In 1928, Herbert Stothart, Harry Ruby, and Bert Kalmar wrote the song “I Wanna Be Loved By You” for the Broadway musical Good Boy, where it was sung by Helen Kane, a flapper and scatter who soon came to be known as “The Boop-Boop-A-Doop Girl” for her signature bit of baby-talk (in that song and others). In 1930, animation mavens Dave and Max Fleischer parodied Kane in the cartoon “Dizzy Dishes,” creating an anthropomorphic dog who bewitches the Fleischers’ character Bimbo with her singing. The dog appeared as a supporting character in more cartoons, became a human, and picked up the name “Betty Boop” in time for her debut as a leading lady in the 1932 short “Stopping The Show.” Betty soon became a sensation and a scandal, charming audiences and riling puritans with her sexy shape and pursuit of pleasure. Eventually, with the rise of the Production Code in the mid-1930s, Betty evolved as Mickey Mouse did, becoming less anarchic and more domestic.
Which version of the character will show up when Simon Cowell makes his Betty Boop movie? Variety is reporting that Cowell’s Syco Entertainment and the animation/effects company Animal Logic Entertainment (which worked on The Lego Movie and Happy Feet) have struck a deal with Fleischer studios to bring back the Boop, in a hybrid live-action/animated musical comedy. Cowell, best-known in the U.S. as “the mean British judge” on American Idol, is also a pop impresario, whose Syco record label handles the likes of One Direction, Il Divo, and Susan Boyle. Undoubtedly, Cowell intends to synergize the holy hell out of this property, bolstering his musical holdings via a major motion picture. But does he understand Betty Boop’s history, and her core appeal? That’s the most important question. The project currently has no writer or director, so there’s still plenty of time for Syco and Animal Logic to decide if the world is ready again for a sexy Boop.