106. Out of the Inkwell – Dave Fleischer

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SUMMARY: A janitor at Fleischer Studios goofs off and reads up on hypnotism instead of cleaning up. When he tries out his new found skills he conjures Betty Boop out of an inkwell, and she turns the tables on him.

WHY IT’S HERE: By 1938 Betty Boop was feeling like a relic of the past. Deprived of much of her crucial sexuality by production code restrictions, she was increasingly difficult to find material for. In this odd little cartoon, the Fleischers used their dwindling star to pay tribute to their own underappreciated film series of the same title. The original Out of the Inkwell shorts are some of my favourites, starring the equally underappreciated Koko the Clown, one of the coolest animated characters of all time. While well-known among animation fans, their brilliant early combination of animation and live action is often overlooked by others. In one of Betty’s last hurrahs, she pays tribute to these original shorts in a nice mixture of live action, stop motion and hand drawn animation. Sadly, the short is based around a grotesque stereotype of a lazy, dim black man, played by Oscar Polk in full Stepin Fetchit style. This was unusual for a Fleischer cartoon and its a blot on an otherwise interesting short. Sadly, ‘Out of the Inkwell’ neither re-captures the magic of the original series or finds a plausible outlet for Betty Boop’s personality. But as Betty’s last appearance on this list and as a valiant effort at creative self-tribute it’s well worth a look.

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