Cartoon Hell #30 – “Betty Boop’s Ker-Choo”

January 2, 2010

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.

I guess the old titles were supposed to imitate sitting in a classy theater. Mission accomplished?

Once again we’re following the antics of America’s favorite elephant woman, Betty Boop. As I suggested in a previous entry, there are really two Boops. The original, with her suggestive attire and flapper dancing, and Frau Boop, wearer of long dresses and participant in wholesome activities like running pet shops.

Since Boop’s appeal was mostly sexual, removing that makes about as much sense as taking Bugs Bunny, removing his sense of mischief, and making him play some mundane activity like, oh, I don’t know, basketball perhaps.

What’s more, this is another episode where Betty Boop has been saddled with helpers, namely Bimbo and Koko. It keeps up the tradition of Boop cartoons featuring Fleischer failures, as a Disney knock-off dog and a clown never really caught fire.

I think it might just be a race, people!

This one starts off with a race! How do we know this? Because it starts with people running towards a big sign that says “Race”, whose words also have little racing feet just to hammer the point home. The horn is blown, the car pant at their gates like animals, and lo and behold, a halfway decent joke appears.

Cause you see, the glasses help conceal what they're looking at, so as to... eh, you don't care.

Three judges put up their giant hearing horns, the prepare by putting on their blinding judge shades. Amazing, that’s actually within spitting distance of being clever, something I don’t normally expect from Betty Boop cartoons. I’m not saying it’s genius, but my standards for this series are so low it stood out.

Classic characters only recognizable to octogenarians.

And who’s on the track? Why it’s Bimbo and Koko, two ancient B-listers Fleischer often crammed into cartoons featuring his popular creations.

I’m shocked that more freaky-ass clowns haven’t shown up in these shorts. I never ran from clowns as a child, I was the kid who sat there wondering when the idiots would stop cavorting so the ringleader could bring in the animals. But I have an appreciation for how terrified clowns leave others.

On my personal Pennywise Scale of Clown Terror, Koko the clown rates about a 3 out of 10. He’s off-putting, but he doesn’t seem like he lures children into his lair, or stands in your room at night, his pale skin set off by the moonlight, watching, just watching as you sleep, the only sounds that of the wind rattling the shutters, and the even, measured pace of his breathing.

A topic of some great importance.

One car lacks a driver, and after some inquiries, Betty Boop appears. She’s asked why she’s late, and in a cutesy voice she says it’s because she caught a cold. I’m paraphrasing, because her speech pattern in this short is more obnoxious than any Boop cartoon I’ve watched before. People can argue all they want for the feminist empowerment in having a real female sex symbol, but Jesus Christ, she’s an embarrassment.

The sound they queue up for Boop’s nose scratch grates at the ears instantly. Combining this with Boop’s singing, and all you’d need for the ultimate annoying trifecta is Louie Anderson providing commentary. The song isn’t short either, it’s the usual time-killing set piece where characters do wacky, easily animated things related to the song. Some of the lyrics are unintelligible, which is no shock at this point, but it makes it rather hard to follow what’s going on.

Only two gags repeat through the song. Sneezing and people trying to sit down. It takes nearly four minutes of runtime for the race, the premise suggested in the opening, to start.

Hot, hot, vehicular action!

Boop starts out slow but manages to penetrate the pack. Yes, it looks as inappropriate as that sentence suggests.

Oh you girls!

Using her lead, she takes a moment to powder her nose. Let that sink in, girls. She’s applying makeup while driving.

One day the auto industry will stop holding monkey power back.

Koko’s car wasn’t designed to fit all that clown ass, so his almost perfectly spherical backside sits atop the car. We get an xray view, showing a monkey powering the car by smoking a cigar and exhaling through the tailpipe. I don’t think that’s even a joke really. It’s just odd.

There’s a rich assortment of gags here, too many to describe. Many of them involves things getting twisted on other things because they’re intently watching the race. I’m not saying they’re funny, but Fleischer brings quantity if not quality. The main gag that actually relates to the plot is Boop’s ability to sneeze her car forward, gaining on her nearest competitor.

Taken as a still, this makes Betty Boop look outright murderous.

Boop’s final sneeze destroys every care on the road, even hers. All the other cars collapse on one side of the finish line, with hers assembling naturally on the other, making her the victor. In effect, Boop succeeds through sheer incompetence. A fine example for all.

As insult to injury, when asked for a comment by the news, she sings a refrain to her Ker-Choo song, culminating in a sneeze. The sneeze spreads through the crowd, collapsing the entirety of the stands. The Boop has succeeded at the cost of almost everyone involved.

Betty Boop: Like a Japanese ghost, if you see her, you will die.

UNPC Moment:

Betty Boop was essentially a minstrel show for women. These cartoons provide some inadvertent insight into just how toxic sexism actually was back then. I know there’s more pre-Frau Boop cartoons in this collection, making me wonder how many involve her failing upward.

Rating: Nearly Unwatchable

This one was more offensive than average. I think I prefer Frau Boop, now that I’ve had a proper comparison. She runs small businesses and holds people accountable for shenanigans. She’s not just a giggling box of chaos. Maybe censorship is good sometimes?

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