Don Oriolo

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Don Oriolo
Birth name Don Oriolo
Born New Jersey
Years active 1960–present
Associated acts

Don Oriolo[1] is an artist, musician, and writer best known for his work in the music publishing industry and for overseeing the Felix the Cat cartoon franchise after his father, Felix co-creator Joe Oriolo, died in 1985.[2] Don Oriolo also owns and operates the Oriolo Guitar Company, a guitar, bass, and ukulele manufacture company[3] whose products often feature Felix and other Oriolo-designed artwork.[4] Oriolo has also authored a number of books featuring his paintings of Felix the Cat, whom he describes as his creative muse. Some of his music publishing credentials include writing Jon Bon Jovi's first charted track, as well as signing Meat Loaf and Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam.[2]

Early life

Don Oriolo was born and raised in New Jersey.[citation needed] He is the son of the co-creator of cartoons Felix the Cat and Casper the Ghost, Joe Oriolo. He credits his parents with fostering his creative personality as a child.[2] Growing up as one of three children, Oriolo and his siblings drew pictures and played various musical instruments. Don's main instruments were the guitar and the piano.[5] In one interview, he remembers being six years old and sitting underneath his mother's ironing board while she ironed and listened to Frank Sinatra.[5] He credits this memory of Sinatra's music as his first mind, body, and soul connection to music, even recalling every little detail of the memory, right down to the smell of the fresh laundry, the steam from the iron, and the rhythm of the spray bottle.[5] In a 2015 interview with wsRadio, he recalls his first gig as a musician at a local VFW Hall in New Jersey at the age of 13, but goes on to say that he always thought of his time playing guitar during his mother's sewing circle meetings at the age of nine as the true first live performances of his musical career.[5] Oriolo was also a huge fan of Elvis at this time, another artist he credits for his lifelong love of music.[5]

In addition to playing music as a child, Oriolo was also an avid artist, and had a strong connection with the cartoon characters his father co-created.[2] His infatuation with Felix the Cat started at a young age, and this did not escape his father's notice.[2] Joe Oriolo encouraged Don's artistic and musical talents throughout his childhood and into his adult life, and eventually introduced the younger Oriolo to Winston Sharples, Joe's colleague in the animation world.[5] Sharples, who Don refers to as "Win," became Don's mentor in the entertainment and music arrangement businesses.[5]

When Joe Oriolo died in 1985,[6] the Felix franchise was left to Don, who took the iconic cartoon and successfully shepherded it into the turn of the century with numerous licensing and merchandising business ventures in various international markets.[2] Under Oriolo's watch, Felix was the number one licensed character in Japan in the late '80s and early '90s.[citation needed]

Music publishing

Don began his career in the music industry as a songwriter, session/studio musician, and music arranger, before stepping into what he calls the "executive turntable" of music publishing.[2] When he was first starting out as an aspiring musician, Oriolo would cut high school and ride a bus from New Jersey into New York City, with his guitar.[2] On these trips into New York, he would go to record and publishing companies to try to get meetings with any executives who would give him five minutes of their time.[2] Eventually he started to turn heads and began to sell songs and work as a studio musician and music arranger.[2] During his time as a studio musician, arranger, and composer, he worked with bands and musicians such as The Chimes, The Tokens, The Paragons, The Cupids, Doctor Hook, Gloria Gaynor, and many more.[5]

Having already been in the recording business as a studio musician and writer,[7] he was able to float his interest in professional management to some of the most successful record and publishing executives of the time, eventually landing a job with the Robert Stigwood -owned record company, RSO Records.[2]

Oriolo went on to have a successful career in the music publishing business, discovering and signing musicians such as Meat Loaf, Jim Steinman, and Lisa Lisa. He also wrote music and arranged and produced records for musicians such as Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam, Doctor Hook, Meco, Robert Gordon and many more.[8] Oriolo is also credited with writing Jon Bon Jovi's first charted single, which was a Star Wars-themed track titled "R2 D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas."[2]

Oriolo was a head publishing executive at RSO Records, Twentieth Century Fox, April Blackwood Music - East Coast, CBS/Sony Records, Elvis Presely's Gladys Music and Hill and Range Music, and he worked as the Vice President of Chappell/Intersong Music.[citation needed] While at these companies, Oriolo published the works of the Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, Donna Summer, Casablanca Records, as well as Gamble and Huff's "Mighty Three" catalog.[citation needed] Other accomplishments as a music publishing executive include his contributions to the Broadway musical The Wiz, being named Country Music Publisher of the Year for both 1978 and 1979,[citation needed] and publishing the hit songs "Funky Town" and "Deja Vu."[8] Oriolo also owned and operated his own music publishing companies, for which he received numerous ASCAP and BMI awards, as well as many gold and platinum records.[citation needed] His publishing company also owns the hit songs "Supernatural Thing," "This Time I'll Be Sweeter," (both composed by songwriters Haras Fyre and Gwen Guthrie† February 3rd, 1999 ) and "Touch Me All Night Long".[citation needed]

