Betty Boop: So Where Did Bimbo Come From?


(Also, I reached 17,000 views the past day! Hooray!)

Fearless Fred was Betty Boop’s second or maybe third boyfriend. What about her first? That would be Bimbo the cartoon dog. At least mostly he’s a dog. There are a few cartoons where what looks like the same character is a cat. They weren’t so tightly bound to character models in 1930.

That point adds a bit of challenge to what I mean to do this week. I’d wanted to show the first Bimbo cartoon, to match the first Fearless Fred and the many firsts I found for Betty Boop. But it isn’t quite clear which one that is. Wikipedia, and the Betty Boop wiki I consult, suggest the credit goes to the Talkartoon Hot Dog, released the 29th of March, 1930. It also credits this as the first Fleischer cartoon to use grey tones, rather than illustrate everything in stark black-and-white. Noah’s Lark and Radio Riot, two of the earlier Talkartoons, are certainly black-and-white pieces. Marriage Wows I haven’t been able to see; the cartoon isn’t lost but only the UCLA film library has a print anyone knows about. Trusting that Marriage Wows hasn’t got Bimbo or greys, then, here it is:

So here’s my difficulty: who in this cartoon is Bimbo? The protagonist doesn’t look very much like the Bimbo we’d see four cartoons later, in Dizzy Dishes. The first police officer looks more like the standard-model Bimbo, except for being large and authoritative and an antagonist and all that. But I can believe Bimbo changing body shape and color more easily than I can believe his changing his plot function. It’s easier to see Bimbo as the guy who plays a non sequitur banjo for two and a half minutes than as effective authority. Still, it raises fine questions about identity that I’m just not the person to answer.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

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