Shape-shifting in ‘Toons, Circa 1930…

It’s easy to think that the notion of shape-shifting from human to animal or animal to human form is a relatively modern notion, whereas references to it can be found dating across cultures from hundreds to thousands of years ago. To limit our discussion of shape-shifting, we’re just going to consider one early example of it occurring in the cartoon world…

Now the character of Betty Boop began as kind of an anthropomorphic French poodle who first appeared in Dizzy Dishes crafted by animation pioneer Max Fleisher. She was the girlfriend of Bimbo, a mischievous, trouble-making dog (below)…

Yes, I still like this guy, echoes of whom reverberated in 1960’s counter-culture cartoon art such as that created by Robert Crumb and others. Yet it was Betty who the viewing public latched onto, and within a year, her long dog ears had morphed into earrings, and her black dog nose had become tiny and human. Moreover, the evolved Betty was hawt, a caricature of a 1920’s flapper girl, and…gasp…a sexual woman!

Consider how female cartoon characters were commonly portrayed at the time, for example, Disney’s Minnie Mouse. It’s hard to imagine anyone being turned on by Minnie, including Mickey. But Betty had it all going on, although her features were described as neotenous, with the enlarged head, big eyes, and small limbs reminiscent of those of an infant or young child. Betty’s catch phrase of Boop-oop-a-doop was also evocative of infantile “baby talk.” So hot was Betty that she had to be toned down a bit for the general viewing audience that included children…

It must last be considered who was the real life model in styling for the cartoon character of Betty Boop. While several people have claimed credit for that honor and even litigated for the recognition, credit should actually be given to an African-American woman by the name of “Baby” Esther Jones, who died in 1984, and was an accomplished singer and dancer in Harlem…

So to paraphrase an old ditty, “Don’t worry if you work hard, and your rewards are few. Remember that Betty Boop was once a dog like you!”

Explore posts in the same categories: alternative realities, anthropomorphic, cartoons, furry, furry art, retro cool

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2 Comments on “Shape-shifting in ‘Toons, Circa 1930…”

  1. carycomic Says:

    Ms. Jones may have the imaging model. But, the late, great May Questel (of Olive Oyl and Aunt Bluebell fame) provided her voice-overs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. carycomic Says:

    Btw: you should surf some of the door-opening bear videos at Youtube. Talk about smarter-than-average!

    Liked by 1 person

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