#4 Betty Boop – Evolution and Censorship

During the 1930’s the Fleischer Studios had a collection of characters that were considered competition for Disney.  These included Popeye, Superman and Betty Boop. When sound was introduced Fleischer studio created the Talkertoon series.  Betty Boop became one of the audience’s favorite characters.  The evolution of Betty Boop’s adorable but sexy personality put her in the middle of the 1930’s censorship  controversy.


Betty Boop started out as the girlfriend of the character Bimbo in Dizzie Dish’s.  She was originally drawn by Grimm Natwick to portraying a little dog character with feminine legs and spit curls.  By 1932 she had acquired her name and in the episode Any Rags she became human.

Betty Boop’s cartoons as they evolved were considered risque by many.

During the 1930’s the film industry was going through a censorship period that would last well into the 1960’s.  Hollywood adopted a movie code in their quest to keep Hollywood films free of age restrictions and open to world wide markets.  The Motion Picture Produces and Distributors of America (MPPDA) , known as the Hays Office after it’s  president William H. Hays, analyzed every script, story line, and film that was produced.  This censorship system attempted to prevent moral and politically  questionable material from reaching the movie screen.

All of the major Hollywood studios fought against the censorship of they Hays Office, since it kept them from making realistic films.  After the mid-1930’s most films were altered to make them more inline with the conservative outlook of censors.  During this time Paramount requested that the Fleischer’s tone down Betty Boop’s sexual characteristics.  This was a big change for Betty — her character lost much of her personality as her skirt was lengthened.  The addition of the Grampy character did give the cartoon storyline some venue for social statements as the audiences laughed at his wacky inventions.

References:

The Great Animation Studios:  The Fleischer Studios, DVD

Hollywood Censored by Gregor D. Black, Publisher: Cambridge (1996)

I have commented on the blogs of  Christopher DeMarco and Cory Finch

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