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Cartoon Hell #10 – “Betty Boop with Henry The Funniest Living American”

January 15, 2009

Cartoon Hell is TheKarpuk’s attempt to review every single installment in an awful $5 collection called “150 Classic Cartoons” purchased at his local Wal-Mart. Your prayers are welcome.

This seems promising.

This seems promising.

“The Funniest Living American” is a title only given out of mean-spirited irony. There’s not a damn thing funny about the star of this cartoon. Betty Boop never conjured up images of non-stop laughter in the first place, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I certainly didn’t expect this.

This child is sadness.

This child is sadness.

Our blithering, dough-headed protagonist walks down the street idly and sees a dog in the window.   He  proceeds to do nothing funny. The two develop an instant bond and Henry encourages the dog to jump through the glass into his waiting arms. After the dog hits its head on the glass, it occurs to them both that some sort of force prevents them from immediately becoming best friends forever. At this point I begin wondering if Henry is mentally handicapped. Kids who can’t even walk usually comprehend the presence and purpose of glass.

Henry walks into the pet store and beholds the following:

Stop singing you foul woman!

Stop singing you foul woman!

This may come as a shock to you, but a lot of Betty Boop cartoons represent her more like this than as the sexy garter belt wearing, cleavage sporting sex pot most modern merchandise suggests. After some major complaints the animators had to scale her back into what I like to call Frau Boop. Take away her old-timey sex appeal, and you’re left with a fat-headed idiot with a shrill singing voice.

She’s introduced in this short with a song, singing the charming line, “everybody outta have a pet. A little dog bow wow, a little cat meow. A canary bird will cheer your soul with tweet tweet and a boop boop de doo.” No Miss Boop, only one creature makes that last sound. I think if my cat ever went “boop boop de doo” I would have to drown it in the kitchen sink, or whatever it is you do to dispell strong witchcraft.

Using his limited doofus-based communication skills, Henry indicates his desire for a dog. Unfortunately the dog costs two dollars, and Henry holds but two 2 wacky looking pennies. In a faustian bargain, Betty tells him that he can have the dog if he watches the store. Now I know what you’re thinking: “TheKarpuk, there’s nothing faustian about that deal! You just wanted to use a fancy adjective.” To which I would reply that as a misshapen golem Henry does not in fact have a soul, so his labor is the next closest thing. Also, shut up.

Just peck straight on through brave little bird.

Just peck straight on through brave little bird.

Henry immediately goes about defying the most basic expectations of what he should be doing. He carries seed by each bird putting the food on his head and letting them pick at the soft spot on his skull with gleeful abandon. This method was not reached through trial and error, no, this is his first and only response to the task at hand. Putting bird seed on his head was the only logical means of completing his duties.

Not really Pandora's box, more like her junk drawer.

Not really Pandora's box, more like her junk drawer.

He then comes upon a cage filled the brim with a nightmarish maelstrom of squawking black birds. And his first, his immediate impulse is to open the damn thing up and let them all go. It’s then revealed that he just wanted to clean the bottom of the cage. Oh that Henry!

Oh the excrement!

Oh the excrement!

So now with a shop full of loose birds he decides to take his reward before Frau Boop even returns. He begins teaching the dog how to do tricks, ignoring the amount of bird shit that’s going to need cleaning. Henry does a traditional Russian dance, and damned if the dog doesn’t actually do a spot on imitation. The dog should have been left in charge. Hell, he’s a more likable and relatable character. Compared with the cute dog, Henry seems like the sort of annoyingly talkative kid you try really hard to ignore at the bus stop.

Frau Boop returns to see her store belching black birds into the air like a Japanese horror film and understandably refuses to honor her offer of condemning the dog to a Henry-related death.

Flee birds, flee the supression of the Boop hegemony!

Flee birds, flee the supression of the Boop hegemony!

Boop attempts to retrieve her lost birds by sprinkling seed and calling to them in her high pitched, squally voice. The birds know better. The outside world offers many options to not hear Betty Boop make noises of any kind. Betty Boop’s voice attracts two things, pederasts and antique collectors. When this understandably fails, Betty proceeds to cry.

I have no sympathy for her. Who would trust that kid to watch over anything? Henry seems like the kind of child who’d stick a knife inside you just to see what would happen. Weep, Boop, weep!

Seeing Boop cry, Henry chooses to help by covering his head in bird seed. Deprived of previous context, this would be the most heart-rending fucking thing I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. Henry has a power lacking in most cartoon characters in that he makes everything sadder than a grandmother crying in a wedding dress. If they animated Henry accepting a nobel prize it would still look more pathetic than an insane homeless person urinating on a disabled veteran.

Oh wait, the image of him dumping seed on his head isn’t actually the worst, I’d have to say this is:

He shall come among you wearing a crown of crows.

He shall come among you wearing a crown of crows.

Henry stuffs the birds back in the terrifying box of primal screams, and of course, Betty sings a song about it, and the damn thing ends. IT ENDS!

UNPC Moment:

None. This isn’t even the saucy Betty Boop, it’s conservative small business owner Miss Boop, so just move the hell on unless you have a moo moo fetish.

Rating: Nearly Unwatchable

Henry the Funniest Living American was one of several attempts made to compensate for Frau Boop’s newly acquired frumpiness. Out of all of the ones I’ve heard of, I dislike this kid the most. It’s weird for me to say this about a black and white Fleischer cartoon, but the little bastard makes me genuinely uncomfortable. I really hope he doesn’t creep up in another installment in this collection.

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3 comments

  1. ….soft spot


  2. This cartoon was part of a interesting period at the Fleischer Studios were they attempted to adapt other comic strip characters into animated cartoons after the success of Popeye. Henry was at the time a familiar comic strip by Carl Anderson, though perhaps it’s peculiar nature and character wasn’t really suitable for the animation medium as Popeye was.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_(comic)


  3. Carl Anderson is of Norwegian origin.



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