Cartoon Reviews

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Crazy-Town (1932)

"Foolish facts, foolish facts, foolish things, and silly acts. But we have nothing else to do, so let's go crazy." -Betty Boop
In this Talkartoon, Crazy-Town, Betty and Bimbo take an incidental trip to the bizarro world, where everything is pretty much backwards, giving the animators ample opportunity to explore a large number of gags where things occur opposite of how you'd expect. Even Betty and Bimbo's presence here seems a bit incidental.

I got to admit to being pretty ho-hum about this one, that is until the quick but morbid scene in the beauty parlor, where instead of having their hair styled by a qualified cosmetologist, women can just come into the parlor and decapitate themselves of their old heads (and toss it in the trash!?) and put on a completely new, beautifully made-over head, just like Princess Mombi from Return to Oz (1985), or rather Princess Langwidere from the book Ozma of Oz (1907) by L. Frank Baum, of which the film Return to Oz was partially based on. Like Dorothy, Betty even refuses to give up her head when a customer takes a fancy to her, resulting in Betty making a brief run for her life. At the end of the adventure, Bimbo gets a couple nice wet kisses from Betty.

Betty's chipper singing (by Mae Questel) heard over the credits at the beginning is just too cute, particularly when she screams "crazy town!". As is usual, there are a few high quality song and dance numbers, with Betty performing a lovely rotoscoped dance (while singing Foolish Facts) with Bimbo on Piano in front of several enthusiastic Crazy Town denizens, towards the end.

The meowing rhino-hippo thing was kind of funny, but aside from the morbid beauty parlor, the bizarro (opposite world) gags just kind of passed by without much response from me. Crazy-Town is still a pretty weird episode that I just recently saw for the first time. It's got its moments that make it worth the near seven minutes of your time to watch it.   

I was playing around with the Betty Boop Snap and Share app on my phone, and I decided to edit a picture I took that commemorated my finally finishing the original Metroid on the NES Classic. Hooray! Unfinished childhood business complete!..
A meeting between Samus and Betty Boop? Now that's a universe crossover worthy of Crazy Town.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Swim Or Sink (1932)

"I'm the only shipwrecked female, and I'm lonesome too; I'm so scared, oh, I can't stand it, must be something we can do!" -Betty Boop
Another one of Betty's early Talkartoons escapades, S.O.S. (Swim Or Sink) is a high seas adventure cartoon with our favorite trio: Betty, Bimbo, and Koko. Although they aren't introduced until after their ship sinks when they are lost at sea floating on a piece of the wrecked ship. While floating along, ever the city girl, Betty laments the groups current problem of being shipwrecked with a delightful little song and dance performance before they are rescued by pirates and things go from bad to worse. Since Betty is the only female on the pirate ship, the captain, aroused by Betty, orders that the prisoners, Bimbo and Koko, be sent below so he can have Betty to himself (some men can be real snakes).

It's all comical and lighthearted throughout despite their grave situation. As usual things workout, and the bad guys get theirs.

The songs in the cartoon are catchy, with the drinking song "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?" being the one you'll most likely walk away with, as it is repeated a few times and is quite upbeat.
Swim or Sink looks to have came out after Minnie the Moocher (1932), which is a tough act to follow. It isn't the greatest, but there's something fun about the 'Betty Boop versus the pirates' aspect to the short. The ship sinking gags at the beginning are rather forgettable, but things do get interesting once Betty enters the frame. She's the star, and as the Talkartoons show went on at this point, it became more and more apparent that the show belonged to her.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Boop Oop A Doop (1932)

"You can say my voice is awful, Or my songs are too risque. Oh, but don't take my boop-oop-a-doop away!" -Betty Boop
There's no denying the appeal of the old-fashion cartoon circus setting, especially for me personally because it always makes me think of Dumbo (1941), one of my favorite Disney animated films.

In the animated short Boop Oop A Doop, originally released January 16th 1932, Betty has a job at the circus as a lion tamer and a tight rope song and dance performer. She's great at what she does and is just so funny and darling when she entertains the circus audience. Not all is peaches and cream though, as later, after Betty's performance, while backstage in her tent, the ringmaster sexually harasses Betty, groping her leg and threatening her job if she doesn't give in to his advances. This is so terrible for Betty. She pleads with the ringmaster to leave her alone by crying and singing the song "Don't Take My Boop Oop A Doop Away!" Luckily Koko the Clown is nearby to lend much appreciated aid to poor Betty.

