Betty Boop, by Max Fleischer/Bud Counihan
'Betty Boop'.

Max Fleischer was an Austrian-American animated film director and producer. He is best known as the co-founder of the famous Fleischer Brothers cartoon Studios, co-started with his brothers Dave and Joe. Together they are world famous as the creators of 'Koko the Clown' (1929-1934) and 'Betty Boop' (1930-1939). They also turned E.C. Segar's comic strip character 'Popeye' into a popular animated franchise (1933-1941). The Fleischer cartoons are renowned for their loose and bouncy animation, often set to the beat of jazz music. They took full advantage of the fantastic possibilities of the still young medium by experimenting with physically impossible gags and surreal imagery. In the 1920s they were easily the most groundbreaking cartoon studio in the world, inventing techniques such as rotoscoping and blending animation with live-action. During the 1930s, they were Disney's only serious competitors, often offering things Uncle Walt shied away from, such as jazz, violence and sexual innuendo. The Fleischers remain some of the most influential animators of all time.

Early life and comics career
Max Fleischer was born in 1883 in Vienna, Austria, as the son of a Jewish tailor. In 1887 his father emigrated to Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York City, where Fleischer would study art at Cooper Union and the Art Students League. His family were technical whizzes. Father William created several tailoring devices, while Max' brother Charles invented several machines used in amusement parks and brother Joe experimented with wireless telegraphy. It all sparked Max's interest in technology.

In 1900, the 17-year old Max Fleischer went to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He was so desperate to become a newspaper cartoonist that he offered the manager two dollars a week, just to be able to visit their art department on a regular basis. While his offer was refused, he was hired as a paper and errand boy. Soon Fleischer moved up to the position of photographer and eventually the job he so desired in the first place: cartoonist. By 1902 he published editorial cartoons and two gag-a-day comic strips, 'Algy' and 'E.K. Sposher, the Camera Fiend'. 'Algy' revolved around a young street boy and his fruitless efforts to win over his sweetheart May McGinnis, while frequently being beaten up by thugs. 'E.K. Sposher, the Camera Fiend' followed a clumsy photographer. Fleischer signed many of his early comics with "'M. Fleischer", though sometimes used a less ethnic sounding pseudonym as well: "Mack". He also wrote and illustrated articles in Popular Science Monthly'. Around the same time, Max' brother Dave worked as a cleaning man and usher in the vaudeville theater Palace in New York, where he witnessed many comedians perform. Learning from their craft, Dave was also active as a clown for a while.

E.K. Sposher, the Camera Fiend
'E.K. Sposher, the Camera Fiend'. 3 December 1903.

Koko the Clown
In 1914, Max and his brothers Dave and Lou saw Winsor McCay's animated short 'Gertie the Dinosaur' (1914) and decided to make animated films themselves. During the First World War they created training films for the U.S. War Department, worked for J.R. Bray's animation studio and, in 1918, started the 'Out of the Inkwell' series. This marked the debut of their first cartoon star, 'Koko the Clown'. In each of his shorts Koko jumped out of an inkwell and experienced adventures in a live-action world. The character was also given a pet dog, Fitz.  Koko and Fitz might have been inspired by William Steinigans' 'Splinters' (1911-1912), which was a pantomime newspaper comic starring a similarly dressed tall clown and his puppy dog.

Fleischer Brothers Studio
The 'Koko the Clown' format was succesful enough to enable the Fleischers to establish their own studio. Max was credited as director, while Dave produced. In 1927 they signed a contract with Paramount, which would last until 1942. Among the notable people once employed at their studio were Ray Bailey, J.R. Bray, Frank CarinLes Carroll, Shamus Culhane, Arthur Davis, Jim Davis, Tony Di Paola, Irving Dressler, Harvey Eisenberg, Frank Engli, Vincent Fago, Otto Feuer, Owen Fitzgerald, Lillian Friedman (the first woman studio animator), Gill Fox, Woody GelmanDan Gordon, Chad GrothkopfRube Grossman, Harry Haenigsen, Dick Hall, Cal Howard, Dick Huemer, Jerry IgerBob Kane, Jack Kirby, Seymour Kneitel, Tack Knight, Harry Lampert, Edwin Laughlin, Pauline Loth, Steve Muffatti, Joseph Oriolo, Tony Pabian, John Pierotti, Sy Reit, Vivie Risto, Erich F.T. Schenk, Hal Seeger, Isadore Sparber, Irving Spector, Al StahlJohn Stanley, Milt Stein, William Sturm, Martin B. Taras, Frank Tashlin, David Tendlar, Charles Thorson, Reuben TimminsJim Tyer, Myron Waldman, Carl Wessler, Bob Wickersham, Margaret Winkler (who was the first female producer and distributor of animated cartoons), George Wolfe and Ralph A. Wolfe.

