Saturday, December 4, 2010

Betty Boop Film Class

Betty Boop M.D. is rather par for the course by Fleischer standards. I just want to touch on most of Betty's episodes if they have even a small amount of worthwhile material.

I said that M.D. is standard fare in the sense that Fleischer's cartoons are complete chaos. The world is literally alive, which is something that neither Disney nor Warner Bros. would experiment with for decades. Disney sort of set the tone for cartoons going forward with a well-defined narrative, events, backgrounds, and characters. Fleischer obviously rejected that concept. He rejected narratives in favor of fun... stuff, and preferred to have a world that was alive with motion. Look at the first shot, you don't simply see a vehicle driving down the road, you see a vehicle driving down the road while the road, composed of water-like waves, lift and drop the car, all the while the car is dancing to the beat of whatever Fleischer was drumming. I think that if Fleischer could have afforded it or found the time, everything on the frame would be moving at all times.

Again, like Bizzy Bee, the staging is essentially an excuse to have weird stuff happen. We have about two minutes of weird stuff, one of dialog, and then the picture abandons narrative in favor of three and a half minutes of scat singing, weird imagery, and end credits.

A few interesting points: Fleischer still spent little time on lip-syncing, only doing it when absolutely necessary, with Betty. I also find it interesting how the concept of the traveling snake-oil salesman used to be so universal. Much like the junk collector from Any Rags, this used to be a cultural touchstone. It isn't just Betty that this theme appears. It was in westerns, cartoons from other studios, and even early TV, although by the age of TV this was replaced by the door-to-door salesman. Perhaps it was made more viable as people moved into cities and suburbs in increasing numbers after the war, thus negating the need for carts and stages to sell. Finally, the baby at the very end turns into Mr. Hyde from the 1931 version of the film. This film was very famous, partially for being risque by the day's standards, and would have still been in wide circulation by the time that M.D. was released almost a year later.

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