The Betty Boop Talkartoons series was known for its risqué material. Betty Boop's best appearances are considered to be in her first three years, due to her jazz baby character and innocent sexuality, which was aimed at adults. However, the content of her films was affected by the National Legion of Decency and the Production Code of 1934. The Production Code of 1934 imposed guidelines on the Motion Picture Industry and placed specific restrictions on the content films could reference with sexual innuendos. This greatly affected the Betty Boop cartoons.
The Breen Office ordered the removal of the suggestive introduction, which had started the cartoons because Betty Boop's winks and shaking hips were deemed "suggestive of immorality." While the subsequent cartoons were tame compared to her earlier appearances, their self-conscious wholesomeness was aimed at a more juvenile audience, which contributed to the decline of the series. Much of the decline was also due to the lessening of Betty's role in the cartoons in favor of her co-stars.
The Betty Boop character started out as a anthropomorthic caricature of 1920s singer Helen Kane. The character's age was deemed irrelevant from 1930 to 1931, due to the fact that she was a French Poodle. Beginning in 1932, her canine features were morphed into human ones. In a 1932 interview, Max Fleischer claimed that Betty Boop was officially 16 years old. However, in Betty Boop's Birthday, which was released in 1933 (one year after), Betty only has 14 candles on her cake, which suggests she was 13 years old up to that point. According to Max Fleischer, he could not decide on an age for the character. The character was underage in most of her cartoons from 1932 to 1934; from 1934 onwards, she is shown to be a lot older and is seen more as the house-wife type, which is probably the outcome of The Motion Picture Production Code of 1934. According to a 1937 promo, however, the character is officially 16 years old and will always be 16. In Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery, Betty is referred to as a woman by Lola DaVille.
Betty Boop (1937) promo:
"I made my first movie eight years ago (Stopping the Show) when I was sixteen."
"I am still sixteen and will always stay sixteen!"
"Ain't that something!!"
Rumor has it that in September 1938 Max Fleischer, as a thank you to all artists who moved to his new animation studio in Florida, animated a graphic sexual encounter between his two stars Betty Boop and Popeye. Reports on this supposed film, known as “Welcome to Miami,” range from it being 30 seconds of pencil drawings to a full-color short film.
Welcome to Miami (1938)
Max Fleischer reportedly had produced the sexual encounter in September of 1938. This legendary film was allegedly created as sort of a coarse "Thank You" present to all those artists who agreed to come on down to Florida when the Fleischer Studio relocated from New York City to Miami, FL. This particular cartoon according to people who were interviewed who claimed to have attended the Fleischer "Welcome to Miami" party wasn't just 10 to 15 seconds of finished pencil work. No, this one reel wonder was supposedly fully inked and painted with detailed backgrounds full of stylized Florida landscapes. It also featured a full vocal track as well as a musical score. More importantly, it was said to be outrageously amusing with Betty Boop giving Popeye an extremely warm welcome for making the long trip down to Miami. The highlight of the film came when Popeye after an extremely strenous session with Betty downed a can of spinach. Instead of making him strong the spinach went to his groin area. And you can guess the rest. The film was only shown once at the "Welcome to Miami" party at the Fleischer Studios.
After that Max Fleischer reportedly locked the only copy away in the Fleischer Studios safe. Max would often screen it for male visitors who were touring the Flordia facility. Once the Fleischer brothers were forced out of their own animation studio by Paramount Pictures executives in 1942, the reel dropped from sight. Lost to the ages.
A similar story to the Fleischer's rival studio Walt Disney wanted to use Tinker Bell in the promotion of his theme park, Disneyland, so the character was given a more wholesome image. The crew at Disney Animation didn't like the idea of Tinker Bell, who was originally a sassy little vixen, being de-sexified. So what did the animators do? They worked on a little project after hours with 15-or-so-seconds of animation in which Tinker Bell was getting intimate with Jiminy Cricket. No sound, no music and no color. It was just in pencil-sketch form. Jim Hill reported on his site months ago, Disney's animators would oftentimes splice the racy footage of Tinker Bell in with rough footage of projects that rookie animators had completed. As the young animators sat down to watch their animation, they were suddenly shocked.
Betty's Sexual Status Today
According to King Features and the Fleischer Studios of this generation, "We have always had to push the envelope a little without stepping over the line."For example, Betty Boop has always been sexy, but without being sexual. What our culture considered sexy in 1930 is not exactly what we consider sexy today."