Technical and cinematic innovations
The Fleischers' studio pioneered many technical innovations. They are the inventors of the "rotoscoping" progress, a method where movement is animated by tracing over frames of live-action films. It allowed for a more efficient and economical production of cartoons, which was not only used by the Fleischers themselves but also by other studios to this day. They also patented the "rotograph", where the projector shows one film frame on a glass plate, with a cell laid over it. The combined image is then re-photographed with an animation camera. Another invention was the bouncing ball used to invite people in the audience to sing along with the lyrics on screen. It was first used in their cartoon 'Oh, Mabel' (1924) and launched a series named the 'Song Car-Tunes' (1924-1927), later retitled 'Screen Songs' (1929-1938). The 'Koko the Clown' cartoons also perfected the interaction between animated characters and live-action scenes. Their film 'My Old Kentucky Home' (1926) was an early attempt at synchronized sound, predating Walt Disney's 'Steamboat Willie' (1928) by three years. Last but not least, they also pioneered the "stereoptical process", where a diorama was used to make it appear as if the characters were walking in front of it, allowing an amazing sense of depth. It was first used in the Popeye cartoon 'For Better or Worser' (1935). 

Another historically important cartoon made that same year was 'Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure' (1928), notorious as the first known 'adults only' cartoon in history. A collection of naughty pornographic jokes, it was allegedly intended for a party to honour Winsor McCay's birthday. According to Disney animator Ward Kimball, it was made as a collaboration between Raoul Barré, Max Fleischer and Paul Terry's studios, who all animated certain scenes without each other's knowledge. Among the animators who worked on the picture were George Canata, Walter Lantz, George Vernon Stallings and Rudy Zamora Sr. Other sources claim that the short was too risqué to be processed by any lab at the time, which led the footage to sink into obscurity until the 1970s. 

Max Fleischer's patent
Concept drawing for the rotoscope.

Betty Boop
In 1929, the Fleischers got caught up in legal troubles when their partnership companies Red Seal Pictures and the Inkwell Studios went bankrupt, making them unable to use 'Koko the Clown' for two years. They therefore launched new stars. In 'Hot Dog' (1930) the anthropomorphic dog Bimbo made his debut. But four months later he was upstaged by the Fleischers's most iconic character: 'Betty Boop', designed by Grim Natwick. Betty made her debut in 'Dizzy Dishes' (1930) and was originally a nameless dog girlfriend of Bimbo. She received her name in 'Silly Scandals' (1931) and lost her dog-like features in 'Mask-A-Raid' (1931) to become a human. Her dog ears were redrawn as ear rings. The huge-headed flapper girl with the high voice soon became the first major female cartoon star (not counting Minnie Mouse, who debuted in 1927 but was merely a supporting act to Mickey). Especially in Japan she was very beloved, where people know her as 'Betty-chan'. Her global popularity was mostly a result of her sexy looks. Many 'Betty Boop' cartoons of the early 1930s have her lure off horny old men, while she was subject of risqué gags. In that retrospect she was the predecessor of later animated sex symbols, such as Tex Avery's Red and Jessica Rabbit in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' (1988).

