The title of today’s film does not seem like it fits in a Halloween series. It’s a Betty Boop cartoon from 1932 called Minnie the Moocher. You may recognize that as the title of the signature song for singer Cab Calloway. Most likely you’ve at least seen his performance of the song in The Blues Brothers. While this short subject may not have a particularly scary title, the images that the Fleischer Studios put in it are definitely of the Halloween variety.
The film begins with Betty and her parents involved in a bit of a family spat. Whatever the problem is, it’s got Betty upset enough to decide to run away. So, she calls up her buddy Bimbo who decides to join her. The two head off and eventually end up walking into a dark corner of the forest.
Things quickly start to turn spooky and they duck into a cave. There the ghostly figure of a walrus materializes. Yes…I said the ghostly figure of a walrus! With Cab Calloway’s voice, the walrus begins to sing the song “Minnie the Moocher.” As he sings, various other ghoulish characters start to appear. There are some hard-drinking skeletons, some jail-bird ghosts who get strapped to some electric chairs, and an assortment of other flying witches and demons. Eventually Betty gets so scared that she runs back home and ducks under the covers.
Why exactly did this classic song conjure up images of ghosts and ghouls for the Fleischer team of animators? Who the heck knows!?! For that matter, why on earth a walrus ghost? Ultimately, I don’t care…the animation is just so darn fun. The walrus is animated by actually rotoscoping over footage of Calloway himself, who puts in a brief appearance over the film’s credits. Let’s face it, it would be a monumental task to get anywhere close to duplicating Calloway’s moves through pure animation. The rotoscoping here works wonderfully and gives the walrus a great flare.
Some of the other Fleischer Studio signatures are featured here as well, especially their knack for turning inanimate objects into characters. In the first minute or so of the film alone, a flower talks to betty, a statue comes to life, and Betty’s father’s head turns into a phonograph. I’m not sure what those Fleischers were on, but I want some. The other creepy characters are very well done as well. The skeletons especially have a great detail to them and could give Ub Iwerks’ characters from the Disney classic The Skeleton Dance a run for their money.
I always have a lot of fun with the Betty Boop cartoons and this one certainly is fun. Though it’s not obvious from it’s title, it has lots of crazy creepy images that make it a perfect Halloween cartoon.