The Fate of Bimbo
Bimbo was originally the Fleischer Studios mascot and appeared in most of the cartoons from 1929-1933 until the creation of Betty Boop who was initially designed to look like an anthropomorphized version of a dog with a poodle-esque appearance. Her general look, attitude and voice were based in large part on singer and occasional actress Helen Kane. Animator Grim Natwick used Kane's wide eyes, bow-shaped mouth, her curly hair, and head as reference points in crafting the character. Betty retained her canine features until 1932, when she was redesigned to be more overtly human. Which signaled the death for Bimbo. Betty and Bimbo maintained a romantic relationship for a short while but he was retired in 1933 as it was considered unseemly for a human girl to be in love with a dog, in 1934 Betty had a new human boyfriend dubbed Fearless Fred, who later was also removed from the series. In the 1980s when Betty was rediscovered, Bimbo returned but instead of boyfriend, he returned as best friend and in some media "as boyfriend".
Grim Natwick and Betty's Sexuality
Grim Natwick once said "Although Betty was never vulgar or obscene, Betty was a suggestion you could spell in three letters: S-E-X." Indeed every aspect of the character is designed to entice, from those Kewpie-doll features to her short low-cut dresses and garters. And yet there is an innocence to Betty that is encapsulated in her breathy, squeaky, baby-talk voice, brought to life most memorably by voice-over artist Mae Questel who also provided the voice for Fleischer's other popular leading lady, Popeye's paramour Olive Oyl. This makes for a character who is a potent combination of girl and woman, protecting her chasity from wolves and scoundrels while punctuating every song with an alluring wink and a smile. There is a darkness to many earlier Boop shorts, which reference controversial themes such as rape, sexual harassment and even ephebophilia, tied to these darker themes is an inescapable atmosphere of innuendo and risqué imagery.
References in the Betty Boop Cartoons
Below are some of the references from various cartoons, Betty was known to lose her clothes in most of the episodes she appeared in, the trait most likely came from Clara Bow the It Girl. Sexual advances were always made by a male antagonist's in the earlier series from 1932-1933. For example male characters such as Ringmaster, Big Boss. The Old Man of The Mountain. Bimbo was known to lust after Betty in the series, her relationship with Bimbo was classed as Bestiality. In most of the episodes Betty's garter belt is shown to slip down, she is always seen quickly pulling it back up. When Betty wore her garter belt it was classed as being sexy, in the beginning she wore two garters on both legs, until it was moved to her left leg. The garter belt is usually fastened around Betty's left leg, and is used to keep up her stockings as seen in "She Wronged him Right". Betty's garter was never removed from the series it was just moved further up her leg. The Betty Boop cartoons also have a lot of Ethnic and Homosexual references in them, which made many Betty Boop cartoons banned in the early 80s & 90s re-releases but most of the cartoons are restored up to date.
Betty Boop Homosexual References
In Betty Boop for President (1932) Betty gives a fearsome con the electric chair which turns out to be a beauty treatment from which he emerges lustrous and queeny. In Dizzy Red Riding Hood Betty is pleased to come across a pansy because as a limp wristed tree stump observes "The fairies like them too!" then both Betty and Bimbo run away from the tree. In Betty Boop's Penthouse Betty runs across another pansy and later goes after the intruder with a spray can turning him into a flitting ballet dancer. There was even a reference in a Boop cartoon to a man with the red necktie to a coded piece of gay apparel.
Betty Boop Ethnic References
The Fleischers and their star Betty Boop, firmly located in New York's Yiddish-speaking community while playing the film to audiences all over the United States, are the emodiment of the paradigm. Clear references to Yiddishkeit found in the cartoons reveal a degree of comfort with their cinematic image enjoyed by the Jews whose success provided some distance from the typical anti-semitic stereotypes. The cartoons however are not as kind to other ethnic groups and the stereotypically racist depictions found in cartoons such as Mask-A-Raid which spoofs Italian and Chinese immigrants, emphasizes the long lasting effects of these widely distributed and frequently repeated caricatures. In Making Stars the vaudeville set up with performing babies features "The Colorful Three". Three performing stereotyped African American babies who chant Cab Calloway's most famous scat lyric "Hi-De-Ho" the safety pin is like a daisy chained shackle for cotton pickers whilst performing behind a curtain with scenery depicting a cotton field, all three are lured off stage by Watermelons.
Banned Betty Boop Cartoons
Many Betty Boop cartoons were banned from TV for being too sexual or racist. On YoTube in the early 2000s if a Betty Boop cartoon were uploaded it would sometimes have been taken down by YouTube for being too sexual, one in mind that was constantly removed if uploaded was Betty Boop's Penthouse. Early DVD releases were edited and all the content was removed but in new DVD releases, everything has been restored as the Ethnic references in the Betty Boop series did not go overboard as other studios such as Warner Bros. Below are a list of some of the Betty Boop cartoons which feature a few stereotypes.
