Archive for Betty Boop

Birth of Boop

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , on August 3, 2012 by dcairns

Interesting Fleischer cartoon. It has a TRANSFORMERS style car that turns into a robot, and an early use of television — really a Skype call — for peeping purposes.

The star is Bimbo, who looks a bit different from later toons when he’s Betty Boop’s canine boyfriend. But Betty looks different too. She started life as a poodle, only gaining a name, a personality, and a species of humanity later. In this toon the gf mostly human but has a black dot nose. Her head is much smaller than Betty’s. She doesn’t have the dangling poodle ears, which eventually mutated into Betty’s big hoop earrings, but she does wear a chic hat with little flaps on it which match Bimbo’s ears.

And she has a fairly obnoxious personality, forcing the love-sick Bimbo to fight for her hand with a giant pugilist. The Fleischer vision of a he-man is quite something, by the way.

But there’s one scene, as pointed out by uploader parker Taibi, where Betty acquires both human compassion and a big, Boop-like noggin, as she emerges from the prizefighter’s tent to offer Bimbo’s robo-car a replenishing drink of water (like Esmeralda!).

30s toons often went off-model, depending on who was drawing them that day, but this little transformation is fascinating — Betty leaps forward millions of years of evolution in one cut, but as Dr Moreau observed, “the stubborn beast flesh creeps back,” and her cranium deflates to more dog-like proportions by her next appearance.

Bosko Does Not Believe in Tears

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2012 by dcairns

Bosko, star of early Looney Tunes, underwent a mysterious transformation. Here’s Bosko in his best-known form –

I take him to be a little monkey, don’t you? Everybody else is an animal, and he has those cute ears. Surely he’s a chimp or monkey. Of course, there’s also the obvious fact that he’s a thinly disguised rip-off of Mickey Mouse, shorn of the nose-dot and vast, black spherical ears (people assume they’re discs, but they never vary their appearance whatever way MM faces). He even has a Pluto-like dog, Bruno, and a girlfriend who looks just like Bosko in drag, called Honey.

And there’s also the suspicion that he’s a minstrel-like caricature of an African-American. In fact, from 1929, here’s Bosko’s first talkie –

Different voice, and very obviously an Amos ‘n’ Andy style ethnic caricature. But that side of the character recedes as he adopts the eunuchoid falsetto of Disney’s famous mouse. Cartoonist Rudolf Ising denied that Bosko was of any ethnic type, characterizing him as “an inkspot type thing,” but the view of Hugh Harman, who actually dreamed Bosko up, is apparently not recorded.

Then Bosko is acquired by MGM, when Harman & Ising (Harman-Ising well together!) switched studios, and he goes into Technicolor, becoming a little more sugary in the process.

The bratty kid dresses in Mickey Mouse’s red shorts, and the animation is a bit more three-dimensional, the comedy more domestic and less surreal/grotesque. The MGM effect creeping in.

Then this happens –

Bosko has become fully human, or almost, and he’s certainly African-American now. Curiously, the caricature isn’t particularly offensive (to me, anyway, but I wouldn’t presume to speak for everybody). I wonder how audiences reacted to his transformation? At any rate, the character was quickly retired. The more realistic Bosko became, the less fun his adventures seemed. The final phase, though technically the most elegant, is the least pleasurable to watch.

Bosko’s strange evolutionary leap from inkspot/minstrel/monkey to “real boy” is paralleled over at the Fleischer studio by Betty Boop’s transition from poodle to flapper, which is arguably as insulting in its implications. Very oddly, even after her floppy ears had turned into earrings, and her muzzle modified into the low, chinless mouth we know and lust for, Betty continued to go out with Bimbo, a dog. The implications of which are best left unexplored.

Ub!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by dcairns

Weird, icky Ub Iwerks cartoon!

I love Ub Iwerks, mainly because his name is Ub Iwerks. When is Microsoft going to release an IWerks device? Like an IPad, only limp and rubbery?

Ub is a seminal figure in the history of animation, chief creator of Mickey Mouse. Breaking with Disney in 1930, Iwerks was set up in his own studio, where he attempted to rival his former boss’s success — but Ub’s sense of humour was, shall we say, a bit non-commercial.

Flip the Frog is a kind of amphbious Mickey Mouse manqué, I guess. Disturbingly, he has a humanoid girlfriend, a Boop rip-off minus the “mature bosom” mentioned by the judge in the famous Kane vs Boop lawsuit. The boobless Boop decides to flip Flip the Frog the bird and takes off with a prettyboy male Boopoid figure. So, in time-honoured LA fashion, Flip gets a new face.

Very strange stuff in the mask shop / plastic surgery. And meanwhile UnBetty is being chased by a thuggish molester. Betty Boop toons are brimming with rape menace, of course, but what’s most disturbing about this film is the long delays between threat and rescue, during which it’s hard to picture anything passing the time that doesn’t involve UnBetty actually getting savagely used. It’s also notable that these cartoons take place in a kind of lawless wild west vision of America. In a sense, most Hollywood cinema seems to assume that the Wild West never went away.

I dig the Lionel Atwill moment when Flip’s new face cracks open to reveal his true Anuran countenance beneath. This is a very strange film.

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