Thursday, January 25, 2007

This Is The Strangest Thing You Will See All Week

The story behind this film is interesting in itself, but you really should watch it first. I am quite confident you will agree with me that you have not seen anything stranger this week than the dancing ghost of a walrus, and the ways in which skeletons and ghosts can perish. Add Betty Boop, Bimbo, and Cab Calloway and you have an affair to remember.

After you've watched it, follow the Wikipedia link above to sort out the 1930s drug references.

[Via my new love, Spy's Spice.]


Kenji said...

I think that Betty Boop's parents are telling her not to try LSD.

Then she ran away from home, had a bad trip and then went back home.

Betty Boop lived in very very wild times ;-)

Joshua said...

E and I saw this at a sort of midnight outdoor screening at Bumbershoot, an arts festival in Seattle. It blew my mind. Inspired a bit by some of your childrens' animation posts on Z-recs, I've been seeking out some cartoons that were closer to my heart to share with our son. Specifically, cartoons where music is central. The Betty Boop cartoon is for me the gold standard of this kind of cartoon. There seemed to be a golden era of early animation where the music was not a soundtrack, but rather the jumping off point for inspiration. Steamboat Willie, for example, started with music and just basically played around with the animation to the music. Later symphonic looney toons are similar in some ways - the Barber of Seville Bugs Bunny episode for example, but they lack the warmth or sheer visual cleverness of the Betty Boop cartoon.

I rented a bunch of Krazy Kat cartoons thinking they'd be the same as I remembered the Betty Boop cartoon to be - they were lousy, seen through the lens I was using in this search. Nothing I wanted a two-year old to watch. Mostly about violence and drinking, though with some very clever visual puns that an adult could enjoy. I rented Popeye - what was I thinking? I had no memory of the animation being that bad. Popeye is great for an adult in the sense that his language is so fun to hear, but for a kid it's all violence and no consistent music. I rented Pink Panther - again with the clever visual tricks, but the music doesn't ever change, the themes seem preoccupied with guns and occasionally you even get a laugh track (groan).

If you find any other old or new cartoons in which music is central, I'd love to hear.

Joshua said...

This period of Betty Boop cartoons is immensely rich and entertaining (even the various racist images, such as Louis Armstrong's face transforming into a Sambo or one in which the jazz band become monkeys in a jungle.) Surrealism was perfectly suited to cartoons, and Fleischer's visual virtuosity and dedication to jazz was immense.

to Joshua above: all of the Betty Boop cartoons of this period are similar, both in surrealism and in the centrality of music. Boop was, at that time, a kind of proto-Madonna, not just sexy but deeply progressive in terms of her "music videos." If you can find the "classic betty boop" series one volume is dedicated to the surrealist period and contains most of these great jazz shorts.