Cartoon Reviews

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle (1932)

Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle was one of the first five Betty Boop cartoons I had ever watched, and what I remember most was when, early in the episode, Bimbo crashes his motorboat and gets tossed into Betty's canoe, and she responds with a startled "Holy Smacks." It's the G-rated version of "holy shit," but the way Betty says it is funny and a little coquettish. I also mostly remember the ending, after Betty and Bimbo escape the island tribe in Bimbo's boat, when it would seem Bimbo gets lucky but perhaps only so lucky as getting a big wet kiss from Betty, and not the other thing. She is innocent after all despite her status as a sex symbol.

This episode is of course one of the most iconic episodes due to Betty's rotoscoped hula dance. The dance is impressive and is modeled after the live action dancer from the intro to the cartoon that features The Royal Samoans, who also provide an excellent soundtrack to the episode. The dance is quite sensationally scandalous because Betty is essentially topless with a thin lei just barely censoring her nudity.

Bamboo Isle is a fun, classic, pre-code episode, although sorely dated from Bimbo resorting to a racial gimmick to save himself from the island tribe as well as Betty being appropriated as a dark skinned island native. A time capsule of a bygone era that still holds up as an entertaining, memorable short, Bamboo Isle is a great eight minute diversion.        

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Old Man of the Mountain (1933)

The Old Man of the Mountain is a classic, bizarre, and sexy Betty Boop cartoon with another smoking soundtrack from Cab Calloway and his Orchestra; in fact this one has Cab Calloway throughout the entire episode, voicing all of the characters except for Betty Boop. Like in Minnie the Moocher (1932) and Snow White (1933), Cab's rotoscoped dance and song number come at the climax shortly before everything falls apart with a big chase scene. This one does a good job at building up to the appearance of the Old Man of the Mountain (a recluse residing in the mountain who everyone fears for no clear reason) with a lot of foreboding, as well as a creepy and, if I'm interpreting it right, distasteful joke with Betty meeting an unhappy female walrus anthropomorph coming down the mountain with a baby carriage containing triplets resembling the Old Man of the Mountain.

This cartoon apparently caused the biggest stir among the moralist communities at the time because of the sexuality used. This, as well as Hays Code enforcement, had an unfortunate result of Betty eventually being toned down by 1934. Woefully enough, Jazz music would become excluded from her cartoons too. Boo!   

What I find pretty cool here is that Betty is not as frightened by the Old Man as she was the Spectral Walrus from Minne the Moocher, taking him on in a sing and dance off (that had an influence on The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)), and it is terrific. All in all, the cartoon is a proto-music-video in a similar vein to Minnie the Moocher, although I like to think of Betty as older and more mature by this point, as she's not running away from home this time but working at a tourist center and doesn't act frightened but is rather brave, attempting to ascend the mountain and confront the old man, despite the whole town fleeing in fear.

I also absolutely adore Betty's outfit in this one. Her pointed collar reminds me a little of Vampirella or maybe even Caroline Munro's character from Starcrash (1978).

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Any Rags? (1932)

"♫Stick out your can, here comes the Garbage Man♫." -Betty Boop
The first Talkartoons episode of 1932, Any Rags? was released January 2nd and features an adaptation of the title song Any Rags, a classic Schottische hit, originally composed by Thomas S. Allen and later recorded by Arthur Collins

I'll admit to not knowing anything about the song Any Rags before first seeing this cartoon. I like to believe that Betty's enduring popularity is beneficial to vintage music preservation. A lot of classic music from bygone eras that would otherwise seem forgotten are continual reintroduced to new generations thanks to the timelessness of Betty's cartoons, and I'm grateful for that.

I've listened to the original song Any Rags, and I noticed that it does not have my favorite line from the cartoon: "stick out your can, here comes the garbage man." I love it when Betty (voiced by Ann Little) sings this catchy line. You can hear her distinguished voice among the choir, and it is catchy and memorable.

The cartoon itself works as a short entertaining distraction, when the mood strikes for something from the early phase of the golden age of American animation. Bimbo is the main character, but Betty steals the show. Talkartoons would end that year and virtually be replaced with Betty Boop's own show, with the pre-code trio of Betty, Bimbo, and Koko still intact. It just made much more sense to give the show to Betty. She's the real reason the Talkartoons episodes with her in them still endure.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Betty Boop Clocks

These are a couple of partially broken Betty Boop clocks from an antique store. I'm sure I could probably fix them, but who knows if or when I'll get around to it.

Even though the minute and second hands still work, the hour hand is stuck at six on the wall clock. The shelf clock is missing the hour hand altogether but still works otherwise and has these four jewel-like hearts at the base that rotate around like a carousel. The spinning hearts are my favorite aspect of it and make it extremely charming.

My favorite of the two is the shelf clock. It has a lot of interesting details to it and comes off as antique, although it's pretty cheap and has a 2009 date on the back (so it's no antique). It looks older than the wall clock which has a 1991 date on the back, so the wall clock is a lot older and sadly was working correctly until it fell off the wall one day.