Banned Cartoon List:
1. Popeye the Sailor (Sexual/Suggestive & Racism)
2. Making Stars (Racism)
3. Zula Hula (Racism)
4. Out of the Inkwell (Racism)
5. Dizzy Red Riding Hood (Sexual/Suggestive)
6. Betty Boop's Penthouse (Sexual/Suggestive)
In Dizzy Dishes when Betty says that she wants to make whoopee a 1920s phrase meaning to have a good time and often used as "make whoopee" aka "sex" or having a good time. Betty's skirt lifts up in the air to reveal she's wearing no underwear, Bimbo's body also morphs into an erected state.
In Mysterious Mose Betty's nightgown lifts up and down while she is in her bed, a picture on her wall tells her to take them off.
In Barnacle Bill Betty's skirt flies up and down while she's on the sofa with Bimbo, the film climaxes with a sudden cut to the outside of Betty’s window as the window-shade is suddenly pulled down and two cats emerge (Gossiping Cat Neighbors) from the neighbouring windows with the usual gossip combination: disparaging looks and calls for everyone else to come and see (a cutely unconvincing joke has Bimbo and Betty playing checkers when the window-shade rises.
In Silly Scandals Betty's dress slips down to reveal her frilly bra. Bimbo's Initation a cartoon referencing freemasonry includes sodomite references through the whole cartoon."We are the members of Do It Or Die D-I-D-I-D-I" Watch us make Bimbo as easy as pie D-I-D-I-D-I. We are succubus filled with college pep Bring him on we cry "D-I-D-I-D-I B-I-M-B-O BIMBO". “We are succubus.” A succubus is a demonic entity that rapes men during the night, which may be in a female form or in a male form for sodomy. Bimbo can also be seen riding a bike that is a butt spanking machine, self abuse. His butt is set on fire. The bike then takes him into the room of the lodge or temple with masonry walls and the standard Masonic checkerboard floor. Betty Boop who had been wearing a Mason disguise. It's really a Mason, who now appears to him as Betty Boop, which is to say a desirable sex object. She does a sleazy little dance for Bimbo and spanks her own butt repeatedly, so we get the point that this now sexually attractive Lodge member is his new sodomite sex partner. The programming has transformed Bimbo. Wanna be a member? Bimbo says yes.
The curtain goes up and we see the audience, the gallery of secret society members. They all pull off their brotherhood suits and become Betty Boop Clones, dancing like dance hall girls. All now appear as potential sex partners to Bimbo. First, she is a hybrid, a chimera, Nephilim. Second, she is part dog, which is known to be a reference to a sodomite or male prostitute. Bimbo was a dog.
This is the dirty little secret behind the Bimbo and Betty Boop identities. Betty was a secret transvestite or a hermaphrodite.
In The Bum Bandit Betty Boop stars as Dangerous Nan McGrew, while Betty's singing the hold up rag her skirt flies in the air in front of the engineer. Betty eventually throws Bimbo into the locomotive, as they drive off she pulls down the blinds their underwear then emerge on the line attached to the smoke stack, suggesting they are having sex.
In Boop-Oop-a-Doop after performing "Do Something" on the tightrope, Betty Boop returns to her dressing room. The Ringmaster enters her room and tells Betty that she will lose her job if she continues to refuse his sexual advances.
The Ringmaster then feels Betty's legs and whispers something in her ear to which she replies "You Mean?" He then begins to whisper in her ear a second time to which she states "No!" She then responds by slapping him in the face, he then begins to choke her and states "There will be no more Boop-Oop-a-Doop outta you!" Betty escapes his clutches and starts singing "Don't Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away". After Betty finishes singing she is grabbed by the Ringmaster, until Koko the Clown saves the day, Betty responds with "He couldn't take my Boop-Oop-a-Doop Away!"
While Bimbo is working as a Peanut Vendor, Bimbo can be seen pointing to his crotch area.
Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle contains a tan-skinned (dark-skinned) topless Betty Boop, wearing only a lei and a grass skirt.
In Betty Boop's Up's and Down's Betty's skirt lifts up while she's walking in the air. In Any Rags Betty's Skirt slips to reveal she's wearing a frilly bra.
In S.O.S, Sink or Swim, Betty's skirt lifts into the air while she's singing on the raft, when she's taken captive by pirates the captain quotes "Leave the damsel to me!" He then turns into a snake to which Betty replies "You mean?" (indicating sex) which is the same quote she used in Boop-Oop-a-Doop.
In Betty Boop's Ker-Choo, Betty quickly flashes her bra to her boss and can also be seen gripping her bosom and groin area, while singing "I've Got a Cold In My Nose".
In a few scenes the groin area of Betty's jumpsuit is delineated, which was done deliberately by the animators who worked on the cartoons.
In Time on My Hands, Betty is topless throughout the cartoon as she is seemingly appearing as mermaid, but her fish tail is revealed to be fake and she can be later seen wearing only her panties, after she is thrown out of the water into the air.