Betty's catchphrase was 'Boop-boop-a-doop-boop', which, from 'Boop-Oop-a-Doop' (1932) on, was turned into her own personal theme song ("There's a little queen, of the animated screen..."). She paved the way for other cartoon stars with their own theme song, such as 'Popeye' (1933) ("I'm Popeye the Sailor Man..."), Paul Terry's 'Mighty Mouse' (1942) ("Here I come to save the dààààày!") and - from 1947 on - Disney's 'Donald Duck' ('Who's got the sweetest disposition? One guess, guess, guess, who?'). Betty's physical appearance and voice were modelled after Helen Kane, a waning Hollywood star at the time, known for her high-pitched "boop-oop-a-doop" catchphrase, which Betty also "borrowed" from her. Kane wasn't too flattered about this and unsuccesfully tried to sue.

All of Betty's cartoons were in black-and-white, except for 'Poor Cinderella' (1934), which was done in a two-strip Cinecolor process. But this had no effect on her popularity. The introduction of the Hays Code (1934), however, meant that the 'Betty Boop' shorts were now subject of censorship. Every suggestive gag had to be cut. Betty wasn't even allowed to be a sexy dancer again. She was recast as a domestic housewife and dressed accordingly. This effectively destroyed a large part of her appeal. By 1940 she starred in her final cartoon.

Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl, by Helen Kane
'Betty Boop'.

Betty Boop comic strip
Between 23 July 1934 and 28 November 1937, a 'Betty Boop' comic strip was published, 'Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl by Helen Kane', distributed by King Features Syndicate, which credited Helen Kane in the title. Unfortunately for her, King Features renegotiated behind her back and the title was changed again to 'Betty Boop by Max Fleischer' (1934-1937). In reality Fleischer wasn't the artist, but Bud Counihan, creator of the comic strip 'Little Napoleon'. He was assisted by Ving Fuller and Fleischer animator Hal Seeger. The same men also made a 'Koko the Clown' pantomime comic strip for the New York Journal in November-December 1934, but it either only lasted four episodes or was never published at all. 'Betty Boop' proved more durable, even though her initial lurid appearance was somewhat toned down for readers. 

Koko the Klown, by Max Fleischer
'Koko The Klown', AKA 'Koko The Clown'.

Luckily, the Fleischer studio had another major star. In 1933 they adapted Elzie Segar's newspaper comic character 'Popeye' to the big screen. They gave him a catchy theme song, 'I'm Popeye the Sailor Man', written and composed by Sammy Lerner, with the final bars blowing his pipe as if it was a steamboat whistle ("Toot-Toot!"). To make the transition, some important changes were made. The animators only used Popeye, Olive Oyl and Wellington J. Wimpy and introduced one new major character to serve as a villain: Bluto. Bluto had appeared in the comics before, namely in 1932, but Segar hadn't used him since. The Fleischers created a simple formula in which Popeye and Bluto constantly battle over Olive, and/or Popeye faces another foe.

In Popeye's first comic strip adventure (1929), he gained his powers from stroking the head of Bernice the Whiffle Hen. On 26 June 1931 he casually mentioned that he "ate his spinach", when general Bunzo asked him where he got his extraordinary powers? In the cartoons, the Fleischers firmly established spinach as the exclusive source of Popeye's strength. Near the end of each short, the sailor would seemingly be defeated or bound to give up, only to whip out a can and eat its content. Accompanied by the opening bars of his theme song and usually a rendition of U.S. patriotic songs like 'Stars and Stripes Forever', 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' or 'O Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean', he would then beat up his opponent(s) and save the day. Generations of children started eating spinach because parents told them they would become as strong as Popeye. The cartoons are even credited with popularizing the vegetable on a global scale. Segar therefore introduced spinach as Popeye's source of strength in the comics. But Bluto remained mostly an animated character. Segar never used him in his comics and his direct successors neither. Only when Bud Sagendorf took over, Bluto was used more regularly, but redesigned and renamed as "Brutus". For a long while it was believed that the Fleischers had copyrighted the name "Bluto" and the character. When somebody actually took the measure of investigating the matter, it turned out that Bluto had always been a Segar creation and thus he could be used in the comics too. 

