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October 30, 2011 1:28 AM   Subscribe

Bimbo the Dog never had it easy. First, he was forcefully initiated into a sadistic, subterranean, won't-take-no-for an-answer, candle-headed cabal. Then he was punched in the face by his own creation (among others), and summarily run out of town, where he was taunted by tombstones and other undead entities. *all YouTube links*

Bimbo the Dog would soon come to meet his 'pal' Betty Boop, and take a backseat to her cartoon stardom. Bimbo, Betty and others were creations of Fleischer Studios (Max and Dave). Max invented the rotoscope, and together the Fleischers went on to animate Superman (previously).
posted by obscurator (8 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have watched a lot of cartoons, and Swing You Sinners is by far one of the darkest and strangest.

A lot of Fleischer's shorts are pretty surreal though, in no small part due to their creative process.

Animators had more responsibility for plots and gags, and there wasn’t direction in the accepted sense. The early sound Fleischer shorts were, more often than not, merely a collection of gags linked together by a very general “plot.”

The 1930 short Dizzy Dishes, referenced in the ariticle as the first appearance of Betty Boop, illustrates the result of the disjointed process rather well. It's also a good look at the earlier design of Bimbo, who started out with more human-like proportions (Betty was initially meant to be his girlfriend; later he became more doglike, and was treated as her sidekick or pet. )
posted by louche mustachio at 2:03 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Before there was Bimbo or Betty, though, there was Koko the Clown, who found himself in all manner of creative and surrealistic scenarios. I actually got pretty deep into Koko, cause back in the 90s I used to do live accompaniment to Koko cartoons: scored about 10 of them or so (using electronics, samples, percussion and voice), and performed that show quite a lot all round the world! Unfortunately, there's not a lot of Koko on YouTube, but here's a couple, and they're excellent:

Koko's Haunted House

Koko's Earth Control

You'll notice that in these cartoons the Fleischers pioneered the use of film footage and/or photographs mixed with the animation. That was a gas. Also note that there were little to no half-tones or shading used: Koko was pretty much strictly black and white, which I always found very appealing. Back when I performed with these films live, projected onto very large screens (from 16mm reels), that stark black and white was very powerful.

Must say, also, that the soundtracks accompanying these films I've linked to really do very little to bring out the intensity and spark of these cartoons. Over the years since i did the live soundtrack project, I've thought, from time to time, of trying to release, on DVD or whatever, the cartoons with new soundtracks. They really deserve better than just having some period jazz slapped onto them, which tends to flatten their impact and date them, in an unnecessary way. Cause even though they're old, they are essentially, well, kind of timeless.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:27 AM on October 30, 2011 [10 favorites]

I LOVE a well done live soundtrack. It really makes a difference when the performers are able to play something specifically composed for the film being shown, and are able to react to the audience. It's especially great with cartoons, where more stylized music can match the demands of the exaggerated action onscreen. It makes it really thrilling and special.

OOH! I want this to happen immediately. I think I shall drunk-dial some musicians.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:42 AM on October 30, 2011

I have to say that Mrio has nothing on Bimbo. Heaven alone knows what kind of platformers Fleischer would have created....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:03 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The short at the "punched in the face" link is basically the same plot as Real Steel, I'm just realizing.
posted by penduluum at 10:08 AM on October 30, 2011

The chicken from "Swing You Sinners" is horrifying.

Bimbo the dog shows up in "Minnie The Moocher" and "Snow-White" even though those are both very much Betty Boop cartoons.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:44 AM on October 30, 2011

Thanks for all the supplementaries...Bimbo has quite a rolodex, and I quickly realized the impossibility of including everything in one post. Also, I linked directly to the graveyard scene in "Swing you Sinners!" for All Hallows Eve purposes...but yes the first two minutes with its fowl play is more than disconcerting.

To me, this stuff is pure Sunday morning (or late late Saturday night). And I now see Bimbo as the cartoon Kafka, especially during his harrowing "initiation."
posted by obscurator at 1:19 PM on October 30, 2011

flapjax at midnite: "Before there was Bimbo or Betty, though, there was Koko the Clown, who found himself in all manner of creative and surrealistic scenarios. "

Koko was also amusingly parodied by Cartoon Network a few years back as "Whizzo, The Very First Cartoon!"
posted by Rhaomi at 7:55 PM on October 30, 2011

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