I do like the way this film goes from cute and silly to grave and serious before ending on a lighter note. Betty is in her top Pre-Code prime here, taming lions, performing two numbers, and ends up facing a serious problem that remains all too relevant to this day.

This is considered an essential Betty Boop classic cartoon by my self as well as in general, I imagine, since it was included on Volume 2 of Betty Boop The Essential Collection on Blu-ray.

Bimbo is on hand in a comical role as an irritating peanut salesman in the audience, bothering a baby that looks like Aloysius, his baby brother from the previous film Minding The Baby (1931). Boop Oop A Doop is also noted for being the first film to feature what would become an iconic running theme-song for Betty Boop "Sweet Betty," heard over the opening title card. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Jack and the Beanstalk (1931)

Jack and the Beanstalk was originally released November 21st, 1931 and is the final cartoon in which Betty Boop is an anthropomorphic dog woman. What's also interesting is that Bimbo was given his older design again for this short, even though he had evolved into his most recognizable design in earlier animated Talkartoons shorts since The Herring Murder Case (1931), which makes me think this short must've been made earlier and possibly delayed, especially considering that Betty was given her human design for the first time in the preceding Mask-a-Raid (1931).

Bimbo declares war on that obnoxious giant in the sky, always littering on his farm. Bimbo has a can of beans under his hat that he plants intending to grow a beanstalk (apparently he's read Jack and the Beanstalk). Rather than Bimbo climbing the beanstalk, it raises Bimbo, as it grows, through the heavens right to his enemy. Bimbo gets sidetracked a little when he sees Betty Boop imprisoned and forced to prepare food for the giant. Like a gentlemen, he helps her stir the giant bowl of split pea soup.

Later, while Bimbo is busy annoying the giant, an anthropomorphic mouse (Mickey, is that you?) crawls out and grabs on to Betty, providing Bimbo with the dual objective of defeating the giant and saving Betty from asshole Mickey. Betty's sudden cries of "save me!" feel forced and are perhaps a parody of the damsel in distress theme. While she's shouting for Bimbo to save her, Betty's face strangely transforms into what looks like someone else's face.

Again Fleischer Studios managed to adapt another classic tale before Disney (I'm referring to Mickey and the Beanstalk from 1947). I was happy to discover a Jack and the Beanstalk Talkartoons short starring Betty Boop and Bimbo, as I had overlooked it for sometime, but I thought it was a little disappointing after I watched it, and it didn't seem to get better on repeat viewing. Betty is of course wonderful during the times she is animated on screen, but the cartoon is a little lacking otherwise. It is interesting to see Fleischer Studios apply their usual wit to a well-known fairytale, but it really could've been better. It is what it is though, and I don't hate it. To be fair, a lot happens in its near seven minute running time, and as usual the animation is charming and technically impressive for its time. I loved the numerous images of castles on the clouds as Bimbo makes his ascent riding the beanstalk. I have to admit to also thinking about the Super Mario Brothers hidden coin levels.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Minding the Baby (1931)

Way before Baby Herman from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Bimbo's brother, Aloysius, did the smoking baby gag in the Betty Boop Talkartoons short Minding the Baby, which was theatrically released on September 26th, 1931.

What makes this cartoon notable is that on the opening title card Betty Boop gets top billing above Bimbo for the first time in what was essentially his show (if these characters were real would Bimbo be envious?).

The cartoon itself isn't necessarily the most memorable. Just when it starts getting good the film ends, with everyone hiding behind the couch from Bimbo's mother, who's furious after having been pulled up off the street and into the apartment with a cartoonishly powerful vacuum by the cigar smoking, newspaper reading baby.

This is also one of the first times Betty and Bimbo are already acquainted, as in most previous Talkartoons films it seems to almost always be a love at first sight meeting. Here, Betty calls over to Bimbo from next door and sends him a letter asking him to come over so they can be alone together since her "Ma" is out. This proves to be a problem since Bimbo has the responsibility of babysitting Aloysius. This also establishes the problematic fact that in this film Betty and Bimbo are, or are at least playing, adolescents, as this seems to be the first time Fleischer Studios decided to age regress Betty from twenty-something to a teenager and still sexualize her. Not sure why since Pre-code Betty had a target adult audience. Fortunately Betty would be aged to an adult again later on, sometime after Minnie the Moocher (1932).

