats are not major characters (which we would know), then they are minor characters. Many (myself included) are leaning towards the hypothesis that these are the sometime antagonists of some as of yet unknown gang of heroes. It is rare that a Kid's Meal would invest resources into developing a line of characters deep enough to include the entire gang of villains.

- Finally, I've gone through as much of a visual catalog as I can find online, including Kathy's Fast Food Toys and Cool Toys.

- Finally, the quality seems to be a little too high for a 90's era toy. Most of them were light colored plastic, I don't even know if they were ever painted.

I'm thinking maybe they were from a plastic capsule toy vending machine?
posted by Think_Long at 12:10 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I too have spent way too many hours on this. I agree, Think_Long, that they are looking less and less like happy meal toys, but I still think that this is an instantiation of a real franchise.

The overwhelming lack of any trace of it on the Internet is, indeed, a point against my hypothesis. But I swear I've seen these things before. It may not be a TV/Movie tie-in, it may be they are stand-alone toys of some sort.
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2010

Okay, so it's not just me, then, still obsessively searching... :) What we need is way more eyes on that picture. I'm not sure this is determinable from Google searching any more - I think the answer will come from someone going "Oh, the [answer] cats! Sure, I remember them!"
posted by booksherpa at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I will not publicly admit to how much time i've spent looking for these damn cats online so far! I got nuthin!
posted by vivzan at 9:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

it's driving me crazy too. Is there any possibility of getting better pictures?
posted by lemniskate at 3:12 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ditto what the others say. I've spent an absurd amount of time searching the Internet for these, because I -know- I've seen them before. But ... nothing.
posted by jferg at 6:07 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Now I am looking into the Italian and Japanese animation houses from the eighties and nineties, I seem to remember these cats' mouths barely moving when they spoke like they were overdubbed on the cheap.
posted by Think_Long at 7:08 AM on June 28, 2010

Well one of them looks like Sylvester of Sylvester and Tweety.
posted by anniecat at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2010

Just in case someone else has the same sudden burst of inspiration and is as sure that they solved the mystery as I just was - it is not Peter-No-Tail.

Are these guys poseable or bendy at all?
posted by Dojie at 11:38 AM on June 28, 2010

BAH! I recognize these too (or at least I thought I did), but after 20 minutes of googling, I'm feeling a mite crazy that I can't place them.
posted by Lizc at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2010

I've forwarded the photo to a friend who has worked in animation for many years and will post if I hear anything.
posted by mogget at 11:47 AM on June 28, 2010

You might ask on the forums on Catster. The cat-related expertise there is astonishing.
posted by judith at 11:47 AM on June 28, 2010

A pic that shows how big these are would help. Also, the arm poses are all similar and kind of odd, that's got to mean something.
posted by Who_Am_I at 12:08 PM on June 28, 2010

I would swear that these are from something more cynical/sarcastic than your regular Hanna Barbera stuff. Definitely 90s. The "animation" style is infuriatingly familiar.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2010

I've been looking through this search result (sites that link to the Kathy's page, mentioned upthread):


It's a ghost world of dead sites and web design from 1992.
posted by codacorolla at 1:08 PM on June 28, 2010

You sucked me into this too you dorks! The mrs also recognises them.
At this stage I think it might be worth posting the pic on some furry-sites and alt-kin roleplay forums, they are into some fairly esoteric shows.
posted by Iteki at 1:18 PM on June 28, 2010

I feel all dusty, I have been digging through so many corners of the internet looking for these. They definitely look familiar. The hand positions look like they are supposed to be doing something, so I thought maybe they were from a board game, but didn't turn up anything on boardgamegeek. Any anyway, it would be unusual for a board game to have such detailed miniatures.

The closest thing I've found is that the body shape and general character design looks sort of like Fraidy Cat, but it isn't that, so that's sort of a dead end.
posted by oulipian at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2010

The animator didn't recognize them either, but agrees that they do look awfully familiar.
posted by mogget at 1:32 PM on June 28, 2010

Now that I think about it, the upright hands may just be a standard pose for figures of this type. If the sculptor had made the cats with their hands pointing down, the effect would have been too passive - they would appear much less animated. With the hands poised the way they are, I believe they represent enough mobility to give the toys a bit of "life", but are still not overpowered by the paw placement.
posted by Think_Long at 1:35 PM on June 28, 2010

Did you have cats growing up? I wonder if these are promotional toys that came with cat food or cat litter. I could see Purina having a weird promotion like this back in the 80s. They need not be based on characters outside of the cat food's advertising universe.

