This week, Pudgy is back again, with a mischievous little “monk”!
Betty Boop’s last few cartoons were released around 1939, and this cartoon signifies how inconsequential the series had become. The mundane domestic comedy plots in the Boops could have featured any character. The difference in energy and distinctiveness is clear when compared to the rough and tumble “vitaliky” of the Popeyes released around this time.
Betty once personified the Prohibition Era and the start of the Depression, but as the series petered out, she became an anachronism. She was ultimately stripped of individuality, save her squeaky voice – supplied by Mae Questel – and the spit curls. Admittedly, it’s difficult to write about these cartoons without denigrating them, but these are some of the only extant Fleischer documents within reach.
De-facto director Tom Johnson and his animators were written about extensively in the previous Fleischer breakdown, but Monkey adds Lod Rossner as part of the unit. Information on Rossner is dubious, but Fleischer’s Animated News reveals that he owned an advertising agency before entering animation. Rossner was in Bowsky’s crew, and is listed among several animators for the 1936 Betty Boop cartoon We Did It (co-written by Warren Foster) in the same in-house publication. He moved over to Johnson’s unit, and then went back to Bowsky’s. His only on-screen credits are on the two features (Gulliver and Mr. Bug), and two Popeyes, It’s the Natural Thing to Do (Johnson, 1939) and Quiet! Pleeze (Bowsky, 1941).
It’s fascinating to see Johnson credited for the story on Monkey, but looking over the description/scene numbers designated to follow the finished on-screen action is confounding. The first page of the document matches up with the final footage. On page 2, the cartoon jumps from scene 18A right to scene 21, omitting the other numbers. Those scenes might have been cut for pacing, since the original set-up would have run long. Ditto for three usages of a corny Tarzan yell in the draft, with only two on-screen.
However, scene 25A, with the hand-standing monkey tossing Pudgy in the air with his feet, seems to have an abrupt cut. How did all of this happen? It’s speculated that this cartoon might have had some production trouble; hence there are some messy editing decisions from Dave Fleischer. The studio might not have had the luxury to animate new footage.Towards the middle of the cartoon, Monkey’s sections are cut and re-shuffled into other sequences. These scenes often feel rushed or patched together without any careful regard for continuity. Scene 19, set in the living room of the monkey landing and scratching on Pudgy’s head confirms the latter. Pudgy is angrily growling in the previous shot (scene 37B), then is somehow happily wagging his tail in the living room. There are random insert shots of Pudgy that occur with intercuts of the monkey dragging the pie crust and wringing it with a washing machine (scenes 36 and 37) that seem to have been lifted from an earlier section when Pudgy escaped from the laundry rack.
The scenes with Betty arguing with the organ grinder are mostly credited to Lod Rossner, with one scene by Tom Johnson. In the finished cartoon, it appears that the quick scenes were re-used from the earlier animation. Johnson may have animated his version of the altercation, but Dave Fleischer may have decided to cut it and re-use the Rossner animation.
Readers will have to look over the draft pages (click to enlarge) and the breakdown video to understand without the post becoming too analytical. Enjoy!
(Thanks to Todd Levine, Bob Jaques and Frank Young for their help.)