Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Betty Boop's Snow White," The Fleischer Brothers Starring Cab Calloway, 1933

"Betty Boop's Snow White" (1933) is undoubtedly Fleischer's masterpiece as lapse, particularily its final sequence in an underworld--both an Orphean journey (i.e. the myth of Orpheus), and an Orphic journey (a silly dance of death set to music.)...the evil queen turns Koko the Clown into a shapeshifting ghost, while her mirror keeps sprouting hands; and a blackface to tell her who is the fairest of them all. At the same time, Koko as ghost is rotoscoped from a clip of Cab Calloway...

Koko sings "St. James Infirmary," while turning into a twenty dollar gold piece, then into a "shot of that booze." At the same time, to illustrate the line of "crap shootin' pallbearers," the walls behind him is lined with murals of skulls and cows together, gambling. That bears scrutiny, usually requires a few viewings: it is intentionally traced like the wall of a Coney Island Mystery Cave Ride. It is also traced out of a collective imaginary (at least the collective of animators). The skulls of African Americans reenact the greasy underworld of back-alley saloon life in Harlem. But not Harlem as blacks knew it--this is Harlem as the white male Fleischer animators saw it....
--The Vatican to Vegas: A History of Special Effects, Norman Klein, 2004
You can find out more about this wonderful book--which contains countless gems such as this--by clicking here. Thanks to my good friend Ben for introducing me to this book, which has been captivating me for the past few weeks.

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