07:38:05 PM Aug 4th 2014
Betty Boop lives! The fourth Bluray volume of restored cartoons is weeks away. The varieties of merchandise and memorabilia I've seen online is mind-boggling. My curiosity of this toon is renewed. I have some scatterbrained thoughts to share. I never saw a Betty Boop cartoon when I was little. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, which had only 5 broadcast TV stations for the longest time. I had a TV in my home and cartoons every day, but the toons were always from a select few studios: Hannha-Barbera, Warner Bros, Paramount, and Walter Lantz. The Paramount toons were always Popeye. My toon world was small and tiresome, and it stayed that way until, as an adult, I discovered art-house movie theaters, cable TV, and books about animation. In a bookstore in a shopping mall, I found an illustrated book, The Fleischer Story. I read much of that book on browsing visits. I should have scraped up some bucks and bought it, or at least checked it out at the library. I learned about a cartoon universe I never knew existed, which was created by some artists who rivaled Walt Disney. I also learned of the rotoscope, the beginning of the cartoon industry, and the studio that used to make Paramount's cartoon shorts and compete with those of the other major Hollywood studios, On the book's cover was, not Popeye, but a tall clown, a short dog person, a smiling horse, and a strange-looking girl. Betty Boop? What kind of a cartoon character was that? I read about her creation, the Hays Code changes, the lawsuit, and her retirement before the Fleischer Brothers' business troubles. A Fleischer theme park or a Fleischer Channel was never meant to be. This made some engrossing reading about showbiz. Eventually I did get to see Betty Boop on the screen, on a film compilation series on public television, and in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Since then, and more often, has been all this merchandising, even an eyelash makeup commercial. The Fleischer Story made me want to make cartoons of my own. Better cartoons than all the others, and with the use of the rotoscope. But that was not meant to be either since I had to get real work and cope with the Reagan recession. But now, I realize that cartoons can be made by anyone, digitally. I'd like to try that. Or I might just settle for talking about it. I'd also like to talk with the living descendents of the Fleischers, and with Leslie Cabarga, the author of The Fleischer Story.