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Wanted: More Fleischer Cartoons

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin October 3, 2013 at 1:22PM

The good news: Betty Boop has never looked better, thanks to Olive Films’ new DVD and Blu-ray releases "Betty Boop: The Essential Collection," Volumes 1 and 2, mastered in 4K from original 35mm materials.
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Betty and Bimbo in "Betty Boop’s Bizzy Bee" (1932). A frame this sharp and clear could only come from an original 35mm source.
Betty and Bimbo in "Betty Boop’s Bizzy Bee" (1932). A frame this sharp and clear could only come from an original 35mm source.

The good news: Betty Boop has never looked better, thanks to Olive Films’ new DVD and Blu-ray releases Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Volumes 1 and 2, mastered in 4K from original 35mm materials. The bad news is that it’s taken well over a decade for someone to produce a legitimate DVD release of these cartoons, while bootlegs of inferior quality have flooded the Internet. This has been the unhappy fate of the Max Fleischer cartoon library for many years, sorry to say. Only the now-defunct Republic Pictures Home Video company thought to release the complete Betty Boop library on vhs and even on laserdisc.

Betty Boop’s sudden popularity took Paramount by surprise, but they were quick to capitalize on it in this trade ad from October of 1931—even though they put a hyphen in her name (at lower right)
Betty Boop’s sudden popularity took Paramount by surprise, but they were quick to capitalize on it in this trade ad from October of 1931—even though they put a hyphen in her name (at lower right)

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of other short subjects from the Fleischer library that have yet to see the light of day: the Talkartoons, which gave Betty her first exposure (no pun intended)…the Screen Songs featuring the Bouncing Ball and such guest stars as Ethel Merman, the Mills Brothers, and the Boswell Sisters…the Color Classics, Fleischer’s bid to compete with Walt Disney’s Technicolor Silly Symphonies…the studio’s two-reel color “specials” featuring such characters as Raggedy Ann and Andy…and most important, the Out of the Inkwell shorts of the 1920s starring Koko the Clown and Max Fleischer himself.

Fortunately, many Koko shorts are available, along with Fleischer’s early sound experiments with Dr. Lee DeForest, from Ray Pointer’s Inkwell Images (click HERE). It has taken this dedicated entrepreneur to bring about what no archive or mainstream distributor has been willing to do, since most of these films are now in the public domain. The late-silent Inkwell shorts are still under copyright and were released both on vhs and laserdisc by Republic—but there’s been no sign of them on DVD.

This article is related to: DVD Reviews, Max Fleischer, Betty Boop