In 1984, Oriolo started his own record label, Personal Records, which went on to amass 28 charted records in just three years. He continues to work in the music industry, working with musical heavy hitters like Gloria Gaynor, as well as fostering the careers of budding musicians such as Bronx-based Pop artist Qeuyl, and Nyah Jewel, also of the Bronx.[2] He also continues to release albums of his own music, with the most recent being two solo albums titled When You Gotta Go, You Go, and Earthlings Unite, as well as an album from his band Felix and The Cats titled The Cat is Back.

Felix the Cat

Don Oriolo is widely known as "The Felix the Cat Guy."[5] When his father Joe Oriolo, co-creator of the modern day Felix, died in 1985,[6] Don took over as CEO of the iconic cartoon franchise.[2] Upon taking control of the franchise, Oriolo immediately started to implement more modern licensing, merchandising, and marketing strategies for the cartoon, and sought to bring Felix into a global market.[2] Oriolo particularly focused on the Asian cartoon market, where Felix is now "especially popular."[9]

Some of these new marketing strategies included writing and producing a feature film, 1988's Felix the Cat: The Movie, as well as the straight-to-video film Felix the Cat Saves Christmas. Oriolo also has Executive Produced a series of cartoon television shows,[10] including The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, and Baby Felix, which was released in Japan in 2000. Additionally, Oriolo had a hand in producing a Betty Boop and Felix comic strip during the mid 1980s.[citation needed] Oriolo also worked out licensing deals with Dairy Queen, Carl's Jr., and Wendy's to include Felix toys in the respective fast food chains' Kids' Meals.[citation needed] He also struck a deal with Hudson Soft to produce a Felix video game for the NES and Nintendo Gameboy.[citation needed]

Don Oriolo is credited with writing and performing the theme song for The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, a successful TV series aired by major networks worldwide including CBS in the USA, and he holds an Executive Producer credit for the show along with Phil Roman. He is created the brand for Baby Felix, including acting as a writer, style guide and overall character creation for the Baby Felix cartoon TV series. For the Felix the Cat video game, Don Oriolo is credited with the concept, storyline, and character design. The game also won "Best New Nintendo Game of the Year" in 1988.[citation needed]Don Oriolo was the writer and producer for the greatly successful Felix the Cat and Hello Kitty musical production in association with Sanrio-Japan. The show played for a rare second season in Tokyo.[citation needed]He was the editor-in-chief, publisher, artist and contributing writer for Felix Comics, the publishing company behind the Felix the Cat comic books. Oriolo also co-Created Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island TV Series for Warner Bros.

In 2014, Oriolo entered into an agreement with DreamWorks Animation[11] for the Felix franchise.[9]

Collection of Don Oriolo's artwork books

  • Felix the Cat's Magical Garden of Painting and Verse: A Whimsical Collection of Felix the Cat-Inspired Paintings and Poems.[citation needed]
  • The First 500[citation needed]
  • Another Book of Felix the Cat Paintings. GuGu Press, 2015 ISBN 978-0692561690
  • Jingo: An Artistic Journey by Don Oriolo[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Olde Lafayette Village has been sold". New Jersey Herald.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "The Musical Journey of Qeuyl and Don Oriolo: Tickets to Ride", The Milford Journal, Milford, April 2015. Retrieved on December 14 2015.
  3. ^ "Kahuna Ukuleles Unveils New Felix the Cat Line".
  4. ^ "The Oriolo Guitar Company".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i wsRadio Interview with Don Oriolo.
  6. ^ a b "Joseph Oriolo Dies, Creator of Casper", The Reading Eagle, December 27, 1985. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  7. ^ "Don Oriolo". Discogs. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  8. ^ a b All Music Don Oriolo Credits.
  9. ^ a b "Dreamworks Animation Acquires Rights to Felix the Cat". Variety.
  10. ^ "Felix History". Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  11. ^ "DreamWorks Buys 95-Year-Old Felix the Cat To Make Him A 'Fashion Brand'". Cartoon Brew. 2014-06-18. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
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