Betty Boop: Minding The Baby, and the livability of cartoon worlds


Eh, what the heck. I’ve got a cold, I can do something relatively lazy. Let me share the 1931 Betty Boop cartoon Minding The Baby. It was the next Talkartoon released after yesterday’s installment, Bimbo’s Express. It came out the 9th of September, 1931, just a couple weeks after the previous cartoon. This seems to have been when Betty Boop took over top billing from Bimbo, a sign of her rising star. It would be a couple more cartoons before she got her own introductory song, and less than a year before she’d get a series all to herself. And this for an installment where she’s not got a lot to do herself. Before starting, though, a warning: the story is driven by an obnoxious infant. If you can’t stand crying babies in your entertainment you might want to give this a pass.

I do want to say, this is a fantastic print. I don’t know why it looks so crisp. I suspect it was restored, and then uploaded to archive.org by someone who figured since the underlying cartoon was in the public domain so were cleaned-up and restored copies. Perhaps they are, legally, but it does seem to me that the work involved in making an old piece of film look new deserves its respect at least. I will suppose archive.org knows its business, but I’d like to know how we do have such a good print.

This is another cartoon that’s pretty much just hanging out. Betty wants to see Bimbo for what I suppose is a solid night of canoodling, but he’s got to watch the baby who’s every bratty baby you get in this sort of cartoon. There’s a bunch of puttering around as everyone gets into minor scrapes and gets out again because the world isn’t all that harsh. The jokes barely have anything to do with each other and could almost be shuffled and make just as good a cartoon.

I think I’ve worked out why I like it anyway, though. Have you ever pondered what it would be like to actually live in a cartoon world? One that isn’t just seven minutes on a couple of sets but rather a whole city, one that’s always awake? Sure, people try. There’s the Toontown sequence in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There’s the animated-background sequences that I swear are there in Cool World. There’s some other glimpses. They’ve mostly struck me false. They’re too high-energy, too busy, too active. If everything is running at a fever pitch then there’s no everyday life.

This is different. This feels like a more lived-in cartoon world, the sort of place where you as a cartoon could just go home and have an ordinary night, listening to the radio (that smiles at you and turns its dial to a show it likes better) or making dinner (catching the hot dogs trying to sneak out of the boiling water and shaming them into putting on a bun, as a robe). Funny stuff happens, all around, but it’s a very low-key, very ordinary sort of thing. It’s an inhabitable place. I feel the appeal. Do you?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point today in anticipation of a conference call that everyone expected to be a disaster and instead turned out to be a kind of silly muddle.

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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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