Minnie the Moocher

Directed by:

Dave Fleischer 

Producers:

Max Fleischer 

Animated by:

Willard Bowsky

Ralph Somerville

Music by:

Cab Calloway

Studio:

 

Fleischer Studios

Release date:

11/03/1932

Running time:

7 mins

Color process:

Black and White

Synopsis


“Minnie the Moocher” begins with a live action performance by Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Cab Calloway of “St. James Infirmary Blues,” which segues into the Betty Boop cartoon. The cartoon begins with a typical mealtime setting in which a teenage girl is berated by her parents. Betty Boop pouts, sobs and refuses to eat as her father and mother rant at her in indistinguishable words, which perhaps speaks to the experience of the offspring of immigrants who find themselves caught between the cultural identity of their parents and the surrounding culture in which they participate on a daily basis, and the dislocation and alienation experienced due to these differences. Minnie sings a song to herself about her loneliness while sitting at the bottom of the stairs and is comforted by a nude statuette adorning the bannister. Betty then rushes to her room, where she writes a note to her parents explaining that she is running away. She calls her boyfriend Bimbo, who agrees to meet her and run away with her. Bimbo is a dog, and their relationship transgresses human-animal boundaries in a way that suggests bestiality and questions the definition of what it means to be human. Bimbo walks on two legs and speaks, which are distinctly human traits, yet his physical appearance is canine. As Betty and Bimbo get further from Betty’s house, the cartoon takes a more sinister turn. Ghoulish shadows haunt them, and eventually they end up in a cave with spectres and skeletons who sing “Minnie the Moocher” and frighten the pair. The cartoon not only features Cab Calloway’s live performance with his distinctive dance moves, but the characters’ movements were also based upon Calloway’s movements through the technique of rotoscoping. Rotoscoping involves animators tracing over live action footage frame by frame to capture movements more realistically.  Frightened, Betty returns home, reflecting contemporary social mores that dictated that the best place for a young woman was at home with her family.


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