Many film studios had tried to adapt popular newspaper comics into an animated series before. Even the Fleischers made additional attempts, teaming Betty Boop up with Carl Anderson's 'Henry', Otto Soglow's 'The Little King' and James Swinnerton's 'Little Jimmy'. But none caught on. 'Popeye' was the first to actually become a hit and spawn a long-running series. No other comic-based animated series managed to endure for nearly a century! This might be explained by the fact that Segar's simple drawing style and comical violence fit the animation medium perfectly. Popeye's eccentric speech also translated well to voice actors. Jack Mercer (voice of Popeye) and Mae Questel (voice of Olive Oyl) had a lot of fun improvising dialogue and jokes. Popeye's laugh in the comics ("Arf, arf, arf, arf") became "Ug, ug, ug, ug" in the cartoons. Several of his catchphrases were used in both media, such as "I yam what I yam", "Well, blow me down" and "That's all I can stands and I can't stands no more." In that sense the comics and cartoons complemented each other. The franchise became so popular that it even seriously rivalled Walt Disney's 'Mickey Mouse'. By 1936 the Fleischers had enough money for two color animated features: 'Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor' (1936) and 'Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves' (1937). Both were notably longer than most animated shorts at the time. A typical short only lasted six to seven minutes, but these two famous cartoons were each 17 minutes in length. Stop-motion animation legend Ray Harryhausen credited 'Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor' as the inspiration behind the movie 'The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad' (1958). 

A true testament to the popularity of the Popeye cartoons is the fact that he was featured twice, without the Fleischers' permission, in propaganda cartoons made by the Axis during World War II. In the Japanese war-time cartoon 'Momotarō no Umiwashi' ('Momotaro's Sea Eagles', 1943) Japanese troops bomb Pearl Harbour. Among the people trying to flee are Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto. In the very odd propaganda cartoon, 'Nimbus Libéré' (1944) directed by Raymond Jeannin and starring André Daix' 'Professeur Nimbus', Nimbus and his wife listen to Radio London. The announcer - a Jewish stereotype - claims that the Allied Forces will soon liberate Europe, which excites Nimbus and his family. The cartoon then cuts to U.S. bomber planes steered by Popeye and Disney's Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy; who bomb their house flat. Underneath the rubble; the radio is still playing until the Grim Reaper turns off the switch. 

Still from 'Popeye Meets Sindbad the Sailor' (1936).

Surreal style
All throughout the 1920s and 1930s; the Fleischer Studios made the most inventive and imaginative cartoons of their time, only rivalled by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer's 'Felix the Cat' and later the Disney Studios. Many Fleischer films are completely surreal, such as the classics 'Koko's Earth Control' (1928), 'Swing You Sinners' (1930), 'Mysterious Mose' (1930), 'Bimbo's Initiation' (1931), 'Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle' (1932), 'Minnie the Moocher' (1932), 'The Old Man of the Mountain' (1933), 'Snow White' (1933), 'Betty Boop's Crazy Inventions' (1933), 'Red Hot Mamma' (1934) and 'Poor Cinderella' (1934). The animation is loose and free with no effort to mimick reality. Every character can transform into something else. Even plants and objects are able to suddenly come alive.

Jazz soundtracks
The cartooniness is accentuated by the use of music, to which characters often bounce along. The Fleischers cartoons were very popular among general audiences because they used jazz on their soundtrack. Iconic musicians like Cab Calloway ('Minnie the Moocher', 1932), Louis Armstrong ('I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You', 1932) and Don Redman ('I Heard', 1933) made cameo appearances in their films and allowed their music to be used, making them the first celebrity voice actors in animation.

Another trademark of the Fleischers, especially the 'Betty Boop' cartoons, is their amazing sexual innuendo. Betty is frequently stalked by men who want to kiss and fondle her. Her sensual, scantily-clad dances, like her hula dance in 'Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle' (1932), often teased moral guardians and censors. In some scenes her dress becomes a see-through ('Is My Palm Read?' [1933], 'Red Hot Mamma' [1934]) or accidentally slips up or down ('Mysterious Mose' [1930], 'Silly Scandals' [1931], 'Betty Boop's Ups and Downs [1932],...'). In 'The Bum Bandit'  (1931) a woman drags Bimbo the dog into a train, pulls down the curtain and the silhouettes show that they take off their clothes. More sneaky imagery shows men freezing in phallic shapes ('Dizzy Dishes', 1930) and subliminal nudity in certain frames ('Betty Boop's Rise to Fame', 1934). In 'Swim or Sink' (1932), a pirate captain asks for Betty ('Leave the damsel to me'), while rubbing one hand over his other, which look suspiciously like two people having sex. While the 'Betty Boop' cartoons often caused scandal in the 1930s, it also increased their popularity. 

