Amusement Parks For The Apartment Dweller


I thought I’d take a break from my Betty Boop cartoons, since it’s July and that’s really amusement park season at least where I live. Especially since it’s the Fourth of July weekend. I don’t know about you. I couldn’t even swear whether you’re there right now.

So I went looking for amusement park-themed cartoons and realized there’s not so many as I figured. Some of the ones that are around I’ve already shown off. I’m as surprised as you, since the gag potential for amusement parks seems obvious. But one that came to mind was a Betty Boop and Grampy cartoon after all: Grampy’s Indoor Outing.

The story’s simple. Betty Boop and Junior are looking forward to the carnival. After a merry opening song, though, it rains. And Grampy — or here, Professor Grampy — comes to the rescue. He works up several amusement park-type attractions out of household gadgets. They look strikingly plausible, too, the way the best cartoon contraptions do. The cartoon is less about fake-outs and diverted expectations than the earlier Grampy cartoons, though; it’s more about cleverly turning the ordinary into wonderful gadgetry.

The sets are lovely, as ever. Look especially at Grampy’s kitchen, painted so as to look like it’s got a narrow depth of field. It makes the cartoon so much more solid.

The final stunt, the utterly impractical one, is also where the Fleischers break out their 3-D sets and the combined animation-and-live-action filming techniques. It’s for a good effect, too. The roller coaster rolling around the edge of a building looks wild, and like the sort of cartoonish excess that would never happen in the real world. If you’re willing to count Florida as part of the real world, and I have my doubts, something reminiscent of its building-hugging, twisty paths might be built soon. The PolerCoaster design might also be built in Georgia, which I suppose is a slightly more real place than Florida. The cartoon version, and for that matter the proposed PolerCoaster, are still hair-raising to consider.

Incidentally, the YouTube page from which I got this video, and many sources, identify this cartoon as starring Betty Boop, Grampy, and — as the kid — Little Jimmy. The kid is clearly named Junior by both Betty and Grampy, though. However, I see where people are coming from by calling him Little Jimmy. I figure to discuss that later.

Grampy for Mayor!


Betty Boop’s Grampy — I’m not committed to the idea he must be her grandfather, nor that he isn’t — appeared in ten cartoons from 1935 to 1937. They follow a clear template. Grampy gets put into a position with some problem, even if it’s just boredom. He puts on his thinking cap and, after some false starts has a flashing light and declares “I’ve got it!” and does a silly dance. Then the rest of the cartoon is spot gags of his innovations.

How interesting you find the cartoons — well, how interesting you find the second or third cartoon you watch — depends on how interesting you find the settings. The template can be quite flexible. I’m a bit sad they never thought to put Grampy in a really weird setting, like underwater or in outer space or the like, because I can imagine the kinds of exotic jokes he could have produced.

The Candid Candidate, originally release the 27th of August, 1937, is a fair example of putting Grampy in a setting that gives more room to play. After Betty Boop’s short rally he’s elected mayor, and then has to go about fixing the city’s problems. I admit it takes time to get going. Citizens complaining in rhyme is amusing enough, but it isn’t what Grampy does best. I think the cartoon also shows what makes a Fleischer cartoon just that extra dose weirder. Anyone could imagine protecting a city from the rain by using a giant enough umbrella. Who would have thought of Grampy’s solution instead?

Also the cartoon amuses me because its Wikipedia article, as of this moment, describes the start in this way:

Betty Boop campaigns for Grampy for Mayor, and wins by one vote (despite the fact the town’s paper says it’s a landslide).

The sentence has everything wonderful about Wikipedia. The dry facts are basically correct, but the sentence has been edited to something grammatically dubious, and one of the jokes got earnestly explained. All it needs is a dubious citation and it’d be perfect.

Meeting Betty Boop’s Grampy, Maybe


Popular cartoon characters attract relatives. It’s mandatory. Donald Duck has his nephews, Mickey Mouse a gaggle of orphans that cling to him. Popeye got nephews and a father, and in the comic strips even his grandmother. Betty Boop also picked up some relatives. The best-known of them is Grampy.

At least, I assume Grampy is Betty Boop’s grandfather. It’s not actually said. While she calls him Grampy, so does everybody else. On the other hand, there’s only one cartoon in which he appears without Betty Boop, and he’s typically present to solve Betty’s problems or to entertain her. Apparently Betty Boop’s official license-minders consider him her grandfather, so I guess that’s as definitive a word as we can expect. This isn’t the only mystery of Grampy’s nature. It’s not known who is voice actor was. Jack Mercer — the voice of Popeye and many other characters from the studio — is most often listed as Grampy’s actor, but I’m not sure that sounds right to my ear. But there’s no known contemporary documentation of who it was, just post facto attempts to place the voice.

Betty Boop And Grampy, released the 16th of August, 1935, sets the pattern for Grampy cartoons. We see Grampy, and he sets up an array of Rube Goldberg contraptions, that we get to see come to life. It’s a simple form, and it’s charming. Grampy cartoons tend to be a string of spot gags, free of tension or drama, just a steady sequence of amusements until some big contraption gets shown off. His is a world of fake-outs and sight gags, and if you find using an umbrella skeleton to slice a cake amusing you’re in good stead.

The cartoon is from 1935, and the artwork is continuing to improve amazingly. Most of the backgrounds are wonderfully precise but fluid drawings with watercolor washes, just beautiful to look at. And the Fleischers show off one of their tricks as Betty walks down the street. They had worked out a camera rigging to place animation cels in front of real, model backgrounds that could move with the camera, for uncanny realism. The sets are made to look cartoony, so that the whole project has an animated-universe existence unlike anything before the era of computer-animated cartoons.