Betty Boop, a full-length animated film featuring the legendary cartoon character, has become the latest in a string of major new projects announced by MGM. The movie will be produced for MGM in 1993 by the Zanuck Co., marking the first foray into feature film animation for Academy Award-winning producers Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck.
Screenwriter Jerry Rees has been assigned to write the script for "Betty Boop," based on the character originally created by animation pioneer Max Fleischer, Rees will also produce with Steven Paul Leiva, with Richard and Lili Zanuck and Richard Fleischer serving as executive producers. Fleischer and his sister, Ruth Kneitel, co-own the rights to the character, which they inherited from their father, Max.
"Betty Boop is one of animation's truly timeless characters and the only major animated female character to have lasted throughout the years," stated Richard D. Zanuck in making the joint announcement with MGM Co-Chairman Alan Ladd Jr.
"She is one of the most recognizable of all animation creations," continued Lili Zanuck. "Our version of Betty Boop' will focus on the adventures of Betty and her pals, Koko and Bimbo, as they travel to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune."
Ladd added, "While our Betty Boop will remain set in the '30s, she will have a decidedly modern twist. This project promises to hold a great deal of fun -- both for the filmmakers and the audience."
Betty Boop, the saucer-eyed, bobbed-haired cartoon flapper began her career as an animated film character in "Dizzy Dishes" in 1930 and, from 1930 to 1939, starred in 112 pictures. Her world-famous syndicated comic strip for King Features began in 1934, and for more than 60 years she has remained the reigning diva of film animation.
Conceived by animation vanguard Max Fleischer, she was the first "sexy" cartoon character and one of the first to be drawn in a realistic fashion. A historical highlight of her career was when the Hays Office of the Motion Picture Producer's and Distributor's Code, the forerunner of today's ratings system, banned Betty Boop's famous garter, and a public outcry forced the ruling to be reversed and the garter to be brought back.
More recently, Betty Boop proved her staying power with cameos in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "Look Who's Talking Too." Today, her image appears on countless products, including nightgowns, sheets, clocks and watches. King Features, a division of the Hearst Corp., is the licenser of all Betty Boop merchandise.
"Betty Boop" will reunite executive producers Richard Fleischer and Richard D. Zanuck, who previously collaborated on the 1959 feature "Compulsion." Fleischer directed the film which marked Zanuck's feature film debut as a producer. In all, Fleischer has directed 47 films, including "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Fantastic Voyage" and "Conan the Destroyer," which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Rees' credits as a writer and a director include such projects as "The Marrying Man" and the acclaimed animated film "The Brave Little Toaster." He also wrote and directed the unique live action/animation short "Back to Neverland," for the Disney/MGM Studios tour in Florida.
Leiva most recently produced Chuck Jones' well-received animated segment for the live action feature "Stay Tuned." He served as president of Chuck Jones Productions for two years and, prior to that, was head of animation production for Gary Kurtz ("Star Wars").
The producers of the 1989 Academy Award-winning Best Picture, "Driving Miss Daisy," the Zanucks have more recently completed "Rich in Love," a contemporary drama about a Southern family, due to be released by MGM in March. Richard Zanuck also produced the critically acclaimed film "Rush," directed by Lili Zanuck. Together, their other films include the blockbusters "Cocoon" and "Cocoon: The Return," while Richard Zanuck's credits go on to include Oscar nominees "The Verdict," "Jaws" and "The Sting," in addition to 14 other movies. In 1991, he received the Motion Picture Academy's highest honor, the Irving Thalberg Award.