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Bum Bandit (1931)

The Bum Bandit was released eighty seven years ago today. This is an early Talkartoons cartoon in Betty's filmography, during the time when she was more or less a product still in development, but don't let that deter you, because these are still some of the coolest; I'm especially looking at you Mysterious Mose (1930).

The Bum Bandit takes on the nostalgic western mise-en-scène, on a railway, probably some time around the late 19th century on the American frontier. Bimbo is the bum bandit, holding up and robbing a train, and Betty (here named Dangerous Nan McGrew) is the heroic foil, who out-toughs the tough guy, with the punchline joke of sorts being that she is Bimbo's wife looking to drag this bum bandit back home to what looks like their seventeen kids that he is neglecting (although I only counted ten in the photo Betty pulls out).

Betty, er I mean Mrs. McGrew, is all kinds of awesome here, although not necessarily in Betty Boop character yet, which wouldn't really be established until a few Talkartoons films later with Silly Scandals (1931). It looks like she's wearing two thigh garters instead of her usual single left one. She still has her spit curls, hanging jowls, poodle ears, and she pelts a couple of mean tunes, a catchy piece called The Hold-Up Rag and the more aggressive Dangerous Nan McGrew. What was most distracting for me though was how different her voice sounds, as this is the only time she is voiced by Harriet Lee, not having the higher voice attributed to her by Mae Questel and Ann Little. It still isn't bad, but she doesn't sound like Betty, and it threw me for a loop the first time I heard it.

Of interesting note is that the character of Dangerous Nan McGrew was originally played by Helen Kane in the film Dangerous Nan McGrew (1930), and her performance of the song, which is different than the one in the cartoon, just made me a Helen Kane fan

Helene Kane - Dangerous Nan McGrew (1930), uploaded by YouTube user Aaron1912

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bimbo's Express (1931)

Bimbo's Express was released August 22nd, 1931. The incidental plot involves Betty's moving day, although she seems oblivious to it when the movers, among them Bimbo the dog and an anthropomorphic cat who resembles Felix the Cat, arrive to move her and her stuff out of her old, cracked home. When they arrive Betty is relaxing and cutting her toe nails with a pair of scissors, which I thought was a pretty amusing non-glamorous instance.

These were the days when Betty was still a dog and the cartoons were still attempting to establish a love connection between Betty and Bimbo through non-serialized encounters, in that with a lot of these cartoon shorts from this period, Bimbo seems to always be laying eyes on Betty for the first time and is almost always titillated (or at least experiencing a more comical version of love at first sight). Bimbo has the confidence to shout "hello beautiful," with all of the charm of a cat-caller. He eventually starts singing "Hello Beautiful" to her, to which Betty responds in song, "I'm not so beautiful; you only think I'm beautiful; you'll only think so for awhile," indicating that she doesn't buy in to his advances right away. Although while she's singing, in one of the more memorable moments (next to when she was clipping her toe nails), Betty strikes a brief but naughty pose, an early instance of a running gag with her famous leg garter (here on the right leg instead of the usual left) accidentally falling down her leg before having to be slid back up to its original position. Bimbo is pretty much here to stay with Betty now, as they depart with all of her stuff loaded into the horse-drawn carriage to eventually reveal that she is apparently only moving around the corner. They sing their way into a happy "HEY!" ending that might make viewers wonder what they just watched. There's at least some continuity in the next film, Minding the Baby (1931), where Betty and Bimbo already seem to know each other.

My thoughts at the end were that this was kind of pointless but so fun and charming. There's not a whole lot to note about this animated short though other than that it might be the first time Betty's leg garter falls down as well as a passive risque joke when Bimbo knocks at the door and Betty says she's in her nightie, and Bimbo responds with, "alright, I'll wait until you take it off"... Cute, but not as cute as when Betty's big toe comes to life as a smiley face satisfied with its new haircut after the toenail is trimmed thoroughly.