Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character created by Max Fleischer, with help from animators including Grim Natwick. She originally appeared in the Talkartoon and Betty Boop film series, which were produced by Fleischer Studios and released by Paramount Pictures. She was featured in 90 theatrical cartoons between 1930 and 1939. She has also been featured in comic strips and mass merchandising.
A caricature of a Jazz Age flapper, Betty Boop was described in a 1934 court case as “combin[ing] in appearance the childish with the sophisticated—a large round baby face with big eyes and a nose like a button, framed in a somewhat careful coiffure, with a very small body of which perhaps the leading characteristic is the most self-confident little bust imaginable”. Although she was toned down in the mid-1930s as a result of the Hays Code to appear more demure, she became one of the world’s best-known and most popular cartoon characters.
Betty Boop made her first appearance in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes, released on August 9, 1930, the seventh installment in Fleischer’s Talkartoon series. Inspired by a popular performing style, but not by any one specific person, the character was originally created as an anthropomorphic French poodle. Clara Bow is often given credit as being the inspiration for Boop, though Fleischer told his artists that he wanted a caricature of singer Helen Kane, who performed in a style shared by many performers of the day–Kane was also the one who sued Fleischer over the signature “Boop Oop a Doop” line. Betty Boop appeared as a supporting character in ten cartoons as a flapper girl with more heart than brains. In individual cartoons, she was called “Nancy Lee” or “Nan McGrew”—derived from the Helen Kane film Dangerous Nan McGrew (1930)—usually serving as a girlfriend to studio star Bimbo.
Within a year, Betty made the transition from an incidental human-canine breed to a completely human female character. While much credit has been given to Grim Natwick for helping to transform Max Fleischer’s creation, her transition into the cute cartoon girl was also in part due to the work of Berny Wolf, Otto Feuer, Seymour Kneitel, “Doc” Crandall, Willard Bowsky, and James “Shamus” Culhane. By the release of Any Rags, Betty Boop was forever established as a human character. Her floppy poodle ears became hoop earrings, and her black poodle nose became a girl’s button-like nose.
Betty was first voiced by Margie Hines. Later, several different voice actresses performed the role, including Kate Wright, Bonnie Poe, Ann Rothschild (also known as Little Ann Little), and especially Mae Questel, who began voicing Betty Boop in Bimbo’s Silly Scandals (1931), and continued with the role until 1939.
Betty Boop was the star of the Talkartoons by 1932 and was given her own series that same year, beginning with Stopping the Show. From that point on, she was crowned “The Queen of the Animated Screen”. The series was popular throughout the 1930s.
Since the character was created by an Austrian Jew and eventually voiced by a Jewish actress, Mae Questel, animation fans sometimes try to pinpoint various aspects that hint at Betty’s Jewishness. The 1932 Talkartoon Minnie the Moocher featured the one and only appearance of Betty’s parents: a strict immigrant couple, who get upset that Betty does not want to eat the traditional German foods hasenpfeffer (rabbit stew) and sauerbraten. Benjamin Ivry of Forward, says that any of this evidence is ambiguous, as these are not kosher foods, and the accents of the parents are comical German accents, rather than Jewish.
Betty appeared in the first “Color Classic” cartoon Poor Cinderella, her only theatrical color appearance in 1934. In the film, she was depicted with red hair as opposed to her typical black hair.
The Betty Boop films were revived after Paramount sold them for syndication in 1955. UM&M and National Telefilm Associates were required to remove the original Paramount logo from the opening and closing, as well as any references to Paramount in the copyright line on the main titles. However, the mountain motif remains on some television prints, usually with a UM&M copyright line, while recent versions have circulated with the Paramount-Publix reference in cartoons from 1931.
The original Betty Boop cartoons were made in black and white. As new color cartoons made specifically for television began to appear in the 1960s, the original black-and-white cartoons were retired. Boop’s film career had a revival with the release of The Betty Boop Scandals of 1974, becoming a part of the post-1960s counterculture. NTA attempted to capitalize on this with a new syndication package, but because no market existed for cartoons in black and white, they sent them to South Korea, where the cartoons were hand-traced frame-by-frame in color, resulting in the degradation of the animation quality and timing. Unable to sell these to television largely because of the sloppy colorization, they assembled a number of the color cartoons in a compilation feature titled Betty Boop for President, to connect with the 1976 election, but it did not receive a theatrical release.
