Saturday, 18 February 2017

Down With Betty Boop

Enforcement of the Motion Picture Code in 1934 is said by animation historians to have caused the Fleischer studio to tone down Betty Boop. Eventually, she reached a point where she was turned from a sex-pot into a slapstick comedienne who barely starred in her own films.

Some animation fans have declared the later Boop adventures dull and uninteresting. Few say the same thing about her earliest cartoons. Ah, but we found a critic who did.

Buried in the pages of the Ogdenburg Republican-Journal of May 27, 1932 is a somewhat disjointed criticism by the paper’s film critic. It’s disjointed because she goes on to praise the Fleischer cartoon “A Hunting We Will Go”—which includes Betty Boop.

And, naturally, because it’s 1932, the reviewer treats Walt Disney like the gold standard of animation. Oddly, her suggestion of an Alice in Wonderland series had, in spirit, already been done by Disney in the silent era with little live-action Alice being plunked into a cartoon world. (And we all know about Disney’s later “Alice in Wonderland” feature).

NOW that the pictures have come of age they are worth more than casual comment about this picture and that. Miss Croughton in her weekly column tries to look at the films in relation to their social and cultural effects as well as their entertainment values.
ONE of the many things we can not understand about the movies is why screen cartoonists who are constantly demonstrating their richness of comedy ideas and their ability in putting these ideas into clever and amusing synchronization expose themselves to suits for plagiarisation [sic] by grafting upon their films such excrescenes [sic] as the figure and tiresome lisp and queak of a "Betty Boop."
Fleischer, whose clown and little dog were a delight in animated cartoons long before the talkies came into existence and who, after a period of feeling his way with synchronisation, is now turning out more amusing creations than ever, certainly did not need the irritating Betty Boop to bolster up his efforts.
In a recent cartoon by Fleischer in which the clown and the dog go hunting to secure a fur coat for their sweetheart, there is a wealth of ingenious comedy of action and idea. The lioness who tries to get into the exclusive garden party "for leopards only," and who succeeds only after she has allowed herself to be peppered with black spots from the clown's gun, is delightfully funny; but the final touch, in which the animals who have been deprived of their pelts to provide the fur coat come shivering and complaining in their "underskins" and so work upon the sympathy of the sweetheart that she gives them back their fur, is little short of inspiration.
The cartoons, of course, rely for their humor on the reversal of the usual and expected. In another film seen recently, the rabbit character, who is being pursued by a knife-throwing Chinaman, suddenly catches two of the knives as they are flying past him and turns back to politely return them to their owner. Perhaps the suggestion may be looked upon as sacrilege, but we would like to see Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" done by Walter Disney as an animated screen cartoon serial—provided, of course, that it was kept free from the vulgarities and trivialities of some of the cartoon series. The humor of the best animated cartoons is, basically, the inverted humor which Carroll used in his tale and the majority, of its incidents seem to us to cry aloud for representation.

1 comment:

  1. The Motion Picture Code came from attitudes like this. Many in the audience probably enjoyed the vulgarities of Betty Boop and would have enjoyed them even more if they moved closer to the eight pagers of the era.