In Betty Boop's Big Boss Betty flashes while standing on the table, According to Leslie Cabarga in one scene the boss can be seen rubbing her breast.
In Betty Boop's Penthouse Bimbo and Koko watch Betty take a shower on her roof, when she dry's herself off her towel continues to rub her rear area until she moves it up to her back. In Popeye the Sailor Betty wears the same topless costume she wore in Betty's Bamboo Isle. In Is My Palm Read Betty is invited to have her fortune told by Bimbo when she enters Bimbo turns off the lights, which show allows them to see through Betty's dress. Betty is then hypnotized into remembering the naked truth of her baby days you then see a flashback of a nude Baby Boop taking a bath.
In I Heard Betty goes down an elevator but the elevator brakes and she ends up falling on Bimbo who then ends up wearing her clothes leaving Betty in her underwear, and is the first and only cartoon where Bimbo is seen cross-dressing.
In Betty Boop's Birthday Party when Bimbo congratulates Betty, she quickly flashes her underwear to him.
In Red Hot Mama as Betty passes in front of flaming pits, her nightie turns see-through.
In Betty Boop's Rise to Fame Betty changes her outfits several times.
There is a frame hidden in one of the outfit changing sequences showing a naked breast.
In Betty Boop's Trial Betty lifts her skirt in the air one last time when she twirls around, which reveals her underwear.
In Poor Cinderella while Betty's in the carriage a horse starts to sing "Poor Cinderella" the top part of her dress slips she quickly lifts it up.
While stating; "But, I'll be a princess someday!"
In She Wronged Him Right, while being held captive underwater by Heeza Rat.
While rinsing out her dress Betty quickly flashes her underwear.
This is the only known sexual reference in the Betty Boop series from 1938.
In Buzzy Boop when the train stops Betty's skirt flips one last time to reveal her garter and underwear.
In The Swing School when Betty enters the classroom she quickly flashes her garter, which had been hidden due to the fact that her dresses were made longer due to the Hays Code.
The Romance of Betty Boop (1985)
In the Romance of Betty Boop (directed by Bill Melendez) the people who had worked on the 1985 CBS special slipped in a nude scene which can only be seen in the cels artworks. It was homage to the Fleischers original Betty Boop cartoons. Which indicates that the rumor of Betty Boop being drawn fully nude underneath her outfit was not in Who Framed Roger Rabbit but in fact in The Romance of Betty Boop but in the actual cartoon the nude scene is cropped out.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
According to sources Betty Boop had appeared topless when adjusting her garter in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) as a reference to her old cartoon series. When Eddie Valiant and Betty have their brief meet-up in the Ink and Paint Club there was a moment in the scene where, just for a single frame the strapless dress that this classic cartoon character slipped off of her breast and thus revealed her bare nipples.
According to the new DVD release the statement was that her dress was made too small and that it had looked as if she were topless, which might be untrue due to the risqué nature of the original Betty Boop cartoon series. The scene has been removed from all future DVD releases. Disney employees had to collect individual single frames of the (topless Betty) and return them to the studio, where Disney attorneys then determined which frames had come from which specific print and what theatre, before officials ordered the frames to be destroyed. According to a source the only reason the animators who worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit had slipped in a topless scene of Betty Boop was to pay tribute to the people who worked on the original Betty Boop series. There is a brief nudity from Jessica Rabbit in the film & Baby Herman can be seen putting his finger up a woman's dress. This scene could also be a reference to why some people reference Betty Boop as "Betty Boob". The images could be Photoshopped, but Betty Boop was known to do these things in the original series, when she stopped doing these things from 1934-1939 her cartoons series plummeted. According to a source Betty Boop was classed as being drawn fully nude under her clothes in the film, although there is no proof to back this claim.
Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery (1989)
In Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery Betty can be vaguely seen in a few tongue-in-cheek scenes. When serving the customers at Diner Dan’s her dress gets caught in the dishes which reveals her underwear.
While performing "Mysterious Rhythm" Betty flashes her underwear a few times. Betty also reprises her famous topless hula dance which she did in Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle. Before Betty performs at the Mask-A-Raid ball she can be seen getting ready in her dressing room. While getting ready she can be seen in her undergarments.
Betty states; "This is your big chance Betty Boop so don't blow it!" Suddenly Sam Slade bursts out of a grandfather clock in which Betty replies; "Yikes!" Indicating she did not know anyone else was in the room while she was getting changed. Betty can be seen buttoning up her costume stating; "Sammy... you’re so alarming!"
Betty Boop Dance Card/Betty Boop Bop (2014)
In the CGI opening sequence in Betty Boop Dance Card (Betty Boop Bop), Betty Boop can briefly be seen in the nude (cropped) dressing herself, which is a reference to Betty's status as a sex-symbol.