Betty Boop’s boyfriend Bimbo appeared in a good number of cartoons. But he hasn’t got many of historical significance that aren’t really Betty Boop cartoons. Of course he is a much less important character, and many of the cartoons he’s in are … well, let’s say appreciated by historians more than watched for the fun of it. But he did appear in one cartoon that’s unmistakably great, one of the all-time best. Betty Boop does too. But she isn’t the protagonist.
I speak of Bimbo’s Initiation.
Fleischer cartoons are renowned for being surreal, for whimsy, for raucous strangeness, for dream-logic gags strung together. Bimbo’s Initiation could have single-handedly given it this reputation. The plot plays to the strengths of the Flesicher studios, though. The story has Bimbo accidentally stumble into a mysterious group wanting him to be a member, and when he tries to escape he races through a string of nightmare and dream-logic images.
But this cartoon has a strong narrative thread. It is not sloppy in the slightest. Pay attention to the length of the scenes. While the setting keeps changing as Bimbo flees, the scenes are nearly continuous. There are few cuts, and most of the cuts that appear are just close-ups on the same action. Note especially the long sequence after the swimming pool, when Bimbo is swallowed by a door. It starts at about 4:45 in. For about a full minute we follow Bimbo running through multiple scenes, in changing directions, and from changing viewpoints. There are cuts at 5:25 and 5:35, but just to zoom in and out on Bimbo.
Long shots are always impressive on-screen. Long shots in which complicated action happens, especially when the line of action changes repeatedly, are all the more so. This is a tightly constructed, well-plotted cartoon. It deserves its high esteem.