“Minnie the Moocher” Betty Boop – featuring the legendary Cab Calloway



This animation was pretty a head of its time:

Okay, so… for one you can see they were playing around with Rotoscoping for animating singer – it’s very much as if they traced Cab Calloway during his performance and just augmented the limbs slightly, so that’s a pretty advanced animation technique for it’s day…

Plus, the focus on the inclusion of the music – it nearly takes up the entire cartoon’s duration. It could even be one of the earliest examples of a traditional ‘music video’ that has ever existed. It even ends right about the time the music does. It was also one of the more aggressively ‘jazzy’ recordings of Cab Calloway I think, 6:50 is a pretty good example of what I mean… keep in mind children are watching this really unusual and unnerving style of singing (even though any jazz nerd will tell you its genius) – however exposing a really young audience to that level of jazz is pretty advanced.

Also 6:12 the kittens drink their mother dry, and then go ahead and take extra milk, which could be a very subtle comment on capitalism/consumerism. Skeletons at 4:40 drink themselves to death, which could be another comment about excess – which is the unpinning theme of the song. The whole scene at 5:20 to 5:50 has a lot of really clever jokes (ghosts can leave whenever they want, voluntarily get electrocuted, the whole scene is in time and thematically appropriate to the music, the warden ghost becomes remoseful after his muders, then scared, then the ghosts use the wardens same nervous hand twitching to mock him a moment later) To me, adding all of this depth and symbolism makes me feel like this cartoon helped move other cartoons in a more progressive direction.

Consider an animation like Adventure Time – there’s so much happening and so many jokes on so many levels, that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Possibly the earliest music video ever, with really heavy use of rotoscoped animation, its not very ‘beginner friendly’ jazz yet they’re showing it to kids, the music also makes a drug reference (Cokey) there’s possibly political commentary in there, excess, capitalism… so yeah. Pretty ahead of it’s time.


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