Betty Boop is regarded as one of the first and best-known sex symbols on the animated screen; she is a symbol of the Depression era and a reminder of the more carefree days of Jazz Age flappers. Her popularity was drawn largely from adult audiences, and the cartoons, while seemingly surreal, contained many sexual and psychological elements, particularly in the 1932 “Talkartoon” Minnie the Moocher (1932), featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra.
Minnie the Moocher defined Betty’s character as a teenager of a modern era, at odds with the old-world ways of her parents. In the cartoon, after a disagreement with her strict parents, Betty runs away from home, accompanied by her boyfriend Bimbo, only to get lost in a haunted cave. A ghostly walrus (rotoscoped from live-action footage of Calloway) sings Calloway’s song “Minnie the Moocher”, accompanied by several other ghosts and skeletons. This haunting performance sends the frightened Betty and Bimbo back to the safety of home. “Minnie the Moocher” served as a promotion for Calloway’s subsequent stage appearances and also established Betty Boop as a cartoon star. The eight Talkartoons that followed all starred Betty, leading her into her own series beginning in 1932. With the release of Stopping the Show (August 1932), the Talkartoons were replaced by the Betty Boop series, which continued for the next seven years.
Betty Boop was unique among female cartoon characters because she represented a sexual woman. Other female cartoon characters of the same period, such as Minnie Mouse, displayed their underwear or bloomers regularly, in the style of childish or comical characters, not a fully defined woman’s form. Many other female cartoons were merely clones of their male co-stars, with alterations in costume, the addition of eyelashes, and a female voice. Betty Boop wore short dresses, high heels, a garter, and her breasts were highlighted with a low, contoured bodice that showed cleavage. In her cartoons, male characters frequently try to sneak a peek at her while she is changing or simply going about her business. In Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle, she does the hula wearing nothing but a lei, strategically placed to cover her breasts, and a grass skirt. This was repeated in her first cameo appearance in Popeye the Sailor (1933). A certain girlish quality was given to the character. She was drawn with a head more similar to a baby’s than an adult’s in proportion to her body. This suggested the combination of girlishness and maturity that many people saw in the flapper type, which Betty represented.
While the character was kept pure and girl-like onscreen, compromises to her virtue were a challenge. The studio’s 1931 Christmas card featured Betty in bed with Santa Claus, winking at the viewer. The Talkartoons The Bum Bandit and Dizzy Red Riding Hood (both 1931) were given distinctly “impure” endings. Officially, Betty was only 16 years old, according to a 1932 interview with Fleischer (although in The Bum Bandit, she is portrayed as a married woman with many children and with an adult woman’s voice, rather than the standard “boop-boop-a-doop” voice).
Attempts to compromise her virginity were reflected in Chess-Nuts (1932) and most importantly in Boop-Oop-a-Doop (1932). In Chess-Nuts, the Black King goes into the house where Betty is and ties her up. When she rejects him, he pulls her out of the ropes, drags her off to the bedroom and says, “I will have you”. The bed, however, runs away, and Betty calls for help through the window. Bimbo comes to her rescue, and she is saved before anything happens. In Boop-Oop-a-Doop, Betty is a high-wire performer in a circus. The ringmaster lusts for Betty as he watches her from below, singing “Do Something”, a song previously performed by Helen Kane. As Betty returns to her tent, the ringmaster follows her inside and sensually massages her legs, surrounds her, and threatens her job if she does not submit. Betty pleads with the ringmaster to cease his advances, as she sings “Don’t Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away“. Koko the Clown is practicing his juggling outside the tent and overhears the struggle inside. He leaps in to save Betty, struggling with the ringmaster, who loads him into a cannon and fires it. Koko, who remained hiding inside the cannon, knocks the ringmaster out cold with a mallet, while imitating the ringmaster’s laugh. Koko then inquires about Betty’s welfare, to which she answers in song, “No, he couldn’t take my boop-oop-a-doop away”. According to Jill Harness of Mental Floss, these portrayals of Boop fighting off sexual harassment on the animated screen made many see her as a feminist icon.