Men stalking women was a recurring plot element in 'Popeye' too. Olive Oyl was often threatened or kidnapped by Bluto. Nevertheless 'Popeye' didn't feature much erotic innuendo. The series was far better known for being quite violent. Older cartoons often ended in confrontations between the hero and the antagonist, but in 'Popeye' there were actual fist fights. Not only that: they happened almost throughout the entire length of each cartoon. Most other animated series in the 1930s were far more gentle and pacifist in comparison.

Also remarkable for the 1930s was the Fleischers' non-stereotypical portrayal of African-Americans and Jews. The Fleischers didn't hide the fact that they, voice actress Mae Questel and most of their studio staff were Jewish. A random cameo of Jewish-American vaudeville comedian Monroe Silver can be seen in 'Swing You Sinners' (1930), saying: "You needed it?", in reference to his stage act. In 'Minnie the Moocher' (1932) Betty's Boop's parents are clearly a Jewish couple, complete with her father wearing a kipple on his head and speaking with a Yiddish accent. In the Popeye cartoon 'Bulldozing the Bull' (1938), Popeye hits a bull so hard that it rains down as a chopped meat stand, with one of the signs having a text in Hebrew which, if translated, reads 'kosher'. 

Still from 'Dizzy Dishes' (1930), which features the debut of Betty Boop and an early example of phallic symbolism.

Closing of the Fleischer Studios 
After Walt Disney had a smash success with his first animated feature 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' (1937), The Fleischers made two animated features of their own. 'Gulliver's Travels' (1939) and 'Mr. Bug Goes to Town' (1941) unfortunately both failed at the box office, since they tried too hard to mimick Disney rather than remain true to their own style. The Fleischers blamed each other, which led to their break-up. Dave Fleischer left to join Columbia Pictures, while Paramount took the studio over, forcing Max to resign. The Fleischer Studios were renamed the Famous Studios and their most popular franchises, 'Popeye' and 'Superman' (1940-1943, based on Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's comic strip) were continued for years. One of the Fleischer's final projects were the 'Stone Age Cartoons' (1940), a series of 12 animated shorts set in an anachronistic version of the Stone Age. As more than one cartoon historian has observed, the concept is very similar to the later, more famous and succesful series 'The Flintstones' (1960-1967) by <a href="/artists/h/hanna_barbera.htm">Hanna-Barbera</a>. 

'Popeye' in particular proved to be the Fleischers' longest-lasting character. During World War II, the strong sailor appeared in several war-time propaganda cartoons in which he fights Nazis and the Japanese Imperial Army: 'The Mighty Navy' (1941), 'Blunder Below' (1942), 'You're a Sap, Mr. Jap' (1942), 'Scrap the Japs' (1942), 'Spinach Fer Britain' (1943), 'Seein' Red, White 'N' Blue' (1943) and 'A Jolly Good Furlough' (1943). Up until 1944 Paramount used the old Fleischer Studio in Miami, Florida, to animate 'Popeye' cartoons. Afterwards they moved everything to New York City, leaving the last traces of Popeye's Fleischer-origins behind. Although 'Popeye' remained succesful, none of these later cartoons ever captured the magic or originality of Fleischers' originals. The same could be said about a short-lived attempt by former Fleischer animator Hal Seeger to revive 'Koko the Clown' as a TV cartoon series (1961-1962), which even the 80-year old Max Fleischer felt was "bad quality". The worst part about Paramount's takeover of the Fleischer Studios was that neither Max, nor Dave, ever saw a dime of the profits, since they sold the rights to 'Popeye' a few years earlier. The brothers would never reconcile. 

