Betty & Bimbo in "Minnie the Moocher"
Betty Boop was the first flapper cartoon. She made her first appearance on August 9, 1930 in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes, the sixth installment in Fleischer's Talkartoon series. She was little like her soon-to-be-famous self, however. Grim Natwick, a veteran animator of both Walt Disney's and Ub Iwerks' studios, was largely responsible for creating the character and in keeping with common practice, Natwick made his new character an animal, in this case, a French poodle.
Natwick himself later conceded that Betty's original look was quite ugly. The animator redesigned her in 1932 to be recognizably human in the cartoon Any Rags. Her floppy poodle ears became hoop earrings, and her poodle fourrure became a bob haircut. She appeared in ten dessins animés as a supporting character, a flapper girl with plus cœur, coeur than brains. She was not officially christened "Betty Boop" until the 1932 short Stopping the montrer that same year.
Betty's development was still incomplete, however. Max Fleischer's brother further altered the character, making her sexier and plus feminine. Betty's famous personality finally came into play in the 1932 short, Minnie the Moocher, to which Cab Calloway and his orchestra lent their talents.
Betty Boop is noteworthy for being the first cartoon character to fully represent a sexual woman. Other female characters of the same period showed their panties regularly, like Minnie Mouse, but didn't have a full caricature of a woman's form. Betty Boop, however, reveled in her sexuality. She wore short dresses and a garter belt. Her breasts were prominent, and she showed her cleavage. In her cartoons, other characters try to sneak peeks at her while she's changing. In Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle, she does the hula wearing only a lei and a herbe skirt, a bit she repeated in her cameo appearance in the first Popeye cartoon.
Nevertheless, the animators made sure to keep the character "pure" and girl-like (officially, she was only 16 years old). As Betty tells Koko the Clown in the film Boop-Oop-A-Doop after being threatened par a salacious ringmaster, "He couldn't take my boop-oop-a-doop away!"
Her dessins animés also stood out from the competition due to their upbeat jazz soundtracks. In addition to three dessins animés with soundtracks par Cab Calloway, guest bands for Betty Boop dessins animés included the bands of Louis Armstrong, Rudy Vallee, and Don Redman. Ethel Merman, Irene Bordoni and Reis and Dunn also appeared in a few shorts as guest performers.
The adult sensibilities of Betty's dessins animés made her a hit, and a wave of merchandising soon swept the world. While most fans today don't know her history, her image is still instantly recognizable and loved par all. Viva la Betty!