Thursday, September 8, 2011

Betty Boop Film Class

Betty Boop's development has been something of a rocky road. Some of them are amazing, like Bimbo's Initiation, while others elicit more of a "huh?" reaction, like Betty Boop For President. Many of these I simply skip, but a few, even if they're lacking in some areas, have something worth mentioning, like Louis Armstrong's early appearance in I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You.

Today's selection sits between these two types and I'm mentioning it primarily because of later, better cartoons. Betty Boop's Crazy Inventions plays, to me at least, as a direct precursor to Tex Avery's Of The Future cartoons that would premier with the House Of Tomorrow, sixteen years later.

What strikes me when watching the two cartoons back-to-back is how much progress was made in those intervening sixteen years. It reminds the viewer that, even though Betty Boop had come a long way, and Disney's epic Snow White was only six years away, these were very much the wild west days of animation. Skills and principles that, today, animators can, quite literally, buy in a book, were being developed every day. When this cartoon was being made, cartoons were essentially still being invented.

It's not simply the animation, though. The comic timing and staging of Avery's later cartoons are leagues ahead of Fleischer's cartoon, but the general philosophy is there: set the stage, introduce concepts, wacky action, deliver the punchline. But where Fleischer's hadn't advanced his timing and still had much of his staging and concept rooted in the stage performances of Vaudeville, Avery was a master of delivering quick jokes and moving on. Truly, the radish burper is one of my all-time favorite jokes in the history of cartoons. I laugh near-hysterically every time.

And finally, interesting for no other reason than "well... isn't that interesting" purposes is what I believe to be the first representation of a helicopter in the history of movies at the end of the cartoon.

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