Betty Boop, a License and a Legend

In the 1930s animation genius Max Fleischer, who also created Popeye the Sailor, began releasing cartoons starring a character based on singer Helen Kane. Kane’s distinctive high-pitched voice and flirty character were animated and recorded into Betty Boop. Her appearance in August of 1930 launched the first female animated character to stardom. Although there has not been a new Betty Boop cartoon in 65 years her image remains instantly recognizable. Her flapper age sexiness explains much of Betty Boop’s enduring popularity but here is more to it than that. Her cartoons featured excellent jazz soundtracks by some of the finest musicians of all time. Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong where just two of the jazz stars that appeared in Betty’s cartoons. Her star power was such that when Fleischer released the first Popeye cartoon in 1933 he thought it wise to include a cameo by Betty.During her animated reign Betty underwent a number of changes that included a time drawn as a poodle rather than a woman. She was originally something of a sidekick to a character called Bimbo but soon eclipsed the curiously named star and took center stage. At one point to tone down her overt sexuality she was presented with a young nephew who she, Aunt Mame-like, watched over.A number of actresses and singers replaced Helen Kane. Ultimately they settled on Mae Questal who was the voice of Betty Boop for the majority of her cartoons. Helen Kane felt robbed of her identity and up-staged by her animated alter ego, she sued and lost. It seems Ms. Kane was not the first singer to possess an amusing and sexy voice. Any number of chorus girls and members of the general public used the trademark “Boop-oop-a-doop” phrase and Helen Kane’s claim to it disallowed.Today Betty Boop’s image competes on an equal footing with Bart Simpson and Spongebob Sqaurepants for the wallets of animation fans. Her bobbed hair and round head graces almost every sort of product imaginable. Clothes, of course and key chains, jewelry of all sorts and collector plates, a line of lingerie and countless figurines all bear the shapely Miss Boop.Betty Boop handbags and similar items are among the most popular of Betty merchandise. There are many good deals on wholesale purses such as 15 black imitation leather handbags with Betty’s image for $100. These bags were similar to ones seen retailing online for $20 to $25 each. On an auction site a case of 35 rather cheap looking plastic makeup bags was selling for $35 or about $3 each.Iron on patches and t-shirt transfers are an inexpensive, low shipping cost method to add Betty Boop merchandise to a clothing accessories business. They are available in a multitude of poses and styles. The wholesaler offering 12 patches for $10 seemed about standard but somewhat better deals were available for vast quantities. A similarly bargain method to pick up some Betty stuff are pens and key chains. Expect to pay around $18 a dozen for either.The big item in almost any license is the t-shirt and Betty Boop is no exception. Thousands of t-shirts bearing Betty’s image, some with slogans like “girls rule” and some without are available out there for $16 to $20 retail.Considering the low cost of heat transfers and the ready availability of expert t-shirt makers getting your own Betty Boop t-shirts made is an attractive prospect. Unless a merchant is unafraid of lawsuits and copy right infringement make sure the transfers they buy are officially licensed. Unlicensed Betty merchandise abounds and should be avoided.Some of the more unusual merchandise featuring Ms. Boop includes two flavors of hot sauce available in cases of a dozen 5oz for $45. A rather disturbing portrayal of the decidedly adult Betty as an infant for a plush doll that clips on to backpacks sells in cases of 72 for $90.It is rare for a long passed pop image to maintain its place in our novelty obsessed culture but animated figures sometimes endure. Betty’s one time flapper counterpart Blondie Bumstead recently celebrated her 75 th anniversary in print. Mickey Mouse holds an entertainment empire in his large gloved hands. Peanuts appears in papers across the world everyday despite the death of its creator almost a decade ago and Betty Boop, with her ridiculously shaped head and exposed garter, continues to illustrate a light-hearted and alluring variety of femininity.Art Mickelwraith is the author of the Wholesale Buyer’s Guide at TopTenWholesale.com. He can be reached at artmicklewraith@gmail.com.


Author:  Claudia Bruemmer

Claudia Bruemmer is a contributor to the TopTenWholesale Newsroom. Experience includes: Copy Editor SearchEngineLand (2012-present), Managing Editor ClickZ (1998-2001), Editor SearchEngineWatch (2007-2008) and freelance writer/editor since 2001 for SEMPO, ImediaConnection, SearchMarketingStandard, SearchEngineGuide, BruceClay and other sites. Prior to online work, Bruemmer was a Tech Writer for many years.


One response to “Betty Boop, a License and a Legend”

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