Monday, September 28, 2009

Betty Boop Film Class Part 5

Moving ahead only one Betty cartoon, we come to Bimbo's Initiation. Released about a month after Silly Scandals, Bimbo's Initiation was immediately hailed as a breakthrough in animation. The surreal visuals, smooth lines, and incredibly dynamic backgrounds were eye-popping and are impressive even today.

Unbeknownst to viewers at the time, Bimbo's Initiation was also the beginning of the super-bizarre style that would soon be applied more broadly to Fleischer's later works. In his earlier films, cartoon physics held sway, but they existed in a cartoon representation of reality. In The Bum Bandit, Betty chomps off the tip of the Bum Bandit's gun (How symbolic, *giggle*), but that just represents how tough she is. It's a cartoon representation of a real-world concept.

Bimbo's Initiation, on the other hand, is a cartoon representation of, I dunno', a nightmare, I guess. No physics take hold. Anything can happen and will do so for no apparent reason. Cause & effect have no purchase. He falls down a manhole, some random mouse comes up and padlocks the ground. What?! All of the order members have candles on their heads. Knives come to life. Flames dance to a fiddle. Whole rooms rotate for no reason. The events transpire simply because it's possible and it looks funny. That cartoons would be used as a way to represent things happening simply because they could, with no logic or reason behind any of it was actually quite new at the time.

This was the last of the Betty/Bimbo films to be animated by the the guy behind much of Betty's creation, Grim Natwick, and some of the touches he throws in are just fantastic. at about 3:55, Bimbo blazes into a room riding a bicycle, where a pool full of fish is center-frame. Bimbo's reflection, smoke and all, is animated. It's such a glorious touch that adds a great amount of depth to the scene, where the various elements actual feel like they exist in the same universe.

Sexual elements are perhaps more pervasive in this cartoon than any of the earlier films. From Betty's first appearance at about 4:15, where she beckons Bimbo with the phrase "come inside, big boy," to Bimbo's interpretation of that as something sexual, illustrated by his perverted giggling, sex is strongly implied. I LOVE the hilariously outdated term he uses to describe Betty: a pippin. Apparently, this comes from a coveted type of apple in the late 1800's and is used to describe an "excellent person or thing." Love it! I'm so using that word in general speech.

The theme of sex continues with the underlying theme of asses and ass-slapping. From Bimbo bumping over things as he falls down the manhole cover, the ass-slap bicycle, the hilariously pronounced butts of the order members, the stairs on Bimbo's way into the basement, and finally Betty and Bimbo's completely insane dance at the end, the rump could practically be called the third cast member.

The whole cartoon might seem like chaos, but it was groundbreaking. The animated backgrounds were amazing, the solidity of the characters shows even further advancement, and the combination of bizarre visuals synced with music resulted in what can only be described as a mini-masterpiece. You might not have known about it, but in the world of animation its legacy is alive and well. In 1994, it was recognized as the 37th greatest cartoon of all time.

I would also like to provide my interpretation of this cartoon. It represents a dream of Bimbo's that starts off as day residue, turns into a nightmare that represents Bimbo's struggle with the real-world's sexual mores, and finishes as a wet dream after Bimbo has accepted his sexuality. He leaves the real world by entering (penetrating) a hole, and themes of holes and penetration are found throughout the film. He finally realizes near the end that the beautiful thing that he wants is the same thing as the ugly thing that he was initially afraid of, and what's wrong is his perception, not the thing. That's my two cents. Or maybe one.

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