We gave it a B
Unless your kid loves ragtime, the four Betty Boop cartoons in Cartoonies — originals from the ’30s but with color added — are likely to be a boop-boop-de-bust.
The animation is weirdly fascinating. Betty herself is a working girl with a vampish style and syrupy Brooklyn accent. The other characters are anthropomorphized animals, or in one case a kind of freakish pinheaded creature called Wiffle Piffle.
The unsophisticated animation will look primitive to a child accustomed to the likes of Spielberg/Lucas and Disney productions. Sometimes the movement looks so jerky and disjointed you can almost see the still pictures flipping by. But the action is often vividly surrealistic and the creatures’ faces are expressive. In ”Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs” the moon auctions off the Earth to Saturn, an avuncular-faced planet that then removes a magnet from the Earth’s core. Animals, trees, houses, and Betty all float up to the sky. My 6-year-old thought this madness was just plain silly.
Though the music — especially the background music — sounds tinny, some of the ragtime is really hot. And there are several goofy follow-the-bouncing- ball tunes, such as ”Short’nin’ Bread” (inappropriately enough, with still drawings of white people to illustrate the lyrics, sung in black dialect). My son found these departures from the cartoon action irritating.
But these are among the earliest American film cartoons ever made. For their historical value alone, they’re worth at least a look. B