Boop made her debut in Dizzy Dishes (released August 9,
1930), a Max Fleischer cartoon, in which she sang in a
cabaret full of funny animals. Her creation is credited to
animator Myron "Grim" Natwick. She wasn't quite herself in
that first outing - for one thing, she wasn't the star,
but appeared only in one brief scene; and for another, she
was depicted as a dog. But her characteristic
"Boop-oop-a-doop" was there right from the beginning.
La Boop remained in her original form through a
half-dozen more cartoons. In 1931's Mask-A-Raid, her
doggie ears became sexy earrings and her boyfriend, Bimbo,
became her pet. The "Boop-oop-a-doop" bit continued
unchanged. Once humanized, Betty remained so, but her
relationship with Bimbo could be anything from master-dog
to partners-in-adventure to lovers, depending on the needs
of the cartoon. An earlier Fleischer Studio star, Koko the
Clown, tho no longer able to sustain a series of his own,
became a frequent Boop co-star.
Boop cartoons of this era could be whimsical, like
Crazy Town (1932); melodramatic, like She Wronged Him
Right (1934), or surreal, like Snow White (1933), whose
wicked queen uttered a "Mirror, mirror" rhyme four years
before Disney's, in his version of the story. Many, such
as I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You (1932)
and The Old Man of the Mountain (1933) functioned mainly
as what would now be called "music videos". One thing they
always were was sexy.
This changed when censorship swept through Hollywood.
Betty's skirts became longer and her curves less
pronounced. She played a good girl, sometimes even a
housewife. The spark gone, she was eventually laid to
rest. Her last cartoon of the Fleischer era was Rhythm on
the Reservation (1939).
But Betty never quite faded from the scene. The
cartoons of her golden age turned up on 1950's TV, as
fillers on cable, on bargain bin videos. Inexpensive
licensed products, such as stickers and bookmarks, appear
regularly. Even an occasional comic or cartoon turns up
once in awhile (including a newspaper strip, running
1984-88, in which she co-starred with Felix the Cat). And
like so many diverse toons, she had a role in Who Framed
Roger Rabbit? The current image of Betty Boop is cute,
fun, and just a little bit teasingly sexy.
To those who know the original Fleischer cartoons, she
is all of that. But more - she is also La Boop, an
enduring little piece of a never-to-be-recaptured era of
American film history.