Max Fleischer Universe: Betty Boop’s “Little Pal”
(1934, d. Dave Fleischer)
I am here to sing the praises of Max Fleischer’s September 1934 animation gem “Betty Boop’s Little Pal”, which introduced the character of Pudgy the Pup. Pudgy, like Betty, was a possessor of a huge head and saucer-like eyes, and was also one of the most adorable canine creatures in all of cartoon-land, making multiple appearances in many subsequent Boops. 1934 was the year, and July the month, that the Hays Code of moral guidelines in cinema (spurred on by the Catholic Legion of Decency) really came into effect, and a clampdown began on Betty Boop’s racy adult persona, beginning here with the introduction of her family-friendly little pet dog Pudgy (in earlier Boops, Betty actually dated a dog, Bimbo.) Happy to say that not all has been toned down here in the saucy characteristics department, insofar as, in “Little Pal,” Betty is still sporting her garter belt and decolletage.
When the cartoon starts, the pair are picnicking in the park and Betty sings the classic “Little Pal” song which was written, like so many of the best Max Fleischer songs, by the great and relatively unsung composer Sammy Timberg (Max’s brother Lou Fleischer, the head of the Fleischer Brothers Music Department, also had a hand in the writing). Pudgy becomes possessed with all the treats and varieties of food spread out before them on the picnic blanket, and goes to town devouring them all and generally making a mess. Betty gets cross and spanks him and sends him on his way home, where, while sulking miserably on the road, he is picked up by the town dog-catcher. Pudgy and all the rest of the cute impounded dogs in the truck use all their wiles to escape the clutches of the evil factotum, and all’s well that ends well when Betty serenades a sadder but wiser Pudgy at the end with a refrain of this delightful song, which I have rendered here on solo acoustic guitar: soundcloud.com/garylucas/little-pal-gary-lucas-solo
Direction, per usual, is by Max Flesicher’s brother Dave, chief tummler, shpritzer and gag-writer of Fleischer Studios, and the animation is done by head Fleischer Studio animator and creator of Pudgy, Myron Waldman, Edward Noland and Lillian Friedman. Special commendation must be paid to the beautifully detailed pastoral backgrounds, and also to Pudgy’s exceedingly lifelike movements — whether it be Pudgy licking Betty’s face at the end or galloping full throttle with the other dogs away from the villainous dog-catcher (whose few muttered words seem to have been voiced to these ears by Billy “Popeye” Costello). Pudgy’s movements are so very realistic in this cartoon that one wonders if Dave was using Max’s patented Rotoscoping process vis a vs tracing over footage of an actual small dog cavorting, to achieve such a naturalistic articulation of the little pup’s persona. As a dog lover myself (and possessor of a small miniature schnauzer named Lulu) I can tell you that the supercute Pudgy strikes a real resonance with me, and with audiences everywhere.
– Gary Lucas for Classic Movie Hub
Dubbed “one of the best and most original guitarists in America” (Rolling Stone), Gary Lucas is a Grammy-nominated songwriter and composer, and an international recording artist with over 25 solo albums to date. As a fan of classic cinema, Gary tours extensively, playing live accompaniments to legendary horror films including Dracula, Frankenstein, and Vampyr among others. He has also recently released two classic-related albums: “Gary Lucas’ FLEISCHEREI: Music from Max Fleischer Cartoons” featuring 2015 Tony nominee Sarah Stiles as Betty Boop, and “Cinefantastique,” a collection of themes and incidental music from classic films, ranging from South Pacific to Psycho! You can learn more about Gary at GaryLucas.com or by following him on twitter @lucasgary.