Keep in mind that toys sold with child meals did not need to be licensed from a cartoon or something like that. They could have created their own universe, like Astroniks or Tinosaurs, solely intended to get kids to collect crap and buy more happy meals.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:41 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

The general look and feel of the toys kind of reminded me of The Houndcats (and yes, identifying the series based on my very vague memories of watching it as a kid was a challenge in itself) but I don't think that's it - if these toys were the Houndcats they would probably be wearing clothes, and there would also be dogs present. Also, the Houndcats is 1970s so probably too early.
posted by rjs at 1:48 PM on June 28, 2010

We're all looking at TV shows - is it possible these came from a video game, instead? Those were popular enough to explain manufacturing a gang of cats.
posted by cmyk at 1:54 PM on June 28, 2010

I think these are Kinder toys. I've looked at some Kinder collector sites but can't locate them, though. Different Kinder toys were issued in different countries. Can you tell us where in the world these might have come from? Is is possible that they are pre-90s?
posted by CCBC at 1:58 PM on June 28, 2010

Weird. Although I am certain I have never before seen those cats, I feel as if part of me wants to believe that I have seen them before. I think this comes from their cuteness and cartoon-ish faces.
posted by honest knave at 2:05 PM on June 28, 2010

I wonder if these aren't just random knock-off toys. Given how no one has been able to recognize them yet, they strike me as the kinds of toys you can buy all bundled together in a single package at Walmart or even the dollar store.

Are you able to ask your parents if they recognize them? I wonder if they might remember "Oh yes, Aunt Sally bought those for you at the drug store when we visited her in Anaheim" or something.
posted by ErikaB at 3:05 PM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: My girlfriend claims these are from sending in "Tidy Cat" UPCs in the early 90s and that she had several.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2010 [27 favorites]

i definitely had one of those black cats -- i even recollected that the paint scraped off very easily before scrolling down and reading this

i question the 90's timeframe since i would have been *16* by 1990 and there's no way i would have bought one, collected UPC's for one, or accepted one as a gift.

my advice: concentrate on the 80's
posted by Hammond Rye at 3:39 PM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: Holy crap, cjorgensen's girlfriend wins!
posted by paisley sheep at 4:26 PM on June 28, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Regarding the ad campaign:

Budgeted at $10 to $15 million a year and running for many years, the Tidy Cats campaign was called "Multiple Strength for Multiple Cats." Most of the campaign's spending was on TV spots, and the controlling idea behind the commercials did not change over the course of the campaign's long run. Building on a research-driven understanding of multiple-cat owners' views of their pets, the spots showed groups of talking cats with distinct personalities who commented on the attributes of Tidy Cats while fooling humans into believing that they were just cats. The cats were aided in a variety of misdeeds and corresponding cover-ups by the odor-controlling power of Tidy Cats, which enhanced the cats' innocence in the minds of their owners.

For the record, I, too, spent countless hours obsessively searching the web when I first saw this question last week. If anyone can find more information than just the snippet of commercial I posted previously without context in my incredible excitement to show everyone that ZOMG THESE CATS REALLY DO EXIST!!!, that would be appreciated, thanks. Because then I can move on with my life.
posted by paisley sheep at 4:36 PM on June 28, 2010

She would like to point out that that Hammond Rye played with cat toys when he was 16.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:38 PM on June 28, 2010 [8 favorites]

You know, I thought they had sort of an Aardman animation style to them. The commercial was in claymation, so I wonder if they did it?
posted by starman at 4:39 PM on June 28, 2010

yeah i'm shocked i never had a goddamn cat either

where did i get that thing?
posted by Hammond Rye at 4:45 PM on June 28, 2010

Same commercial, but with sound. (Slow to load, though.)
posted by paisley sheep at 4:46 PM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: HOLY CRAP! Why the hell was I playing with cat litter toys?! But that's definitely them!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all who searched!!!
posted by lily_bart at 4:46 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

starman, there's a comment in the youtube link by someone who worked on the commercial saying that they were foam latex puppets.
posted by stavrogin at 7:48 PM on June 28, 2010

Foam, eh? I guess Aardman does work with foam so it doesn't rule them out..
posted by starman at 8:38 PM on June 28, 2010

Ha, Tidy Cats?!! Well, NOW the mystery is why they looked so familiar.. I've never purchased cat litter in my life!

This is one of the best AskMefis ever!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:52 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank goodness for that. I'd given up searching but I'm happy that it's resolved. Cat toy collectors will probably pay well for these, there can't have been too many people that bothered to send in the UPCs.
posted by unliteral at 8:57 PM on June 28, 2010

And now I can finally remove this from recent activity.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:34 PM on June 28, 2010

Up until the Tidy Cats revelation, I was convinced that this was some sort of psychological experiment to see how many people would claim to recognize a novel set of cartoon cats.
posted by schmod at 6:41 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really wish that they had toys made from these cats
posted by horsemuth at 7:06 AM on June 29, 2010

I have no idea why these seemed familiar to me... we didn't have a cat when those ads would have been running. Weird! Glad it got answered.
posted by booksherpa at 7:46 AM on June 29, 2010

Even if you didn't have a cat, you still saw the commercials on tv. I'm not a big salsa fan, and sure wasn't when I was a kid, but I still remember a lot of the PACE ads that aired back in the late 80s/early 90s.
posted by Lizc at 1:23 PM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: Well, if any of you are so enamored with these cats that you'd like to buy them (or see additional photos, at least), here's the auction.

Thanks again to all who searched!
posted by lily_bart at 11:37 AM on July 2, 2010

Ahh, wow. I knew I'd seen these before somewhere. I've also seen them turn up in/among caches of My Little Ponies before, actually, I bet. /former collector
posted by limeonaire at 7:18 PM on July 2, 2010

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