Betty Boop’s best appearances are considered to be in her first three years due to her “Jazz Baby” character and innocent sexuality, which was aimed at adults, but the content of her films was affected by the National Legion of Decency and the Production Code of 1934, which imposed guidelines on the motion-picture industry and placed specific restrictions on the content films could reference with sexual innuendos. This greatly affected the Betty Boop cartoons.
No longer a carefree flapper from the date the code went into effect on July 1, 1934, Betty became a spinster housewife or a career girl who wore a fuller dress or skirt. Additionally, as time progressed, the curls in her hair gradually decreased in number. She also eventually stopped wearing her gold bracelets and hoop earrings, and she became more mature and wiser in personality, compared to her earlier years. Right from the start, Joseph Breen, the new head film censor, had numerous complaints. Breen ordered the removal of the suggestive introduction that had started the cartoons because Betty Boop’s winks and shaking hips were deemed “suggestive of immorality”. For a few entries, Betty was given a new human boyfriend named Freddy, who was introduced in She Wronged Him Right (1934). Next, Betty was teamed with a puppy named Pudgy, beginning with Betty Boop’s Little Pal (1934). The following year saw the addition of the eccentric inventor Grampy, who debuted in Betty Boop and Grampy (1935).
Since she was largely a musical novelty character, the animators attempted to keep Betty’s cartoons interesting by pairing her with popular comic strip characters such as Henry, The Little King and Little Jimmy, hoping to create an additional spin-off series with her pairing with Popeye in 1933. None of these films, though, generated a new series. When the flapper/jazz era that Betty represented had been replaced by the big bands of the swing era, Fleischer Studios made an attempt to develop a replacement character in this style in the 1938 Betty Boop cartoon Betty Boop and Sally Swing, but it was not a success.
The last Betty Boop cartoons were released in 1939, and a few made attempts to bring Betty into the swing era. In her last appearance, Rhythm on the Reservation (1939), Betty drives an open convertible, labeled “Betty Boop’s Swing Band”, through a Native American reservation, where she introduces the people to swing music and creates a “Swinging Sioux Band”. The Betty Boop cartoon series officially ended with Yip Yip Yippy (1939). While Yip Yip Yippy appears at the end of the Betty Boop series, it is actually a one-shot about a “Drug Store” mail-order cowboy “wannabe” without Betty, which was written mainly to fill the release schedule and fulfill the contract.
In 1955, Betty’s 110 cartoon appearances were sold to television syndicator UM&M, which was acquired by National Telefilm Associates (NTA) in 1956. NTA was reorganized in 1985 as Republic Pictures, which folded in 2012, and became Melange Pictures, a subsidiary of Paramount Global, the parent company of Paramount. Paramount, Boop’s original home studio (via Melange/Paramount Global), acts as a theatrical distributor for the Boop cartoons that they originally released. Television rights are handled on Paramount’s behalf by Trifecta Entertainment & Media, which in turn were inherited from CBS Television Distribution (renamed CBS Media Ventures in 2021), successor to other related companies, including Worldvision Enterprises, Republic Pictures Television, and NTA.
this jumbo collection contains:
BETTY BOOP MD
BETTY BOOP FOR PRESIDENT
RISE TO FAME
THE FOXY HUNTER
THE BETTY BOOP LIMITED
UPS AND DOWNS
MORNING NOON AND NIGHT
KEEP IN STYLE
MIMMIE THE MOOCHER
ILL BE GLAD WHEN YOURE DEAD
MOTHER GOOD ISLAND
OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN
HA! HA! HA!
STOP THAT NOISE
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
THE NEW DEAL SHOW
BE UP TO DATE
OUT OF THE INKWELL
THRILLS & CHILLS
STOPPING THE SHOW
PARADE OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS
SHE WRONGED HIM RIGHT
RED HOT MAMA
POOR CINDERELLA (COLOR)
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT A SOLDIER
WHEN MY SHIP COMES IN
RIDING THE RAILS
THE SWING SCHOOOL
PUDGY THE WATCHMAN
CLEANING HOUSE BLUES
SWAT THAT FLY
5 discs come packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!