In 1972, the Fleischer Brothers won the Winsor McCay Award. In Max's case the prize was posthumous. In 1994 the Betty Boop short 'Snow White' and in 2004 'Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor' were added to the United States National Film Registry for being "historically, culturally and aesthetically significant." 

Final years and death
Max Fleischer remained active in animation, but never managed to regain his former glory. He died in 1972 from heart failure. Dave Fleischer passed away in 1979. Max' son, Richard Fleischer, was a noted film director, best known for fantasy pictures such as '20.000 Leagues Under The Sea' (1954), ''Fantastic Voyage' (1966) and 'Soylent Green' (1973).

Temporary obscurity and negative reputation
After the Fleischer Studios folded in 1941, their cartoons fell into obscurity for a few decades. For many years they were unfairly compared to Disney and therefore seen as vastly inferior. Their cartoons made no attempt for realism, weren't as fluidly animated and lacked strong, coherent narratives. While all other studios did voice work first and animation afterwards, the Fleischers did it the other way around. Actors tried to match the mouth movements of the characters, often improvising lines over it. This gave the impression that they couldn't even properly synchronize voices. While Disney had a dignified status thanks to clean, wholesome family entertainment and the use of classical music on their soundtrack, the Fleischers looked more primitive. Betty Boop's lewd gags, Popeye's violence and the use of jazz - which had a sleazy reputation in the 1930s - made the Fleischer cartoons appear depraved.

Betty Boop and Felix by Walker Brothers
'Betty Boop and Felix', by the Walker Brothers, 1985. 

Revival and revaluation
Like many classic cartoons, the Fleischer shorts were frequently broadcast on television from the 1950s on. Still it took until the late 1960s, early 1970s before they were finally unanimously revalued. Film historians praised their technical innovations. The shorts themselves were reappreciated as charming, imaginative and innovative in their own right. The unpredictability and sheer entertainment value surpassed any criticism of their incoherent plots. The post-production voice synchronization was also viewed in a new light, as the actors' improvisations were funny and clever. At this point in history, jazz was no longer seen as sleazy, but a genuine art form. The Fleischers' soundtracks therefore received more admiration, particularly from people nostalgic for the 1920s and 1930s. Last but not least, their bizarre storylines and erotic metaphors had a strong influence on the underground comix movement, most notably Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, Jim Woodring, Al Columbia and Todd Schorr. Leslie Cabarga, a noted underground cartoonist, published the book 'The Fleischer Story in the Golden Age of Animation' (Da Capo Press, 1976), which has become the authoritative history of the studio and also brought along a revival of Betty Boop's popularity. He made various greeting cards, ceramics lines and advertisements starring Betty. In 1990, he, Joshua Quagmire and Milton Knight also created a graphic novel: 'Betty Boop's Big Break' (First Comics, 1990).

By the 1980s, Betty Boop made an amazing comeback in many different media: cartoons, advertising and comics. Most advertising art was created by Ned Sonntag for King Features, who'd launched a newspaper gag-a-day comic, 'Betty Boop & Felix' (1984-1988), in which Betty teamed up with Otto Messmer and Pat Sullivan's 'Felix the Cat'. The series was written and drawn by Brian, Morgan, Greg and Neal Walker. Two animated TV specials starring Betty were made in the late 1980s, namely 'The Romance of Betty Boop' (1985) and 'The Betty Boop Movie Mystery' (1989). Betty Boop and Koko the Clown also had cameos in Robert Zemeckis and Richard Williams' 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' (1988), among many other classic characters from the Golden Age of Animation. Betty's original voice actress, Mae Questel, was brought in to record her dialogue. Sadly enough, the producers of 'Roger Rabbit' couldn't clear the rights to 'Popeye'.

In 2016, famous blues guitarist Gary Lucas recorded a CD featuring recreations of the classic 1930s Fleischer soundtracks, 'Fleischerei - Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons'. The same year a new comic book series was created around 'Betty Boop', scripted by Roger Langridge and drawn by Gisèle Lagacé. In 2012 Betty and top model Daria Werbowy appeared in a TV commercial for Lancôme, directed by Joann Sfar. In 2017 Betty and Fitz appeared with fashion designer Zac Posen in a TV commercial advertising Pantone. 

