Friday, April 16, 2010

Betty Boop Film Class Part 10

It's been awhile since my last Betty Boop Film Class, but you can look at the gap as representing Betty's big move. Today's selection, Stopping The Show, is the first cartoon to be credited as a Betty Boop cartoon. No more second billing. No more Talkartoons. This puppy is 100%, gen-yoo-wine Betty Boop.

Granted, 100% Betty of course means that we don't even see her until nearly halfway through the cartoon. I think that even at this late stage, the success of Betty was something of a surprise to Fleischer and his crew. They might have gone back and adapted some of their working scripts to include Betty, raised her profile, or simply left the scripts untouched. For example, Jack & The Beanstalk was less than a year before this cartoon, "starred" Betty, but actually featured the old Bimbo design.

First things first, the opening credits. Notice how they seem to rotate down in 3D space to face the audience. Ub Iwerks is credited with the creation of the modern multi-plane camera, which would become immensely influential in animation, but I actually think that Fleischer was more edgy and inventive. He would manipulate his animation in any way necessary to get something unique. While Iwerks and Disney were more interested in refining animation, Fleischer wanted to bend reality and animation together. Both endeavors are of great importance to animation history, but Fleischer gets overlooked.

So, we finally get a look at Betty at about 3:35, and some of Fleischer's priorities are pretty obvious. He never got very good at lip-syncing, likely because he saw it as unimportant. He wanted to grind out wild, visually impressive works that captivated the eye more so than the brain or ear. Just look at how well Betty's voice is synced, during the vaudeville-like part, in comparison to EVERY other voice in the film. Animating to voice is difficult, and it's obvious that Fleischer just didn't want to take the time except when it was absolutely necessary.

This is actually a pretty unimpressive film. Whereas other cartoons had singing set to something stimulating, Betty does pretty much nothing on screen. She just stands there. Truly, this episode wouldn't even be much worth mentioning if it wasn't Betty's first headlining film.

For those who are interested, Fannie Brice was a comedian of great fame back in the 20's, 30's, and 40's. She earned her comic bona fides in the famous Ziegfeld Follies, and developed a variety of characters and mannerisms that were well-known to a 1932 audience. The only woman today who fits the bill is Ellen, but I think other comedians who have a very specific on-stage persona would fit the bill.

Maurice Chevalier was another performer who rose to fame in the theater, and I think it's no surprise that Fleischer chose two vaudeville performers to mention in his cartoons. He came from Vaudeville and most of his work's aesthetic is rooted in vaudeville.

And, finally, while it might just be coincidence, but the ending of, and the general staging of, the entire film could be a grand introduction of sorts for Betty. It's her first film, she's headlining the show within the film, and the episode ends with the audience screaming for more, causing her to come out on stage and thank everyone for wanting her so badly. It makes we wonder if this was a message from Fleischer to his real-life audience. "Thanks so much for loving what I've made. There's more to come."

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