While attempting to Google a Betty Boop cartoon that might be related to 'time' and 'clocks' to tie in to this blog post, I came across an American Screen Songs Fleischer Studios short cartoon from 1932 that has Betty Boop, or at least a Betty Boop-ish character, as a topless mermaid. It's called Time on My Hands and also features Ethel Merman singing the title song to the bouncing ball over the lyric captions. I did not know about this cartoon until now, even as a bonafide Betty Boop fan. So, there you have it. Topless Betty Boop. The rumors were true.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party (1933)

I haven't been to a Halloween party since 2007. I guess I just eventually reached an age when I decided to always be a homebody on Halloween and hand out candy... Actually it was grad school; I blame grad school for turning me in to a hermit. But I do know that I sure would be excited to go to Betty Boop's Halloween party if she invited me. Judging from her Halloween cartoon, Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party, which aired November 3rd, 1933 (nearly 83 years ago), it would be a rather trippy experience, with me and Betty being the only humans among a boat-load of Jack-o'-lanterns, anthropomorphic animals, phantoms, and a mean old gorilla antagonist who would eventually crash the party. It doesn't look like there would be any alcohol, with the entertainment consisting of such traditional party activities as singing, dancing (Betty would personally provide the music), and bobbing for apples.

Did you know that apple bobbing used to be a pre-marriage custom, where girls would find their future husbands by secretly marking apples? And the boy that would successfully catch the marked apple with his teeth would be the lucky soon-to-be husband? I wonder if Betty marked any of those apples.

I kind of feel like apples might have lost there place in Halloween nowadays, having been replaced by candy bars and corn syrup.  

This is a pretty standard cartoon with lots of traditional Halloween iconography, which I have to admit I never seem to get tired of. There's a popular GIF that goes around online at Halloween time showing Betty dancing and lighting three Jack-o'-lanterns that came from this cartoon. Oddly Bimbo and Koko the Clown aren't here, but that's not a huge problem, because this time Betty doesn't need Bimbo to save her. 

I personally prefer Mysterious Mose (1930) over Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party, but the two cartoons do make a great pairing on Halloween, as does Red Hot Mama (1934), Minnie the Moocher (1932), and another Fleischer Studios short Swing You Sinners (1930). Fans of Betty Boop and Fleischer Studios would do well to visit the aforementioned shorts on Halloween; they are easy to find on YouTube nowadays.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dynamite Comics: Betty Boop - Issue#1

With all the comic book reboots of classic franchises and icons occurring lately, one can only wonder why it took so long for someone to finally get around to Betty Boop.

The first issue of the long awaited Betty Boop comic series finally arrived this month from Dynamite comics, and it turned out to be well worth the wait. There are eleven cover variants, and as you can see from the above image, I couldn't help picking up a few.

After reading through issue#1 for the first time, I felt suitably pleased by the appropriate noirish feel (Betty just belongs on stage in the smoke-filled 1930s nightclub) combined with the charm of the original Fleischer Studios cartoons. There's also something both fresh and classic to Giselle Lagace's art style, and I'm very happy with the look and feel she brings to the pages. Betty does look a little taller, which is totally cool with me. 

It is a lot of fun to read, with a surreal and lighthearted horror story, by Roger Langridge, called Enter the Lizard that introduces several funny antagonists, such as Lenny Lizardlips and Dolly, a sinister Gothic ghost witch from Hell. Fans of the original cartoons will be pleased to see Betty's Pre-code pals Bimbo and Koko the Clown, as well as Grampy and Pudgy and even the lesser known Sally Swing from the later days of the original cartoon series. I wouldn't be surprised if Little Jimmy or Betty's boyfriend for a time Freddy eventually make appearances. Lookout for Mister Natwick, an obvious tribute to Betty's original animator Grim Natwick.

I'm super pleased by the first issue, and I seriously doubt I will be let down by the coming releases. May Betty Boop reign supreme in this new comic form, and may the future hold many Boop-Oop-A-Doop surprises. Let the era of Betty begin.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Snow White (1933)

Fleischer Studios adapted to animation several classic fairy tales where they substituted Betty Boop in the leading role, such as Little Red Riding Hood (Dizzy Red Riding Hood 1931), Alice in Wonderland (Betty in Blunderland 1934), Cinderella (Poor Cinderella 1934), and Snow White, in what I believe is the first animated adaptation of the famed Brothers Grimm classic.

Betty Boop (voiced by Mae Questel), looking as vivacious as ever, visits her wicked step-mama, The Queen, only to be ordered to be taken away and executed by her guards, Bimbo and Koko the Clown in knight armor, after the magic looking glass proclaimed Betty the fairest in the land. Bimbo and Koko have always been in love with Betty, so of course things don't go as the Queen would like.

I like the way Betty's signature leg garter, in a way, substitutes the wild boar's heart from the original fairy tale, a remainder of Snow White to prove to the queen she was dead. Yes, in the book the wicked queen demands Snow White's heart after her execution. She ends up salting, cooking, and eating a boar's heart all the while thinking it is Snow White's. It's pretty messed up for a children's tale, so I grinned with glee when I read it.

Snow White is a fun and memorable musical cartoon adaptation, but I think most viewers stop caring about the plot when the movie climaxes into another smokin' Cab Calloway performance, a la Minnie the Moocher, during which the evil step mother turned witch transforms Koko into a moon-walking roto-scoped specter while singing a rendition of Saint James Infirmary Blues and dancing over a scrolling macabre background. Shortly after, the cartoon wraps things up with a chase scene before a hastened but joyful closeout.

The original Snow White fairy tale serves as the inspiration for the framework of the cartoon, but it is the music, visuals, and Betty's cute numbers that make this one of the best Betty Boop cartoons. It's definitely more of a multifaceted music video that is best viewed after a couple drinks.