Today, the Fleischer Studios exist only as a company headed by Mark Fleischer, Max' grandson, who oversee merchandising activities and rights in collaboration with King Features. Max' granddaughter Ginny Mahoney is in charge of the Fleischer archives, which can be consulted on the Fleischer Studios' official website. A revival cartoon series based on Betty Boop, animated by Normaal Studios, is in the works. 

Legacy and influence
The Fleischers' free-spirited atmosphere inspired comic artists like Marten Toonder, Siem Praamsma, mcbess, MorrisPeter & Maria Hoey and animators such as Bob Clampett ('Looney Tunes'), Osamu Tezuka ('Astro Boy'), Terry Gilliam (Monty Python), Ralph Bakshi ('Fritz the Cat'), Sally Cruikshank ('Quasi At The Quackadero'), Matt Groening ('The Simpsons', 'Futurama'), John Kricfalusi, Mike Fontanelli ('Ren & Stimpy'), Everett Peck ('Duckman'), Joe Murray ('Rocko's Modern Life') and Stephen Hillenburg ('Spongebob Squarepants'). In 1938 Japanese cartoonist Kaneko Shigemasa drew a story titled 'Shin Nipponto - Sho-chan no Boken' ("New Japanese Island(s) - Sho-chan's Adventures"), starring two characters who bear a strong resemblance to Popeye and Bluto. Part of the plot is clearly inspired by the animated short 'Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves'. Kaj Pindal's 'Mr. Pindal's Inkwell Phantasy' (1950) borrowed heavily from the Fleischers' 'Out Of The Inkwell' series. 

In John Kricfalusi's 'Ren & Stimpy' cartoon, 'Stimpy's Cartoon Show' (1994), Stimpy makes an animated short featuring a villain looking and sounding suspiciously like Bluto. A very short scene in the Betty Boop cartoon 'Kansas City Kitty' (1931) where a bunch of happy sea animals join Betty on a beach trip was once described by Kricfalusi as his "favorite animated scene". He paid homage to it in his animated music video for 'I Miss You' (1995) by Björk, which has a similar scene (with different animals) during the bridge. The ending of Kricfalusi's 'Boo-Boo Runs Wild' (1999) is also similar to the butt-slapping conclusion of the Betty Boop cartoon 'Bimbo's Initiation' (1931). In the episode 'Fire Dogs' (2003), from the 'Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon', Ren does a weird dance while Stimpy plays a panflute. The tune is a rendition of 'Tiger Rag', lifted from the Betty Boop cartoon 'Betty Boop and Grampy' (1935). 

In 'The Simpsons' episode 'Jaws Wired Shut' (2002) by Matt Groening, Homer saves Marge during the final minutes in a parody of the Fleischers' Popeye cartoons. The first segment of Groening's 'Futurama' episode 'Reincarnation' (2011) is done in a Fleischeresque style, complete with black-and-white colours, bouncy animation and one scene featuring a stereoptical diorama. In 2000 Matthew Nastuk and Raymond S. Persi directed an animated music video to the 1998 song 'The Ghost of Stephen Foster' by The Squirrel Nut Zippers, which pays homage to the Fleischers. Steve Cutts' animated music video for Moby's song 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?' (2016) also mimicks the Fleischers' style.

The Fleischers' influence can also be found in other media. A British female rapper used "Betty Boo" as a stage name, scoring a few hits with 'Hey DJ' (1989), 'Doin' the Do' (1990) and 'Where Are You Baby?' (1990). In 2005 a Serbian rock band named themselves Betty Boop.

Books about Max Fleischer
For those interested in Fleischer's life and career, Leslie Cabarga's 'The Fleischer Story in the Golden Age of Animation' (Da Capo Press, 1976), Richard Fleischer's 'Out of the Inkwell: Max Fleischer and the Animation Revolution' (University Press of Kentucky, 2005) and Ray Pointer's 'The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer: American Animation Pioneer' (McFarland & Company, 2017) are all highly recommended.

Max Fleischer and Betty Boop
Helen Kane and Max Fleischer.

Toonopedia about Fleischer Studios
Toonopedia about Betty Boop

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