BETTY BOOP REVAMPED: Eighty-six years after Betty Boop first appeared as a cartoon character, King Features is polishing up a new version that will be introduced this fall.
The Jazz Age flapper caricature will have a new cocktail dress created by Zac Posen and a signature color from Pantone. While trends come and go, Betty Boop has been around because she adapted, and is a forerunner in the world of fashion and style, said King Features’ vice president of creative Frank Caruso. “Fans write to me and say, ‘What’s Betty up to now?’ “
The character’s creator, Max Fleischer, along with his brother Dave, were also very much steeped in the culture of their time. “Huge fans of jazz,” the pair worked from Fleischer Studios on Broadway, the kind of office where Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong would occasionally stop by. They made animated movies for Paramount in the early 1900s, and Max Fleischer developed “rotoscope” technology in 1915, giving characters more lifelike motion qualities. That technology essentially provided motion capture for live-action actors that would appear in some episodes. “They used their music. The Fleischers weren’t just animators — they were innovators,” Caruso said.
Betty Boop was nicknamed the “Queen of Cartoons” and remains Fleischer Studios’ most popular property. The actress Clara Bow is seen by some as the inspiration for the curly haired character, but others likened her to the singers Helen Kane and Baby Esther. Kane was said to have first worked the scat lyrics “boop-boop-a-doop” into one of her performances.
The Hearst-owned King Features has been working with Pantone’s Laurie Pressman, vice president Pantone Color Institute, to develop “Betty Boop Red, a high-powered shade of red that has a hint of blue and a gravitas that embodies the character’s adventurous spirit.” Their hope is the new hue will also appeal to Gen X and Gen Y, which may not be as familiar with the character as older generations are. This concept of developing a signature shade is something that Pantone expects to be doing more of, as more brands and companies are looking for ways to distinguish themselves, Pressman said.
Caruso turned to his alma mater, the School of Visual Arts, to help King Features connect Betty Boop with a new style-conscious generation. Debbie Millman, chair and founder of SVA’s Masters in Branding Program at School of Visual Arts, selected a team of graduate students to refresh Betty Boop’s look for their master’s thesis project this summer. There are also plans for Betty Boop apparel and accessories. Caruso said Bella Hadid modeled the Supreme x Betty Boop satin jacket for a shoot with Terry Richardson. Betty Boop and other comic-book fans have William Randolph Hearst to thank for their widespread apparel. More than 100 years ago, the late publishing magnate started syndicating comics in his newspapers. “He understood comics. He knew if he enjoyed them, other people would, too. He also knew if he put them in his papers, he could outsell [Joseph] Pulitzer, his rival,” Caruso said.