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.
Max Fleischer’s trippy version of “Snow White” from 1933 remains a fascinating and bizarre piece of animation history. In this short Betty Boop cartoon, Fleischer and his team condensed and twisted the classic Snow White tale, taking viewers on a surreal journey that defies expectations. One of the standout moments in the cartoon is the inclusion of Cab Calloway, a renowned jazz singer of the time. In the middle of the animated film, Calloway appears and performs the hauntingly beautiful “St. James Infirmary Blues.” The scene is a rare live-action segment, originally from another cartoon of the era titled “Minnie the Moocher,” which was another iconic song associated with Calloway. Interestingly, the footage and music used in the beginning of “Minnie the Moocher” are clearly the same recording as the song “St. James Infirmary Blues” featured in the Betty Boop cartoon.
In a clever editing move, the two pieces of audio are seamlessly joined together, creating a seamless transition between the two cartoons. Calloway’s appearance in the cartoon is truly mesmerizing. He begins by singing the tune as Koko the Clown, a character created by Fleischer, and then undergoes a transformation into a ghostly figure. The animation beautifully captures Calloway’s distinctive enunciation and signature dance moves, accompanied by a barrage of wild and imaginative visuals. In addition to the captivating animation, the cartoon also incorporates scenes from the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers,” in which Cab Calloway once again performs “Minnie the Moocher.” This inclusion adds an extra layer of intertextuality, as viewers are introduced to Calloway through this iconic performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=250MMq0fTrU
“Betty Boop in Snow White” is a testament to Max Fleischer’s creativity and willingness to push the boundaries of animation. The cartoon showcases his unique vision and knack for blending different artistic mediums, resulting in a truly trippy and memorable viewing experience. Directed by Dave Fleischer and animated by Roland C. Crandall, the cartoon exemplifies the Fleischer Studio’s distinctive style, characterized by fluid animation, vibrant colors, and a surreal atmosphere. Their innovative techniques and bold storytelling continue to inspire animators and artists to this day. Despite being a departure from the traditional Snow White narrative, Max Fleischer’s version remains a remarkable piece of animation history. It stands as a testament to the power of imagination and creativity in bringing beloved stories to life in new and unexpected ways.